WHEN GOOD DOGS DO BAD THINGS by Mordecai Siegal and Matthew Margolis (Little, Brown: $16.95; 182 pp., illustrated). This common-sense handbook for troubled dog owners is liable to be of some use if Rover doesn't tear it up first, as I did with my parents' Dr. Spock when I was young. It is mainly an alphabetical directory of 31 major dog problems, their roots and their remedies, plus a step-by-step guide to housebreaking.
There is much good advice. A dog who won't stay off the furniture can be discouraged by attaching balloons to the sofa, where they'll blow up in his snout, and a water pistol does seem useful for correcting misbehaving canines.
But while it recognizes the importance of breeding and acknowledges that some curs are incorrigible, this book is pervaded by a fairly serious belief in the perfectibility of dogs that is not entirely consistent with experience.
Actually, the main failing of this otherwise lucid volume is the table of contents: It doesn't give a page number for each of the gamut of dog problems explored, while the index has several listings for, say, "Chewing." This could be unfortunate if you're frantically flipping pages while King consumes that lovely Homer watercolor in the hall. Better read up in advance, and prepare.