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Book Review: 'Dog Sense' by John Bradshaw

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June 20, 2011

Book Review: 'Dog Sense' by John Bradshaw

By Chad Love

One of the most fascinating things about the human/dog relationship is our constantly-evolving notions of how dogs think, understand, learn and interact with us. Every day, it seems, some new bit of research is shedding heretofore unknown insight into dog behavior, and in the process sometimes standing conventional wisdom on its head. Such is the case with "Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet" (Basic Books, 2011)  by anthrozoologist John Bradshaw.

Bradshaw, using the latest findings in canine research, argues that much of what we take for granted about dogs is completely wrong. He claims that, among other things, the "alpha dog" theory is inaccurate, that new research show us that dogs are both dumber and smarter than we think, that dogs have evolved to become physically and emotionally dependent on humans, that dogs trained with positive reinforcement have better retention and don’t suffer from fear-based aggression like those trained with other methods, and that environment is more important than breed when it comes to raising people-loving dogs.

Now I just got the book today so I can't say one way or the other what I think of Bradshaw's findings (look for a full review in the near future) but it promises to be a fascinating read. However small and cloistered it may seem, the world of gundog training doesn't exist in a vacuum. Just like any other field, it grows and evolves over time as we learn better and more effective ways of doing things. In my book the most important trait for a dog trainer (and most common among truly gifted dog men) is an open and flexible mind. Smart trainers aren't afraid to go outside the gundog world if it can teach them something about their dogs.

So as I begin reading this new book on dog behavior, I'm wondering what books you may have read - I'm talking non gundog-specific books - that have taught or helped you in your training and understanding of your gundog? Cesar Millan? Perhaps one of Bill Tarrant's general dog books? Give me your favorites...

Comments (7)

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from badsmerf wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I just dont understand why people like dogs so much. Guess to each t their own. I read books about the life cycles of caddis flies, you read books on dog intelligence.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beauregard wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I read "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz recently. It helped me to grasp how differently a dog senses the world compared to a human. I learned to control distractions during training that I would have previously ignored.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

"The Truth About Dogs" by Stephen Budiansky de-anthropomorphized dogs for me forever. Great reading even if you disagree with some of his conclusions.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I am reading "Born to Bark" by Stanley Coren. It was loaned to me by a fella I met at the bar who, like Stanley, owns a Cairn terrier (the VERY LAST breed of dog I would EVER own!). Coren is a prominent psychology professor from University of British Columbia who has published several books on dog-human relationship. The book is interesting in that it incorporates the author's own historical life experiences with the development of his philosphy on understanding canine thinking. Personally, I find the guy to be something of a fatheaded nincompoop who has led a totally self-centered life. But in a few places in the book he does convey some good knowledge of dog training. However, I think he tends to take a lot of credit for developing technique that was already well-established. His second wife (fourth if you count the graduate students he shacked up with along the way) has shown exceptional preserverance putting up with that overbearing egghead and his target-practice idiot little dog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michelle Strickler wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I read a Good Dog by Jon Katz. A great book to read if you have a Border Collie. I have a dog that is mixed with a Border Collie and read this book and it helped me understand Sport (dog) better. A must read for owners (lol) of Border Collies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

cesar millan is an idiot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

Dogs...like horses...aren't machines. Input A doesn't equal Output A. To think and behave otherwise puts a person into problems.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from Beauregard wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I read "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz recently. It helped me to grasp how differently a dog senses the world compared to a human. I learned to control distractions during training that I would have previously ignored.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

"The Truth About Dogs" by Stephen Budiansky de-anthropomorphized dogs for me forever. Great reading even if you disagree with some of his conclusions.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I am reading "Born to Bark" by Stanley Coren. It was loaned to me by a fella I met at the bar who, like Stanley, owns a Cairn terrier (the VERY LAST breed of dog I would EVER own!). Coren is a prominent psychology professor from University of British Columbia who has published several books on dog-human relationship. The book is interesting in that it incorporates the author's own historical life experiences with the development of his philosphy on understanding canine thinking. Personally, I find the guy to be something of a fatheaded nincompoop who has led a totally self-centered life. But in a few places in the book he does convey some good knowledge of dog training. However, I think he tends to take a lot of credit for developing technique that was already well-established. His second wife (fourth if you count the graduate students he shacked up with along the way) has shown exceptional preserverance putting up with that overbearing egghead and his target-practice idiot little dog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michelle Strickler wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I read a Good Dog by Jon Katz. A great book to read if you have a Border Collie. I have a dog that is mixed with a Border Collie and read this book and it helped me understand Sport (dog) better. A must read for owners (lol) of Border Collies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

cesar millan is an idiot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

Dogs...like horses...aren't machines. Input A doesn't equal Output A. To think and behave otherwise puts a person into problems.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I just dont understand why people like dogs so much. Guess to each t their own. I read books about the life cycles of caddis flies, you read books on dog intelligence.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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