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…