Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, by John Bradshaw.

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Jun 21, 2011

In one of my somewhat harebrained moments I adopted a beautiful mini Australian Shepherd from a dog rescue group in Stanley, KS. Within 24 hours, I realized that I had a severely neurotic dog on my hands. Although my mother-in-law insists he is psychotic, I don’t think he would try to kill us in our bed—he’s more worried we will try to kill him in his. But I digress—in my attempt to understand how and why my dog does anything, I ran across this newly released book that reinforces some of the “training” I have attempted with Newman. Bradshaw reinforces all of his statements with solid science, and begins with tracing the dog’s ancestry from wolves. But he is quick to say that the Canidae line got arrested somewhere during development, which is why dogs were able to become domesticated, and why they bond so well to humans, rather than other dogs, not developing into wolves—specifically gray wolves, since the two share 99.96 percent of their DNA. In examining the social lives of wolves and comparing them to the social lives of dogs, he dismisses the idea that there is a need for a “‘dominance’ structure based on self-interest and aggression”. In fact, trying to dominant a dog usually results in just frightening him and leads to great confusion in any dog. He advocates a training based on positive reinforcement, utilizing the behavior of dogs that naturally occurs and working from that platform. This is a fascinating and highly scientific examination of dog behaviors, and because of its scientific base, it can be chore to get through the first 3 or 4 chapters specifically. The subsequent chapters are much easier to digest, and I actually managed to read the whole thing in a few days, with one eye on my neurotic dog. He has come a long way, with lots of treats and lots of love, and is a playful, happy, mostly obedient dog, although still highly wary of men, children, umbrellas, plastic bags, thunder, trash cans, and dropped spoons.

Written by Susan B.