on June 7, 2000
I was originally turned off by the beginning of this book. The author's ideas about dogs having no "desire to please" their owners was so contrary to everything that is considered basic about dog training and dog behavior that I didn't believe it to be true. However, she thoroughly backed up her ideas and completely clarified the difference between "desire to please" as we see it and "desire to get treats or attention" as the dog sees it.
It's difficult to get beyond the "Disney" approach to dogs as she calls it, the way society and Hollywood have taught us dogs should behave, but the book opened my eyes to what sort of relationship dogs really have with people.
The book takes dog training from a dog's point of view - and that is the best way to get results. The empathy for the dog's position that the author encourages was a completely new experience for me. I adopted an adult dog from a shelter four months ago who had never been indoors before. She had been abused and you could hardly say "no" to her without her cringing and running away. I needed a training method that was completely positive and non-abusive in every sense of the word. More importantly, I needed a training method that worked.
My dog can sit, down, stay, come, wait, drop, and fetch; she doesn't jump up, she doesn't chase the cats, and she's housebroken - all thanks to this book.
The author thoroughly takes you through the way dogs learn with specific examples and exercises. It's hard not to get excited about teaching your dog after learning so completely how to teach!
I highly recommend this book to new dog owners and to people looking to improve their relationship with their pets. Getting rid of unrealistic expectations makes all the difference in understanding and relating to your dog.
on December 7, 2001
Culture Clash is a good example of a classic that really needs to be recast, re-edited in some aggressive ways.
This book gets an incredible number of word-of-mouth recommendations from within the dog world, and for good reason. It's also somewhat exasperating, also for good reason. An updated edition might turn into a sort of Dr. Spock guide for dogs; as it is, even for its few blemishes, if you're interested in training at all -- you have a dog, you should be interested -- you need to read this one.
The book is basically an engagingly-written set of essays on positive-reinforcement, operant-conditioning dog training. (In a nutshell, that means concentrating on setting a dog up to succeed, and then on rewarding it when it does succeed, rather than on punishing the dog for mistakes.) Culture Clash does two things: it gives you a broad sense of why positive reinforcement techniques work, and it really, REALLY lays into old-style, aversive, leash-jerking training methods. The reason it gets recommended so much is that it's GREAT for people who have only a vague idea of how to train a dog based on what they see others doing, and who might end up with a miserable dog and a sore arm from tugging at a choke collar. Donaldson does a truly excellent job of showing you how and why positive reinforcement will help you communicate with your dog. She does a great job showing you how happy that can feel, and showing you the broad outline of how it works.
What she DOESN'T do especially well in this book is give you a specific, basic training regimen for your dog. That's where my editing objection comes in.
As I said, the chapters in this book are almost more like stand-alone essays. They don't really flow into one another as well as you might expect. Other, how-to training guides will structure themselves around common issues -- a chapter about housetraining, or sections based on a puppy's age or something. Culture Clash doesn't do that. It reads more like Jean Donaldson -- a lively, agile writer whose style and sense of humor is a delight to read -- sat down and decided to write a set of thematic articles, and like those got packaged together in the form of the book. Each essay is trying to do both the book's jobs at the same time, so we're talking about treats and clickers AND ripping into the "Bad Dog" school of thought simultaneously. That means the level of detail in the text varies pretty dramatically from page to page. So, for example, you'll be reading about how to train a "down stay" or something, and suddenly Ms. Donaldson is skewering leash-jerking in a long aside. She delivers her barbs with obvious relish and skill, she's a heck of a writer, but when you're reading to pick up practical tips, that's a somewhat frustrating style to work through.
So, the chapters in Culture Clash are this sort of mishmash of different material, but it's well-written and you enjoyed reading it through. Now, you remember some clever idea about how to train that "down stay" that Rex just can't "get." You turn to the index... and there isn't one. The single easiest thing the publisher of this book NEEDS to do is include a thorough index. Argh! Frustration!
The other irony, of course, is that the book doesn't use positive reinforcement on the reader all that well. When Donaldson goes after the leash-jerkers, or talks about ear pinching at obedience schools, she's saying "BAD DOG" to the old school of dog obedience in about as loud a voice as anyone can write in. You can see why a few people take this book as a sort of personal affront. She sure isn't luring THEM along, she's just plain scolding...
If you're already sold on the idea of a rewards-based training regimen for your dog, I still think you'll get a lot out of this book. You might want to avoid dealing with a lot of the hard-hitting criticism, though, and choose a simpler how-to guide. "The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Ms. Donaldson and Pat Miller, is a more practical guide than Culture Clash. It gives you a specific, six-week training regimen. Also, Karen Pryor would be a good author for you; she has a great puppy book, and a nice little book-with-two-clickers-and-some-treats kit that sells in pet stores. Pryor spends almost no time on dissing the "bad trainers," she's all about the positives.
(If you've got kids, you may want to go with something a little more accessible for them; there are guides specifically written for the whole family that way, but you should probably judge those by age by seeing them in a store.)
on June 22, 1998
I have read many dog training books in the past 6 months, but this is the only one that really rang true for me. Jean Donaldson articulates what many dog owners have felt for some time: that yanking, yelling and regimentation do NOT constitute positive training methods. She rightly calls slip-collars and choke chains "strangulation collars," and makes it clear that the "leash correction" is simply a punishment -- and not a very effective one at that. Her whole training ethos is based on the premise that dogs are dogs, not people. That may sound pretty obvious, but it doesn't seem to be, at least not to traditional dog trainers. If you have a dog that likes to be a dog (interacts with both humans and dogs in the same manner, and doesn't like to be restrained in any way) Donaldson's training methods will save your sanity -- and perhaps your dog's life. This book is more than a manual, however, as it fully explains the theory before detailing the methods. Along the way, it provides a good read and some great laughs. This is also the first book I've read that describes some fun and effective training games to play with your dog, rather than just saying "play with your dog." It's not all fun and games though: I dare you to read the section called "Empathy 101" and remain unmoved toward the plight of the average family dog. My only (minor) complaint about "Culture Clash" is that it needs either a more detailed Table of Contents, an Index, or both. That said, however, I urge you to buy this book, and leave the traditional methods of dog training back in WWII, where they began, and where they belong!
on January 10, 2000
A new way of understanding dogs from the dog's point of view. The book is brimming with empathy, humor, and understanding. Jean Donaldson is above all a very PRACTICAL lady - and her approach is very functional - it works! I particularly liked the insight that biting is natural behavior for dogs, i.e. that even the "nicest" dog will bite and it is therefore extremely important to train bite inhibition with ALL dogs. Donaldson also reminds us that dogs have no sense of morals and that they see a large percentage of the world as "chew-toys" or "food" (even your italian shoes and gum on the sidewalk), unless they are TAUGHT otherwise. The last section on practical training is brief, but extremely well written - if you follow this program you will end up with a recall proofed against virtually everything (yes, I've tried it). I recommend "The Culture Clash" to everyone interested in dogs.
on December 16, 1999
I lend out lots of books to friends and neighbors. This is the only one I make sure is returned. Within a few weeks of bringing our shelter pup home, she was agressive and totally out of control. Among other problems, the choke collar seemed to enrage her and I couldn't figure our why! After reading this book I RAN out and bought a halti harness and a huge bucket of treats. The results of positive reinforcement and intensive food reward training were immediate and dramatic. Now the days of choke collars and alpha rollovers are are in the past and I think (I hope) my pup has forgiven me for my bad judgement. I can't reccomend this book strongly enough. I feel like it has allowed me to understand my dog (as much as a human can).
on May 18, 1998
I am a professional dog trainer, and *Culture Clash* is the only book I recommend to all dog owners, regardless of experience with dogs, training knowledge and ability, etc. Donaldson covers what I feel is the most important aspect of dog ownership -- bite prevention -- with a thoroughness that no other book does. Rather than blaming the dog for doing what comes naturally, she teaches the reader how to change the dog's natural responses to ones that are acceptable to human beings. And this will save many dogs' lives.
Donaldson has been criticized for her up-front language, particularly when it comes to her criticisms of traditional (largely competitive) obedience trainers. But this is one of the things I like BEST about the book. Rather than pussyfoot around the issue of punishment, she confronts it head-on and then offers alternatives.
A wonderful book that is not only very informative, but so well-written that you read it like a novel.
on January 20, 1999
There's not a whole lot I can add to the other five-star reviews on this site. I especially loved DGodley's comment, "Jean Donaldson's book has given me a whole new perspective - to appreciate dogs in their own unique way, and to finally realize that they are another species of being, not just children in fur!" If every dog owner came to this realization, there would be a lot fewer dogs surrendered to shelters or euthanized because they failed to live up to their owners expectations, since many of those expectations are more appropriate to human beings in fur suits than to dogs.
After 40 years of reading every dog book I can get my hands on, I confess to being jaded--I pick up new dog training books, riffle through them, think "same old, same old" and put them back. Jean Donaldson broke me out of that pattern! This book has so much to offer. It should be required reading for everyone who lives with a dog, or who is thinking about living with a dog.
on September 18, 2000
This book is hands down one of the best ways to a better relationship with your dog. A little advanced for the average owner, but OH SO helpful. I had read all the Carol Lea Benjamin books, and I think they are great. I do a lot of rescue though, and slip/nylon collars on the rescues was not my cup of tea. So many of the dogs come thin and so food/love motivated, so I thought it was time to start with food. My, oh my, I'll never go back. I have read some of the reviews that allude to Jean being holier-than-thou in her approach. I think you need to read the book again, and rethink the title. She is indeed challenging many of our notions about dogs-- like wanting to please us always. I had already figured out that my dog was out for #1. He likes me and all, but when push comes to shove, he wants what HE wants when HE wants it-- especially attention. And that makes him no less of a dog. I think Jean is simply passionate about what she has come to believe to be true through research. OH-- THE CHAPTERS ON DOGS AND KIDS-- WOW!
on October 12, 1999
The training strategies proposed in this controversial book are RIGHT ON! The most straightforward, effective, and HUMANE dog training book I have ever read.
However, I had a bit of trouble with the abrupt and often insulting style in which Ms. Donaldson writes. It is obvious that she feels strongly about her views regarding dog care and training, but insulting others is not always the best way to get your point across. Also, I don't completely buy her theory that all shy/timid/slow-to-warm-up-to-strangers dogs are a product of poor socialization. I do believe that different breeds and invidual dogs have different temperaments and personalities. But, Ms. Donaldson would probably just call me an old-fashioned moron.
Overall, this book is a humane and intelligent resource for dog trainers, new and old, but it is not for overly sensitive souls. You will most likely read something about yourself and your beliefs that is hard to swallow!
on December 13, 2000
What a wake up call for dog lovers! Explodes the "lassie myth" -"to please." Deconstructs the painful, abusive things we do to our dogs becuase we think they "understand" Explains how the world looks according to dogs. Relates their genetic legacy as hunters and scavengers to behavior that we see from them as out domestic household pets. Best reading for a seasoned dog owner and the novice, urges owners to "teach and understand" vs. being punitive. A great combination of scientific fact and intellectual role reversal. Walk a mile in this book and never look at your dog the same.