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Culture Clash: A New Way Of Understanding The Relationship Between Humans And Domestic Dogs Paperback – January 19, 1996
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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.
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.)