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Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet Paperback – May 8, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog
“A lovely and clear-headed book on all things dog—emotion, mind, and breed. John Bradshaw’s authority and experience are matched by the thoughtfulness and humanity of his writing.  Read this before you bring a dog into your life.”

Stephen Zawistowski, PhD, CAAB, ASPCA Science Advisor
“Every so often we are reintroduced to an old friend, and we may see them in a new light, reinvigorating a long standing relationship.  John Bradshaw reintroduces us to mankind’s oldest friend, the dog.  He compiles and explains new information on the origin of dogs, their relationship with ancestral wolves and why we need to base our relationship with dogs on partnership and cooperation, not outmoded theories about dominance.  Dogs and dog lovers alike will benefit from Bradshaw’s insight.”
Publishers Weekly
“Bradshaw…offers an alternative to conventional, dominance-based approaches to understanding dogs (Cesar Milan’s methods, for example) in an informative…guide to how canine biology and psychology determine behavior…. Bradshaw’s book is useful to those looking to further their understanding of dog behavior and clarify common misconceptions.”

The Bark
“Bradshaw…provides a well-grounded overview of the Canis family’s evolutionary journey. He also considers dogs’ brainpower, emotional states, sensory capacities and problems that come with breeding for looks rather than temperament. The point of all this science is to lay the foundation for his central thesis…. Ultimately, this is what makes the book so appealing. He does more than simply lay out interesting theories; he uses science to advocate for a better life for companion dogs.”
Library Journal
“[Bradshaw] reveals a wealth of scholarly literature in biology, psychology, veterinary medicine, and zoology through detailed analyses and uses those findings to support and critique popular dog-training methods. Clear and charming black-and-white drawings illustrate key points…. Pet owners and those interested in the animal mind will learn from this balanced, well-referenced guide to the science of canine behavior.”
“In his fascinating new book, John Bradshaw uses ground breaking research into human-animal interactions to reveal the world from a dog’s perspective…. To better understand the canine who shares our home, this crisply written book might be a good place to begin.”
“Bradshaw draws upon two decades spent studying canine science to debunk the myths surrounding dog ownership…. [F]or readers with well-loved pets who view their canines as family members, there’s much to digest as the author traces the dog’s cognitive growth process as he matures from a sensitive pup into adulthood. Above all, Bradshaw advocates for increased public awareness and education to create healthier relationships between people and their pets.”
Dog Fancy
“From wolf to worker, the book tracks the evolution of the canine to help owners better understand their dog’s behavior. Bradshaw also reexamines our modern day dog relationship and encourages owners to honor their pets for the unique animals they are.”
Los Angeles Times
“Are dogs furry humans or friendly wolves? They’re neither, argues the author who looks at humanity’s effect, for better and for worse, upon its four-legged friends.”
New York Post
“Move over, Doctor Doolittle, and make way for Dr. John Bradshaw – a British scientist and the author of the new book Dog Sense…. Bradshaw may have the fancy title of anthrozoologist, but his advice for the pet set is simple: Stop looking at your pooch as a dog in wolf’s clothing, don’t leave him home alone in your apartment all day, and try seeing the world through your pup’s eyes – and nose.”
Claudia Kawczynska, The Bark
“[A] fascinating book…in which the author provides a compendium of research (both his own and others’) into dogs’ origins and behavior. More specifically, he details their evolution from a wolf-like ancestor into proto-dogs and then the first domesticated species; he also investigates how this very long-term relationship has affected both canines and humans. He goes on to clearly explain how today’s dogs differ behaviorally and culturally from wolves, and why the dominance/pack paradigm put forth by many trainers (including Cesar Milan) is not only the wrong way to understand dogs but has also done them a great disservice. It makes for engrossing and thought-provoking reading.”
“In his densely illuminating new book, Dog Sense, John Bradshaw explains how our understanding has been skewed by deeply flawed research, and exploited by a sensationalized media…. Bradshaw…articulates a revolutionary change in thinking in Dog Sense that should liberate both dog and owner from what had so often been portrayed as an adversarial relationship.”
“Debunking the advice of many celebrity trainers, animal behavior expert John Bradshaw urges understanding, not dominance, as the key to human-canine relations.”
The American Dog Magazine
Dog Sense is a fantastically written book about why dogs are progressively becoming less healthy and what we can do about it…. This is a wonderful book to read for us dog-lovers who want to understand where man’s best friend came from and comprehend ‘the world from a dog’s perspective.’”

“Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw summarizes what science can teach us about man’s best friend. Arguing that modern dogs should not be considered domesticated wolves, he asks how we can best breed these social animals to be companions and family pets.”

The Guardian (London)
“[A] passionate book…nothing less than a manifesto for a new understanding of our canine friends…. His account of the evolution of dogs is fascinating.” 

Sunday Times (London)
“Every dog lover, dog owner or prospective dog buyer should read this book. It will change how you feel about dogs and, likely enough, how you treat them, too…. This book sparkles with explanations of canine behavior.”

Jewish Herald-Voice
“Dog behavior often is mistaken for wolf behavior. And, it’s here that Bradshaw’s book uses research into human-animal interactions to set the record straight.” 

The Telegraph (London)
“Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complicated psychology behind the growl, the rising hackles and the wagging tail.”
The Observer (London)
“[A] most fantastic book...about to become required reading for dog lovers everywhere…. [Bradshaw’s] book is a revelation – a major rethink about the way we understand our dogs, an overturning of what one might call traditional dogma…. For anyone interested in dog emotion, [the book] is also a sentimental – and surprising – education…. He is good news for owners and – there is no doubt about it – Professor John Bradshaw is a dog’s best friend.”
The Daily Mail (London)
“[T]his unusual book is concerned with dogs as a species, no matter what breed, shape or size. There are no charming anecdotes of pets’ winning ways, extraordinary tricks or loveable manners. It is the inner dogginess that [Bradshaw] explores, and its relationship to our own human nature. There are quite a few surprises to report.”

Mail on Sunday (London)
“Bradshaw, founder of the world-renowned Anthrozoology Institute at Bristol University, has spent his career studying animal behaviour and he brings unrivalled expertise to this examination of the relationship between dogs and humans…. [Bradshaw] offers an invaluable guide to the latest scientific thinking on canine behaviour and he has plenty of sensible advice.”

The Economist
“This is a wonderfully informative, quietly passionate book that will benefit every dog whose owner reads it.”
The Independent (London)
 “[Bradshaw] puts a case grounded in kindness and science for letting dogs be dogs. This is not as tautologous as it sounds: the two most widely held misconceptions about dogs are, first, that they are stupider versions of people and, second, that they are wolves in mufti…. [The book] is authoritative, wise and, in its sharp appreciation of the cost to dogs of living with us, rather moving.”
The Sunday Business Post (Dublin)
“The connections [Bradshaw] makes between ancient species down through history and the nuggets of insight he provides from his own lengthy experience working with and studying domestic dogs is truly fascinating. This book is rich in ideas and counter-ideas, and will reward anyone who respects animals, with enlightening chapters on dog behaviour, evolution, training and breeding, causing us to re-examine our relationships with our pets. Bradshaw is not so much trying to convince us with finite answers, as to stimulate a new conversation about dog behaviour with intelligent questions…. Bradshaw’s years of knowledge and his clear passion for dogs both shine through.”
Times Higher Education Supplement (London)
“In an overcrowded field, one may feel fully confident when reading biologist John Bradshaw’s thoughts on [man’s best friend]. The latest developments in the newly named field of ‘canine science’ really need the sure hand of a skilled scientist to offer a balanced picture for the interested reader…. Bradshaw makes deft work of summarizing important and novel insights on dog evolution, along the way pointing out the difficulties we face in reaching full conclusions.”
Daily Mail (London)
“Bradshaw’s book is a plea for the tolerance and patience that will be needed from us if dogs are to remain ‘as significant a part of human life as they have been for the past ten millennia.’”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Bradshaw, a British scientist and watchdog against cruelty to animals, lays out the history and science of dogs in a way that illuminates your own dog’s behavior, for better or worse…. It’s a comprehensive, fascinating and often poignant read.”

About the Author

John Bradshaw is Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, where he was previously the University Research Theme Leader for Animal Welfare and Behaviour. His current research partners include the charities Medical Detection Dogs, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Dogs Trust. Prior to joining the University of Bristol in 2003, Bradshaw founded the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Southampton. He lives in Southampton, England.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465030033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465030033
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It was the best of books, it was--not the worst of books, not by a long shot, but incredibly annoying in places.

This is a serious effort at collecting in one place the current state of the science of dog behavior. Bradshaw discusses the evidence we have for how and when dogs evolved from wolves, as well as what dogs' close relationship to wolves does and doesn't mean for their behavior and needs in human households. For the last century or so, much training and dog management advice has been based on the idea that wolf packs are competitive, internally violent groups, dominated by the fiercest, most powerful male, or possibly the fiercest, most powerful male and female--the "alphas." Since, the reasoning goes, "dogs are wolves," dog owners need to establish themselves as "alpha" and dominate their dogs, lest the dogs seize control of the household and become problems and even threats.

Bradshaw explains in clear and understandable terms why every piece of this argument is wrong.

The studies that showed wolf packs as violent groupings dominated by the strongest were done with artificial, captive wolf packs--wolves who were not related to each other and had no way to leave the group if they weren't happy with. They had no choice but to work out Who's In Charge Here, by any means necessary. Natural wolf packs in the wild have since been studied extensively, and they are, in contrast, peaceful, mostly harmonious family groups. The "alpha pair" are in fact the parents of the younger wolves. Depending on local conditions, offspring from past litters may stick around for a year or three, helping to raise their younger siblings before eventually heading off to find mates and start their own packs.
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Format: Kindle Edition
First off, the people who gave this book 1 star had the similar complaint that it was too lengthy and too academic. Reality check: you read books like this to be informed, not entertained.

His training philosophy makes alot of sense. He explains that dogs need to be taught boundaries, and that permissiveness is inhumane. This leads to behavior problems which leads to the pound and euthanasia. The fate is no different than that of a dog who has been chained up and abused all its life. It annoys me when people spoil their dogs and don't bother to teach them how to safely get along in a human world. This is very detrimental to your dog, just as it would be detrimental if you allowed your child not to go to school. He also explains how the application of punishment is not a good way to train your dog. I wish more people would realize that, because every time I go out, I see someone walking their dog who is either ignorant of this fact, or does not want to learn.

The information in this book was very well laid out and I appreciate his description of the evolution of dogs, and how that information is applicable to your current dog. You cannot understand your pet unless you have a comprehensive understanding of his ancestors and origins. Bradshaw did a very excellent job of delineating all the latest research and compiling it into a coherent concept on dog behavior.

I really enjoyed how he explained what goes on in a dog's brain when he uses his nose. As humans, this is a very foreign concept to us. He goes on to say how in order to truly treat your dog well, you need to appreciate that his nose is his primary way of receiving information, no matter how gross it may seem to us.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will give Bradshaw credit for several things, with which I strongly agree: that positive reinforcement is more effective than physical punishment, and that many breeders are ruining dogs by limiting their genetic variation and selecting only for looks. Further, he is a far cry and welcome departure from other scientists, who in their attempts to be taken seriously, try to purge all emotion from the study of animals. This led (and still does) to many cruel experiments, and to insane beliefs that persisted since the Victorian era claiming animals are 'merely machines' and 'do not feel pain the way humans do.'

Because Bradshaw champions ethical treatment of animals, encourages rescue, and promotes spay/neuter, I give him three stars. Otherwise, based solely on literary grounds, I would give two stars.

I enjoy the theories, but was hoping for more hands-on advice in working with dogs. As others have said, far too much time is spent on tedious genetic data, and an attempt to convince the reader that dogs are not wolves. It's almost as if he's expecting us to argue the point, when I agreed with it fairly quickly. Differentiating between dogs and wolves, and especially between wolves in the wild vs. captive wolves was extremely useful. However, to presume that wolf behavior doesn't ever apply to dogs is premature. If you have worked with feral dogs, you will notice they have some wolf-like traits, and by understanding wolves a little, you can be more successful in socializing these dogs.

Which brings us to an interesting point: Bradshaw repeatedly slams trainers who have no scientific education, yet he himself seems to have very little hands-on experience working with dogs. I found his criticism of Cesar Milan and Victoria Stilwell a major turn-off.
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