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The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs Paperback – April 29, 2003
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Just as I am fascinated about how people interact with each other, I am very curious about the unique relationship between humans and dogs. This book draw's on Dr. McConnell's background in psychology and animal behavior. I believe that her background makes her an authority on the topic of how canines and humans communicate with each other.
As other reviewers have noted, this is not a book on how to train your dog. However, I believe that this book should be a pre-requisite to dog training. It provides a foundation on WHY certain methods work and why others are ineffective. There are so many myths floating around about dog training and people love to create sound bites and quick tips out of all of the available information. Context is key.
One of the tactics discussed is how to get a dog to go the direction you want it to go. Dogs look in the direction they want to go. Humans tend to prefer to face the dog which is actually perceived by dog as encroachment of their space and typically makes the dog want to back up. While on Christmas vacation, we had a puppy that was insisting on sleeping in Mom's favorite arm chair. Instead of charging up to the dog and speaking at him when I wanted him to get off the chair, I walked up to him, turned away from him, and pointed to the floor. With my body and my hand pointing in the direction I wanted the dog to go, it was like magic! I didn't even have to use my voice to communicate my command. The family was amazed! This is just one example of how understanding what my body language means to a dog enabled me to develop a simple and effective method of communication.
I actually liked the author's personal stories about her working dogs and their different personalities. While others may feel these are irrelevant to the overall book, I think they enhance the book. In my opinion, any type of behavior analysis only benefits from more real-life examples.
Please get a copy of this book for yourself and for any dog owners you know. Understanding what you are really saying to a dog is the first step in creating effective communication which leads to a more rewarding relationship.
It's mostly about how dogs perceive and interpret human body language. I've always been a natural at reading dogs, but never gave much thought to how they read us. I learned quite a bit from it, like how dogs respond much better to subtle signals than to words, and how our mixed signals and words are frequently confusing to them. She teaches us to become consciously aware of the nonverbal signals we are sending, and start using ones the dog understands. It really works!
The writing style is quite good; it's informal and engaging, repeatedly ranging from factual to practical to humorous to emotional.
I found most of the ethological stuff about wild primates and canidae to be extraneous material in a dog book. But there's not a lot of it.
It's an enjoyable and informative read. If you love dogs and inter-species communication, you'll enjoy this book. Understanding and using more nonverbal signals will help a lot with the training and enjoyment of your dog.
For example, from her PhD research, I found out that when a dog, in training, is running away from you, you need to stop it first with one drawn-out, soothing sound like "Whooaaa". Then, to get it to return, use a series of stacatto sylables (including the cue) or claps. Great trainers, whether of dogs or horses, know this. Now I do too, as well as much more.