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Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace Paperback – February 27, 2012
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Kathy Sdao is as wise, witty, warm, and adventurous on paper as she is on the lecture platform. This is a wonderful book about an issue deep and dear to all of us: how to learn to be thoughtful, kind, and generous to our dogs, to each other, and to ourselves, in a world that pressures us to be harsh, resistant, and controlling instead. --Karen Pryor, Author of Reaching the Animal Mind and Don't Shoot the Dog.
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I was surprised by Sdao's incorporation of her spiritual beliefs and how this perspective informed her approach to dog training; however as a secular person I was not offended. On the contrary I was intrigued by her description of her Church which promoted "an unconditional Divine love" and preached a "radical social-order based on grace not merit". If I found a Church that espoused those beliefs and actually practiced what they preached - I might be converted.
I thought her chapter on alternatives to NILF was a nice addition for the typical dog owner. SMART x 50 seems to me like a good use of one's time and energy. I'm not sure how my own personal approach fit into her list of alternatives but I guess I would characterize it as "Lots and lots of things in life are free because life is good; however good behavior and good manners are expected and will be supported".
The intended audience for her book seems to be other dog trainers and I'm not sure she will succeed in changing any opinions. Dog training seems to be an area where people have very definitive opinions. I personally have no patience for dominance theory and listening to discussions about "being alpha" or "the pack leader" or "the dog knowing it's place" are like nails on a blackboard to me.Read more ›
That said, I found it a somewhat belabored treatise having to explain what was wrong with "nothing in life is free" methodology from both an ethical and personal religious view point. In fact the religious references made me uncomfortable and I found myself skimming past them whenever they appeared. While I appreciate that her journey took her there and maybe she finds it impossible to separate . . . . I have no problem from a secular point of view finding ethical reasons not to be alpha or dominate my dog. Also as a newbie to dog training, I've always been taught the sort of positive clicker training approach and had never been introduced to the concept of "Nothing in Life is Free" as a training mantra until I read about it on dog forums. So a lot of time is spent carefully refuting and dissecting a concept that readers like myself probably don't need a refutation for, if that makes sense.
Perhaps a few more anecdotes would have spiced it up a bit for me, I loved the techniques she uses, but what I got out of it could have been greatly condensed--not so happy with the purchase overall compared to similar books along these lines.
However, even I was surprised by how much I loved, loved this book. Some of the passages are so beautifully written that I had to read them a few times. More than a dog training book, it's a bit of a memoir that weaves God's love together with our love back and forth with our dogs. And it's that love for our dogs that's missing in training approaches that set people against their pets.
Having a pet is something to delight in, I think, and I loved how Plenty in Life is Free gives permission to love our dogs AND to train our dogs -- these are not mutually exclusive! The training suggestions are super easy to fit into any schedule because it all starts with simply noticing what the dog is doing that you like -- I think the book says anything you find "cute or useful." In my classes, I add in, "not annoying you." If you are not annoyed with your dog at this moment, you can reinforce this and get more not-annoying behavior in the future!
As soon as I started reading my copy, I knew another friend would love it, too, so I gave it to her and had to wait for another one. It's a short book so I found myself reading it very slowly to make it last -- until I had to read it really fast because I didn't want to not know one minute longer. I still need to go back and read it again, normal speed, and take some notes. There's a lot to ponder here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful book about developing a positive relationship with one's dog. Kathy discusses the use of rewards to reinforce the behaviors you want to see more of, but does not... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Lin Murphy
Loved this book! Very thought provoking. There were countless times throughout the book I stopped reading to really take in Kathy's message. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amber Sipes
Excellent book on living with and training dogs. A different and more natural way to look at our lives with dogs. I recommend it to anyone who loves dogs.Published 10 months ago by Marty Eller
Easy to read and a great perspective for trainers and all animal people to think about and use daily. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Tracy Carreiro
Wonderful book for working with and understanding your dog. The author does discuss some of her religious beliefs, but I never found it particularly imposing. Read morePublished 11 months ago by RachelC
A great read for dog owners and aspiring trainers! Sado makes great points on life and training with dogs.Published 12 months ago by Alyssa Chertude