Canine Behavior

Bones Would Rain From the Sky“Bones Would Rain from the Sky” is a must-read for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of dogs and our relationships with them. This book contains a wealth of information on relationship-based training and dog behavior, all explored with Suzanne Clothier’s blend of wisdom and experience. If you truly want to enhance your relationship with your dog, start here.

I’m currently re-reading this book. (I come back to it often, to remind myself that relationship is everything…)

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Clinical Behavioral MedicineI’d seen a lot of references to this book by Dr. Karen Overall -- but its high price tag (about $80) kept me from actually buying it. But I finally bit the bullet - and boy, am I glad I did! This book is incredible, a real gold mine of information and protocols for dealing with behavior problems in dogs and cats. It starts out discussing normal canine and feline behavior, and goes into increasing detail from there. There’s a chapter on taking a behavioral history, extensive information on aggression (both canine and feline), and discussions of management and behavioral modification techniques for a variety of problem behaviors.

The real gold mine is the Appendices, especially Appendix A: Client Questionnaires and Appendix B: Client Handouts. Dr. Overall provides detailed and extensive “protocols” involving counterconditioning and desensitization and operant conditioning to deal with aggression and other problem behaviors. There’s a Protocol for Deference, a Protocol for Relaxation, a Protocol for Relinquishing Objects, and much, much more.

This is a must-have resource for any veterinarian, behaviorist, and dog (or cat!) trainer. I’d also recommend it for dedicated owners who already have a background in learning theory, operant conditioning, and scientific terminology, but there’s a lot to digest here.

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Feeling OutnumberedThis booklet (52 pages in the new expanded edition) by Karen London and Patricia McConnell provides sound advice on how to manage and train multiple dogs. Topics covered include “Laying a Foundation” (life skills to teach the dogs individually and together, such as come, sit or down, and stay), “Getting Practical” (real solutions to controlling your dogs’ behavior, including body blocks, the Group Wait, and the Group Off), “Staying Away From Trouble” (ways to prevent fights and how to handle them if they happen), and “Coming and Going” (introducing new dogs, rehoming dogs if there’s trouble that just isn’t managable). The information and training advice is sound and clear and helpful to anyone with two or more dogs. Highly recommended for any multi-dog household where the dogs don't always respond to direction from their owners or there's any "snarking" or fighting among the dogs. 

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For the Love of a DogIn For the Love of a Dog Patricia McConnell explores emotions in dogs and people. Our mammalian biology and neurology are remarkably similar, and I believe that we share similar emotions. This book delves into the science of emotions and supports that belief. But it does so with prose that draws out emotion in the reader as effectively as it educates. Just flipping through the book as I compose this review, I find myself drawn into various passages, especially the accounts of Patricia’s own experiences and cases she’s known that illustrate the personal side of these scientific concepts so well. It’s hard to put the book down, but I must, if only to pick up my handkerchief!

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The Culture ClashThe Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson explores the gulf between what many people think dogs are like (the “Walt Disney” version of dogs, where dogs have a moral compass and are capable of the full range of motivations that humans experience, including guilt and revenge) and what dogs are really like (lovable but innocently selfish “What’s in it for me?” creatures with their own social culture). Topics covered include “Getting the Dog’s Perspective” (Dog Intelligence and Morality), “Hard-Wiring; What the Dog Comes With” (Predatory and Social Behavior), “Socialization, Fear and Aggression” (Biters and Fighters), “It’s All Chew Toys to Them” (Behavior Problems and Solutions), “Lemon Brains But We Still Love Them” (How Dogs Learn), and “Nuts and Bolts of Obedience Training” (Sequences for Training and Proofing).

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The Dog Behavior Answer BookThis book contains a wealth of information on dog behavior and training. There’s information on canine senses, emotions, instincts, and breed-specific behavior; canine conversation (body language and vocalizations); explanations of some dog habits that may seem puzzling (e.g. rolling in dead things, barking when you’re on the telephone); and of course training and behavior modification solutions to common problems. There’s also a section on dealing with life changes, including canine dementia, moving, divorce (who gets the dog?), and final good-byes. With its small size (300+ pages packed into a book measuring 4.5″ x 6.5″) and question and answer format, The Dog Behavior Answer Book makes perfect reading in the bathroom. You may even catch other family members sneaking a peek now and then.

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The Other End of the Leash

In The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell explores the similarities and differences between humans and dogs, how we appear to one another, and the problems that can ensue when we miscommunicate. She explains why hugging a dog may result in a bite; the best ways to use your voice to communicate with a dog; why physical dominance is not the way to establish your social status; how to teach your dog to be patient and polite; and much more.

As with her newer book, For the Love of a Dog, Patricia shares personal stories of dogs and situations she’s known to illustrate her points, and she does so brilliantly.

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