It seems that one award winning moment in my Monday post stood out for several readers. For those of you lacking the high speed internets, here is a reenactment...
Hey! It's all Mango! It's all good.
Now I will reluctantly turn my blog over to momma for a boring book review. But first I want to let you know that we are super busy around here so be patient with us if we are slow to post and comment.
Mango Momma here with a doggie book review
The nice folks at National Geographic sent me a copy of their new book, DogTips from DogTown for a review.
Let's cut to the chase. I liked this book.
The first part of the book is dedicated to understanding more about dogs and how to know whether you are really ready to have one and if so, how to choose a dog.
I particularly liked the section on dog body language. For example, a great explanation of the subtleties of tail wagging. Doesn't mean the dog is happy. Often I have had people approach Mango even when I could see he was stressed (oh, but his tail is wagging). NOT! They also go briefly into the mistakes that a well meaning human can make during training. Like one dog whose owners snapped at her for soiling in the house and the result was that "She learned if she had to go to the bathroom, she had better find a spot where people could not see her." Then they go on to share a better way to house train.
Lots of good advice about adopting a pet and how to at least try and be rational about your decision. This passage I really liked;
"At Best Friends, some adopters mistakenly believe their dogs will feel thankful for being rescued and taken to forever homes. Although the dog understands the value of a warm house and big backyard, she won't credit the adopter with the change and immediately show her gratitude by obeying every cue or signal."
I was amused by the section on how to condition your dog not to jump as it cited the danger of bending down to calm an excitable dog and getting a face butt. Mango has given me a bloody nose twice and Dexter has given me a black eye from just such encounters.
The layout of the book is great (better editing than their first book). It is divided into short sections with bold faced headers so you can easily skip to areas of interest.
Loyal readers know that I am NOT a positive training only person. That said, for an inexperienced handler, making a mistake using positive reinforcement will have less dire consequences than a mistake with a pinch collar. And the whole mindset of positive reinforcement rings true. Better to reward good behavior if you can catch it (that said, I would hate to see how my kids would have turned out if we had never spoken sharply with them or slapped a wayward hand away from a hot stove).
Plus, not all negative training takes the form of physical punishment. As my training pal, Wild Dingo has pointed out many times, withholding affection, removing desired objects, etc. are all forms of negative training to the dog. Now I will say, that training collars are not for the inexperienced handler and never ever ever use it for tricks of other funballs stuff. I reserve training collars for a brief reminder during obedience work and on walks and am mindful to not put myself or my dogs in a situation where I am going tug, tug, tug. It is really an extension of my arm (which is not long enough to get to Mango's face if he is in front of me). Hey, if he is being a dope during less formal work I give him a bop on the head to get his attention. It doesn't hurt him, just a quick "hello!"
My one criticism is similar to that I had with their previous book. I would like to see more cautionary tales of well intentioned, good people, who bite off more than they can chew and need to return their dog. As heartbreaking as it is, if the dog doesn't fit your home or life style, the best thing for the DOG is to help him/her find a more suitable settlement.
They stress repeatedly that you need to work with the dog you have, not with the dog you wish you had. That is important. Not every retriever will fetch and some mastiffs enjoy agility. You can't bring a dog home with an agenda. Sure, you might want an agility champion, but if your border collie decides that running about all jumping and whatnot is not his cup of tea, either re-home him or find something he likes. They also try to drive home that your training methods should adapt to the dog. Mango is very bull headed and does not get cowed by harsh language. Dexter, on the other hand acts like an abused dog if I raise my voice. So, more happy voice with Dexter and more reliance on targeting and body language with Mango. Get it?
I highly recommend this book to anybody considering a dog for the first time and first time owners. Having read about a gazillion training books, there wasn't anything new in here for me, but it was an easy read and did reinforce some of the work I do with Mango and Dexter.
While I have your attention, I also recommend On Second Thought.
This isn't a dog book as such, but will have you looking at both yourself and your dogs in a whole new way. The book discusses all the ways our brains are hard wired to react to different stimulus in ways that our logical mind would find peculiar if we could only step back and see what is happening.
The author cites tons of psychological experiments which are somewhat disturbing. It also is a good reminder that those looney psychiatrists are never testing what they say they are. After reading this, it is unlikely you will be able to change a lot of your emotional responses, but at least you'll have an awareness that your reactions might be based more on primitive survival skills than you think. I found lots of practical examples at work in the endless meetings I sit through watching group think and other maddening behaviors get in the way of logic (even to the point where one manager said the now infamous quote "let's put the data aside and go with what we know to be true" and everybody in the room except me was nodding in agreement). Oh save me!
And yes, we will be a bit absent from blog land the next few days and might employ the mark all as read by the time the weekend comes. All good, but very busy.