More in Books
Today a short post on three excellent books on dog-training. The twist is that none of these books was written by a dog trainer, and none of them deal directly – or even indirectly, with dog training.
The first is “Natural Horse Man Ship” by Pat Parelli. Despite the shortcomings of being somewhat poorly edited and including too many mnemonics and cutesy aphorisms for my taste – this book presents the clearest and most accurate and detailed discussion of the use of pressure and release in training I’ve seen. Pat Parelli also does an excellent job of explaining the dynamic nature of emotional reactions and the need for human leadership in the human-domestic animal relationship. If you train dogs, or are interested in training animals – get this book. And if you have a chance, attend a Parelli seminar. To really understand how pressure and release works, you need to see it – and experience it.
Next is Chandler Burr’s “The Emperor of Scent.” Burr’s story about Luca Turin, a scientist with an unusually sensitive nose provides some fascinating insights on how dogs may perceive – or more importantly, think about – scent. I found the parts of the book where Turin talks about the way he perceives smells to be utterly fascinating. Much, I imagine, like a dog – Turin can describe a range or odors from feces to flower with both remarkable accuracy and a refreshing lack of judgement. My ideas about odor, and about dogs, were changed after reading this book. (Sidebar: For a more detailed discussion on the philosophy and neurobiology of scent perception, skip Turin’s controversial book and instead read Wilson and Stevenson’s excellent “Learning to Smell“.)
Last is Peggy Post’s “Emily Post’s Etiquette“, specifically the introduction (A Note to Readers) and Part One, Everyday Etiquette (no – I’m really not suggesting you need to read and follow 847 pages of detailed advice on manners). In this time where an ‘everything goes’ attitude combined with political correctness has led us to a point where what we say and what we do is governed more by an intolerance for moral diversity than by kindness and common sense – the book provides a roadmap back to civility. From the introduction:
Etiquette must be active. It isn’t enough to now what to do. Courtesy matters only when it is translated into everyday behavior – not just put on for show when it’s convenient. The rewards of an active commitment to everyday courtesy are myriad, though not often tangible. There are also important personal rewards that some peopel may not even be aware of, including the self-confidence that comes from knowing what to do in new or difficult situations; a positive reputation with others; and personal relationships that are more congenial, even in times of stress, because the people involved treat one another with respect.”
The italics are mine, and highlight the sections that relate directly to dog training. Teaching and maintaining some formalized set of behaviors (i.e. etiquette) to your dog needs to be more than just showing him how to perform a series of behaviors. When done properly, training gives your dog a roadmap that helps him navigate an often alien human world and helps instill in him – and in you – a sense of mutual respect.