Today marks the beginning of summer and you might be looking for a book to read in the park or on the beach. Here is a little review of one of my favourite “Dog Training” books; and I put Dog Training in inverted comas, because this book will not only help its readers train their dogs, but also other pets they may have (from ferret to dolphin, pony to golden goose), their kids, or even themselves.
Don’t Shoot The Dog introduces the readers to Positive Reinforcement, and clarifies what it really is, but Karen Pryor also gives us an overview of other (maybe less elegant) types of reinforcement and training. Karen understands her audience well and explains sometimes-difficult concepts such as Operant Conditioning, and Reinforcement Schedules, but without too many details and “clever words” (which would make the book a lot more serious and maybe a little tedious), instead she simplifies it, and takes time to make it relevant for everyone.
I feel she lets the readers decide for themselves what techniques and direction they might use in the future, but she’s helping them make informed decisions. Making her less patronasing and therefore a lot more likely to influence them and make them change their minds about dog training. Clever Karen.
For example she tells the story of how one of her friends discovered what Conditioned Aversive Stimuli was by dropping by mistake a large brass plate on the floor next to her cat. To be perfectly honest, I think Karen makes most of these stories up (most trainers do), but it does help us understand this concept a lot better.
She’s also happy to help, I quote: “anyone who feels it necessary to use a choke chain on a dog” (nicely put Karen, very diplomatic), and gives them a chance to understand how to use that choke chain as positively as possible (as difficult as this is), by explaining how you can give the dog a chance to avoid the aversive stimuli by changing his behaviour.
In other words Karen is great at making training easy to understand, and accessible to all. She often compares how dogs can be trained and the theory behind the training by using humans’ examples such as kids, wives & husbands, flatmates, etc. making it a lot more fun too.
All the training tips are very well explained, from introducing cues, to shaping and even clicker training.
It is also a great book to recommend to first time dog owners, and sometimes even to experienced ones who might want to learn about all the recent discoveries that have been made in the Dog Training World since they last looked into it.
Karen also helps you understand your dog better, and again she uses human’s behaviour to demonstrate Displacement Behaviour in dogs: a symptom of stress and a diversion that tends to relieve tension momentarily. For example: nail biting with humans, sitting down and scratching with dogs. This habit can become self-reinforcing and indeed happen even without the presence of stress. Karen then gives many ways you can get reed of this habit using all types of different technique and training.
Don’t Shoot The Dog, by Karen Pryor makes a brilliant plea for Positive Reinforcement, and although the revised Edition (including a Chapter on Clicker Training) was printed in 2009; 6 years ago already, I still find the book very useful when trying to introduce training to new dog owners. The joy of this book is in it simplicity.
Read this book, and let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below or post on my Facebook page
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