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  • Writer's pictureFiona | Good Dog Talk

Leaders of the Pack (part I)

Great Books on Dog Ownership and Dog Behaviour: Devour at Your Leisure

In Defence of Dogs: John Bradshaw

This has to be my number one go-to dog read. First published in 2011, it just doesn’t date. It’s one of the inspirations for Good Dog Talk, the podcast and website, with writing grounded in scientific observation. Bradshaw’s understanding of the dog species sits lightly alongside his erudition, while still being wrapped up in a love of dogs. It opened my eyes to so many aspects of my own dog’s behaviour and set me on a course to discover a lot more about our canine companions. But most importantly, it gave me the tools to start to let dogs be dogs, and understand what we, the human bit of the equation, have imposed upon them throughout centuries of domestication. Definitely one to re-read, and soon. He has a new book coming out this year aimed at the children aged 10+ to help them understand their dogs. Brilliant idea. (Follow John Bradshaw on Twitter @petsandus; and for In Defence of Dogs: Penguin, £7.99.)

Unleashing Your Dog: Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce

For starters, this is a great title. Most of us just love to see our dogs running free and diving through undergrowth unrestricted by 21st-century, human-imposed manners. The book was first published in 2019; so not too old. Its opening sentence reads: “Unleashing Your Dog is a field guide to living with dogs in ways that enhance everyone’s quality of life and that expand the freedom for dogs to really be dogs.” What more do we want? We have, however, managed to impose many restrictions on our canine friends. This book sets out to question all that and expose the cost to dogs of living with us, their human companions. It’s easily devoured as it’s not a hefty tome. Neither is it naïve, or idealistic (only in terms that it wants to do best by our dogs), as the chapter Collars and Leashes: the Balance Between Control and Freedom attests. (Follow Marc Bekoff on Twitter @MarcBekoff; and for Unleashing Your Dog: New World Library, £10.70.)

The Dog’s Mind: Dr. Bruce Fogle

The longevity of Bruce Fogle’s practice in central London has exposed him to some extraordinary behaviours, not from the dogs he has served, but from their owners (I recently was gifted his out-of-print Games Pets Play from 1986. Let’s just say that the pet owners featured are of their time). Fogle’s time as a vet, however, has given him a real understanding of how to “read” our dogs. The Dog’s Mind was first printed in 1990, so a similar time to Games Pets Play, but the latest edition comes from 2018. Many of the book’s arguments stem from this sentence: “Through genetics, we have unintentionally selectively bred dogs that perpetuate their juvenile behaviour into adulthood but exactly how has this happened?” He’s a reassuring voice for any dog owner. I know. I handed over my much-loved copy of Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners (now out of print) to a younger member of my family. Through the cacophony of advice she was getting after buying her first puppy she now almost always refers to Fogle’s Dog to find the calm reassurance she needs to turn into a confident dog owner. The Dog’s Mind, therefore, is a serious addition to the bookshelf. Worth the investment. (Follow Dr. Bruce Fogle on Twitter @LondonVetClinic; and for The Dog’s Mind: Michael Joseph, £12.99.)

Inside of a Dog: Alexandra Horowitz

This is a really difficult one. Which Horowitz book do I not include in this list? I decided to start at the beginning and recommend Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know from 2010. Ok, ok, I’m also going to highlight Being a Dog (2017) and Our Dogs, Ourselves (2019). To be honest, you really can’t go wrong with anything from Horowitz if you are seeking to better understand your own dog as well as other canines. Moreover, she a) loves dogs; b) is a great researcher; and c) is prepared to share what she has learnt from simply watching — and watching some more — the dogs that surround her. If you like the following sentence from her introduction, you’ll be buying everything she writes: “What we’ll find, in looking at dogs through a scientific lens, is that some of what we think we know about dogs is entirely borne out; other things that appear patently true are, on closer examination, more doubtful than we thought. And by looking at our dogs from another perspective — from the perspective of the dog — we can see new things that don’t naturally occur to those of us unencumbered with human brains. So the best way to begin understanding dogs is by forgetting what we think we know.” Easy writing; solid research; empathetic interpretation. Give her books a go! (Follow Alexandra Horowitz on Twitter @DogUmwelt; for Inside of a Dog: Scribner Book Company, £13.17.)


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