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In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  761 ratings  ·  76 reviews
John Bradshaw, one of the world's leading dog experts, brings us a compelling insight into what dogs would ask us for, if only they knew how. The dog has been mankind's faithful companion for tens of thousands of years, yet today finds itself in crisis throughout the western world. Until just over a hundred years ago, most dogs worked for their living, and each of the many ...more
Kindle Edition, 364 pages
Published (first published July 11th 2011)
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Bionic Jean
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Bionic Jean by: Donald
In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding by John Bradshaw is aimed at the general reader, giving an overview of both the development of dogs as a species and their ethology. The author's credentials are excellent; he is a biologist who founded the anthrozoology department at Bristol University, and his studies into canine behaviour are causing ripples throughout both the scientific and the popular dog world. Increasingly, the idea that we have to somehow get the upper hand and dominat ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Both informative and enjoyable (albeit not easy) to read this is an excellent scientific account of dogs: their original genetic make up, the way in which selection for domestication has altered this profile, what we understand of how their intelligence, senses and emotions works.

The coverage of domestication – both the role dogs themselves played in it, and some of its almost unique elements (ability if not preference for attaching to and playing with another species) is fascinating.

The author
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's get this out of the way: this is not a book about how to have the perfect dog, or anything along those lines. This is science. Specifically, the over-looked science of what we know about dogs, their origins, perception, and their role in society. And I loved it.

The first third or so of the book looks at the history of wolf to dog, pointing out that all the dominance theories of dog behaviour are based on faulty understanding of wolves, especially the false belief that the study of captive
Amy Laurens
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, doggy
Refreshingly unsentimental dog behaviour analysis book written with the purpose of discrediting "dominance theory" ie your dog wants to be top dog, you need to show it you're boss. It's an old-school but persistent approach to dog training which, according to this dude, has been based on faulty and misunderstood research--and not much of it.

This is welcome news to me. Obviously I don't want to use a choke chain on my dog, avoid cuddling it, or constantly reassert my "alpha" status. That is DEPR
I am a nerd. I am the type of nerd who wishes I knew more about science, but don't want to actually study it -- i.e. design experiments and test hypotheses. I just want to read about interesting shit, hopefully in as entertaining a fashion as possible.

In defense of In Defence of Dogs (the British and their spelling quirks), it was full of interesting information.

But Mr. Bradshaw, you can't spend the first half of the book saying "Dogs are nothing like wolves" and then say "Dogs are a lot like w
This was a slightly odd book, the main message of which is that theories of dog training which rely on the notion that because of their wolf-heritage dogs require punitive training and constant vigilance to maintain owner dominance are wrong. In fact the main message seems to be "Don't punish your dog" (except insofar as he points out that merely witholding a reward can be punishment for some dogs)

So there is a lot in the book about wolves and what the current state of knowledge is about their s
Jodie Mitchell
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this was a fantastic book, gave a proper scientific explaination into dogs behaviour instead of something hyped up by The Discovery Channel. I wish I had come across it before owning a dog!
Really useful and correct insight into dog behaviour, would recommend to anyone who already owns a dog and especially for someone considering to buy or rescue one.
Joanne Hall
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science, dogs
Fascinating insight into the challenges facing dogs in the 21st century, and how we as dog owners can make our dogs lives better by learning to understand them better.
Bradshaw starts off exploring how dogs are likely to be descended, not from modern wolves, but from an ancestor of both wolf and dog, and explores how they came to be domesticated while wolves didn't, and on the way debunking much of the popular "dominance" myths that have been popular in dog training for a long time. He talks abou
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolute must read for any dog lover! In Defence of Dogs is a look at the history of dogs, how we domesticated them from wolves, and why the prevalent idea of dogs as ‘wolves in dog’s skin’ is completely wrong – in fact, most of the things we think about dog psychology is wrong.

According to Bradshaw, our dogs don’t want to ‘dominate’ us; they want us to parent them. The whole concept of dogs wishing to be the ‘alpha (fe)male’ and be the dominant force in the household stems from our c
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My copy of this book was a 2011 Christmas gift from two people (maybe a husband and wife) named Sabine and Edward to someone named Anthony. The body of the handwritten greeting reads:

“With all our love for a very happy Christmas—we saw this and thought of you!”

With its mint condition, the book was probably unread and most likely sold or thrown away by Anthony. Maybe he didn’t really like dogs. Or reading. This is, in fact, more informative than entertaining. Sort of a scholarly dissertation abou
Sharon Burgin
If you are looking for a 'training manual' telling you how to cope with your 'problem' dog you’ll be disappointed. However if you are looking for an in depth look at how the domestic dog came about, an insight into it’s psychology, how it’s behaviour is shaped by early interactions and genetics, then this is the book for you.

Bradshaw has written a comprehensive intellectual history of one of our most beloved pets. He reviews experiments and studies and explains how the ancient wolf developed int
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book with lots of research and practical information, as well as ethical approaches and urge to taking responsibility for 'man's best friend'. ...more
FIONA Norris
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I am admittedly, someone for whom the company of most dogs is preferable to that of many people, you don't have to be a dog-lover to enjoy this fascinating and very readable book by anthrozoologist John Bradshaw. Based on extensive published research, the book provides a history of the evolution of the dog, from grey wolf to its present status of domestic companion; and investigates the mind of the dog -as far as possible, that is, since current research suggests that dogs have no 'theo ...more
Interesting on the observed social behaviour on dogs and wolves. Less interesting on the speculation about their inner lives. 'Evolutionary psychology' is a bunch of unconvincing just so stories when applied to people and no more satisfying when applied to dogs. ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I am so glad that I read this book, and as some recommendation on the blurb says, I want to give it to every current and prospective dog owner to read and understand. I finished the book months ago, having purposefully read each chapter slowly and thoroughly, fully digesting it all. It had a huge effect on me and my thinking; I just don't know what to say about it. The book is brilliant.

I have been a dog lover and owner my whole life, but in the last 18 months or so, have become more interested
Apr 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started off well with this book, but after a while found it to be hard work, as it was based completely on scientific experiments the author or other people had carried out on dog’s e.g. intelligent tests, colour tests, . There were no personal tales or” well science has said this but owners have said this ..” it was very impersonal and I personally found my attention wondering after a while as there was nothing new in the book it had just brought together many other theories. Dog training use ...more
Simon Stevens
Backs up all my ideas of having a dog, but ultimately a bit repetitive and spends a long time disassociating dogs and wolves only to then bang on about how similar they are. A good bathroom read.
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This insightful book delves into the developing science of canine psychology, from examining their origins to our breeding and training of the modern day dog. This book is not "how to teach your dog this or that" , but for better understanding the psychology behind your dogs actions and why many pet owners are naive in their methods of "training". I do wish he would have been a bit clearer on the training lingo of positive and negative reinforcement or punishment, but it was nice how he took a f ...more
Joy Stephenson
The first few chapters on the evolution and domestication of dogs were rather slow-paced, or perhaps seemed it as I had previously read much of this material. I enjoyed other chapters more, looking into the science of what we know about how dogs feel and understand the world. The studies quoted are referenced fully at the back of the book and it was interesting to look up some -and also to see that there have been further studies since this book was published.
I think this is a book I may refer t
Michelle 🌹🕊
I started this book knowing, after reading previous reviews, that it was science based. I found the early information about domesticating dogs intriguing, but a lot of the middle content to be a bit too scientific for me. I found the most helpful bits at the end in regards to pedigrees and how we have changed breeds by selectively breeding show vs working lines. I was hoping to dive into the world of dogs more and this book gave me that for sure.
Aleksandar Ovnarski
This is an eye-opening book. This is also a very thoroughly researched, factual, scientific, and yet deeply compassionate book that provides vital education to us humans about our best friends and that knowledge immediately becomes immensely useful in making your dog happy. I would, if i could, make this book a required reading for anybody who wants to own a dog, even more so than the usual "Leader of the pack" volumes that flood the bookstores nowadays. ...more
Philip Alzira-Rolt
May 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Although very readable the basic premise of this book can be summed up in just a few words.

Dominance theory is wrong. Your dog isn't trying to dominate you and if you believe this your training regime will include punishment that confuses your dog. Dog training works better with rewards that associate the required behaviours with positive outcomes.

There isn't a whole lot more in this book but it is still an enjoyable read.
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Sharpens the focus

Being a first time dog owner and discovering lockdown has its draw backs for puppy socialization I found myself swamped in information that was contradictory or unwitting to my instinctual feelings towards training and so forth. Bradshaw cut through the showmanship of the dog world and backed it up with top notch research. I feel like I've cut through the crap finding this book. A great starting point for understanding my new best buddy much better.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book. Scientific study of dogs, their evolution and development. Following that it looks at how dogs operate physically and emotionally. Shows how wrong lots of training theories are especially those based on dominance and punishment. Also shows how much of a disservice we do when we infanticide them. Rounds up with a chilling discussion of the ills of pedigree breeding. Well worth reading esp if you are considering getting a dog or have a new puppy.
Ema Phillips
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really comprehensive view of some of the biggest problems facing the modern day domestic dog. A bit outdated in places for anyone who is familiar with the scientific literature surrounding canine behaviour but still provides a good introduction that can be built upon. Quite sciencey in parts so difficult to read in places but the science is explained and extrapolated brilliantly.
Lucy Brown
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dog-book
An intelligible read, Bradshaw draws you in and opens your mind to a whole new way at looking at how dogs think. Not an easy read but entirely worth the focus and concentration. Will certainly be referencing from in my future work.
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, academic
A great comprehensive book for anyone interested in the ins and outs of dogs or just dog owners! The explanations are clear and backed up with lovely illustrations. Covers a wide variety of topics including behaviour, training, anatomy, breeds, etc.
Judy Frabotta
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best dog book I've read. Informative, engagingly written and actionable. ...more
Wendy-Jane Sheppard
A must read for everyone interested in dogs, essential read
Laurence Sherry
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Minus 1 star for the title
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John Bradshaw is Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol. He lives in Southampton, England.

Librarian’s note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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