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The Culture Clash

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,084 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Winner of the Maxwell Award for BEST DOG TRAINING BOOK (1997) from the Dog Writers? Association of America. Voted #1 BEST BOOK (2000 & 2001) by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers?the largest and most influential worldwide association of professional pet dog trainers. The Culture Clash is utterly unique, fascinating to the extreme, and literally overflowing with informatio ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published January 19th 2005 by James & Kenneth Publishers (first published 1997)
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is probably one of the best dog training books out there. It's the only book that I've found that really, truly, describes the positive reinforcement (+R) method which in a nutshell involves ignoring unwanted behavior and rewarding good behavior.

Why only three stars? This vitriolic book is hard to read. The author is apparently so fed up with owners who don't have a clue that she rarely holds back any opportunity to disparage any and all owners. The book drips in hatred for the mistake
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I believe Jean Donaldson is a genius. I went to the Pawlitically Incorrect Dog Symposium at Marin Humane Society in 2002 and I was blown away by her! There was a segment where they took some of the shelter dogs that had specific behavior problems, and then they had 4 dog trainers that each use a different technique. There was one lady who taught guide dogs for the blind, and another guy who taught police dogs, and Jean. Well, there was this one chow mix that kept pulling on the leash and choking ...more
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cathy by: Yoon
Shelves: non-fiction, animals, dogs
A really interesting book. The basic premise is to stop anthropomorphizing dogs; don't believe the Disney fantasy of dogs who think like us and live to serve us. Just because they are supremely selfish doesn't make them any less enjoyable as companions. But understanding that will make you a better trainer and a happier family. Favorite quotes:

Dogs are not space intensive, they are time intensive. Given a choice between your time and a yard, virtually every dog on this earth will opt for more ti
Jun 22, 2011 added it
Shelves: dnf, dogs
I'm marking this one DNF because I just can't bring myself to keep reading or to keep interested right now. I also adopted a puppy and, dare I say this aloud, who is so EASY it's unbelievable to me. I've always had nutty labs and retrievers who took years to settle down. My new little guy moved in, learned the routine and housemanners in only 2 weeks. I still can't believe my luck. He's cute and perfect too. I never get this lucky ;)


So, for now at least, I'm putting this book aside because I
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dogs
Very good overall. The most common criticisms of this book are the tone and the organization. They are legitimate criticisms. The author is extremely sharptongued when it comes to dominance theory and anthropomorphizing. I personally find her derision amusing rather than insulting, but I concede that the tone isn't for everyone. I do appreciate someone who speaks bluntly and honestly rather than dancing around strong opinions, but I can see some readers being turned off by this. Personally, I fo ...more
Mar 13, 2019 added it
Interesting read, but would rate between 2.5-3★
It presents innovative ideas about training and wrong concepts as dominance, also offers ways to train your dog (hence the 3★) but sometimes it gets tedious-ish with all the specific wording and the way in which is written (hence the 2.5★)
Aug 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit-reading
This author is just so negative I am having to stop reading the book half-way through. She writes as though she thinks most (99%) humans are irresponsible morons. She scolds and complains continually throughout every chapter. Here and there she says something interesting about a training technique but those rare bits are simply not worth plowing through her insults.

The book might be useful for a first time dog owner with a puppy. Most of the training comments are directed towards small puppies.
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: guides, dogs
This is not only a great guide about how to train dogs, but it is also very insightful about dog behavior. What I liked about this book is that she doesn't just tell you how to do things, but she gives very good reasons as to why. Because of this, I can't imagine training dogs in any other way besides positive reinforcement; positive reinforcement just makes so much sense. She explains all her training techniques from the perspective of the dog. She emphasizes that dogs and humans are very diffe ...more
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. Jean Donaldson pulls no punches with her views about the use of aversive dog training - she thinks its inhumane, unnecessary and shouldn't happen. I agree. She makes a significant effort to lead her readers to better understanding of dog behaviour and motivation and to dispel the "Disney Land" dog fantasies so many dog owners have; dogs exist to please us, are intelligent (like humans) and moral (understand the difference between right and wrong). Jean makes it clear th ...more
Kate Baldwin
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was my second time reading this book, with about 15 years in between. I learned so much more the second time, as a more experienced dog owner. There is so much valuable information on positive training and rewards based training and forgoes (and way pre-dates) the antiquated Cesar Milan philosophy of bullying your dog into what you want them to do. Sure, it takes more patience and time but the end result is a better relationship with your dog and a happier one. This should be required readi ...more
Charlotte Wagner
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent resource that should be in every trainer / behaviorist's library.
Michelle Formato
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dog-training
I read this book as part of the curriculum for a dog training apprenticeship program.

This is an excellent book for anyone who just got a puppy. Donaldson does a great job at dismissing outdated and inferior training methods while providing proper explanations and alternatives. She goes over many different training exercises which are essential to having a well behaved dog and explains how to go about them without losing the dog's interest and/or your patience.

I do wish she spent more time talkin
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson is an excellent, short book on dog behavior and training. I appreciate Donaldson's emphasis on the fact that dogs are animals, not anthropomorphic beings that understand human's sense of right and wrong! Dogs understand safe and dangerous in scenario-based experiences. My only feedback is that I wish this book had been organized differently, I found the structural layout of information to be a bit confusing. Overall, I'd recommend this to any new dog owner or ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dog owners, dog trainers, shelter volunteers, dog fosters
Shelves: dogs
This was a good book. It quite clearly lays out the basics of dog "culture," behavior, learning, and training. The tone was pretty conversational and easy to understand. Concepts (or rather, truths) were well-explained, and I think most beginners would be able to digest the material in this. The realities of dog behavior and learning that Donaldson outlines are essential and groundbreaking for the way people understand and work with dogs. I also loved her approach of normalizing normal dog behav ...more
Mary Nelsen
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Although Culture Crash was originally published in 1996 the ideas in it were so new and revolutionary at that time that Jean Donaldson remains a leading thinker in the dog training world and this book has become a classic. Sadly, many of the abusive training methods she argues against (ear pinching, choke collars, and shock collars) can still be found in dog training schools today - also, many owners still believe in the Walt Disney dog; intelligent, moral, capable of revenge and planning, a pro ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this book. Overall it's not an entertaining book, it reads rather like an instruction manual. And I think my dislike of that comes from this book being different than what I expected.
However, I will say that this book is a wonderful resource for dog owners. The reasons why dogs should be trained a certain way is explained, as well as rationals given for doggie behavior that many of us might find disagreeable. The author in no way anthropomorphize
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is BRILLIANT! I have read my share of dog training books and have gone to several dog training classes with different training styles, and my personal opinion is that Jean Donaldson is a genius. In her other book, "Train Your Dog Like a Pro" (comes with a 2.5hr training video), I was able to train my Golden Retriever puppy rock solid sits, downs, stays, recalls. Her method works. Before reading "The Culture Clash", I was missing information, like not fully understanding why my dog does ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Reading in anticipation of new puppy. This is a really good book, but everything could have been said in half the time with more user friendly language.
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read a couple of dog training books and Donaldson's has been the most appealing so far - she's not only an adept dog trainer, but also seems to be very well-versed in theory of mind.

Donaldson's view of dogs is very in line with my own - in a lot of ways they're incredibly different from us, and our best chance of enjoying each other's company is to take a behaviourist approach towards reading dogs and teaching them.

What I love about this book is the effort that Donaldson puts in to get you
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
There's a lot of valuable information in this book. Donaldson's perspective of how a dog probably perceives potty training verses how many people think their dog perceives it is enlightening. The bit where humans are pets of a super advanced alien race (the Gorn) is enlightening and funny. But this book takes a lot of work to get the marrow from the bone. A lot of time is spent defending lure reward training and attacking all other types. I'm sure that was necessary when this came out in 1996, b ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book, as it's highly recommended and the training techniques included are scientifically backed and 100% force free.
However, the material is DENSE. There could be a book on each subject (and maybe there is) but it's not easy to wade through. The language is not as easily accessible as I expected. While I had no trouble, I didn't feel the people I most want to share this information with will sit down and read it when there are other, more readable texts out there (u
Kathryn Morrison
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Culture Clash is a difficult review for me; I got a ton of useful material out of it, but would be hesitant to recommend it to others, or I will at least provide any recommendation with a warning. The author is obviously very experienced and smart, and her advice is evidence-based too. But...let's just say she has STRONG opinions, ones that I agree with, but the style of writing is so harsh it boarders on vitriolic at some points. I found it literally hard to read at times. I worry the style ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: dog-training
Jean Donaldson seems to be a hit and miss as far as style is concerned. Her information is good, and very helpful, but it is sometimes padded with unnecessarily unfamiliar words--why use diametrically when you can just say "different"? Isn't the point of the book to be accessible to everyone and not just an academic essay?

The book is also highly repetitious, with points being reiterated over and over again in various chapters. That can be highly annoying when you read about teaching sit (even in
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doggies, behavior
This is hands down still one of the best books introducing behavior and training to new or intermediate dog owners. I am not giving it 5 stars because I am disappointed that this newest edition has not been edited, especially regarding No Reward Markers. It's been proven in many studies that they are negative more often than positive and can actually hinder training progress. I find it frustrating that there isn't even mention of that, but on the contrary, NRMs are used in many chapters. There w ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lots of good information for a first time dog owner; this was recommended to me by one of our trainers.
Some things I leave behind and some I take away; one thing I've learned about opinions on now to train dogs is everyone has one, and some are better than others. I agree a lot with what this book has to say and it taught me a lot and is dog eared on many pages, and there are a couple things I'd choose not to do, but that's the joys of reading informational books and many of them.
Would recommend
Alicia Fereday
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a foster parent for an animal rescue, I found the book helpful. As I try to prepare my foster dogs and puppies for their future family, I'll work harder at socialization and make sure they get more of it. Especially after coming to the realization that most families just won't do the work. I enjoy the work. I've also started working with my dogs more and the book inspired me to make everything a game with them. I'll use this book over and over again in my work with rescue dogs.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Audio book version.

Difficult and not very well organized. I am interested in learning about clicker training, and the first several chapters are all behavioral problems with solutions like "play with your dog" and "let them chew things". Not super helpful, but I do like the concept of treating a dog's mental capacity in a different format than humans.
Torie Silletto
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simply the best. Wether you're an owner or a trainer, just read this book before you read anything else about dogs.

Reading Culture Clash cemented my decision to apply and enroll in Jean's Academy, which has been no easy undertaking. As a trainer this is the first book I recommend to students and clients who want to learn. You will understand your dog so much better!
Carla Guillen
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dog-training
Great book for dog trainers, but I'd hesitate to recommend do clients (dog owners) as the tone of the book is not very compassionate and it could make dog owners feel more guilty than they already are when they hire a dog trainer. That's a shame because many owners do need to hear what's in this book, but it would be more effective in a kinder and more understanding way.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book on the nature of dog behavior and human/dog communication. There are training exercises, but it's real value is in teaching the principles and science rather than being a how-to-train manual. I recommend this for anyone who wants to get great results training their dog.
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Last year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen struck a chord with her viral article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”...
86 likes · 15 comments
“In dog culture, when someone calls you, you should absolutely not come if that results in the ending of something you like or initiation of something you don’t like.” 6 likes
“Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements & high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible & unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only.

Humans sometimes learn the meaning of individual sounds by repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns & humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules that humans must try to assimilate with limited information & usually high stakes. You are one of the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard or kept in outdoor pens of varying size. They are so socially starved they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. The Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans.

The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with water-filled porcelain bowls.Every time you try to urinate in one,nearby Gorn attack you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home & stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this & start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try & stave this off but they view this as evidence of your guilt. You are also punished for watching videos, reading books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, & writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns.

To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behavior you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to “spite” the video watching & other transgressions that occur when you are alone. Obviously you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle books to do. You have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you’re ignoring them out of revenge. Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all, often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize they punish you again.

You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one you are curious, excited & afraid. You really don’t know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.

Finally, you are brought to “training” school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak & telepathic communication they make because sometimes you get it right. You are guessing & hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out a lot of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with the training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck & you just don’t feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone & go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behavior. They thought you had a good temperament.

They put you in one of their vehicles & take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by & wonder where you are going. You are led into a building filled with the smell of human sweat & excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified & yell for your Gorn family to help you. They turn & walk away.You are held down & given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the humane way to do it.”
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