Craig's Reviews > Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet

Dog Sense by John   Bradshaw
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Jul 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: dogs, non-fiction

John Bradshaw is determined to improve dog's lives. This well written, if repetitive, book disproves some common myths about dogs and explains how modern breeding and training are hurting the pets we love. Dog Sense isn’t meant to be a training manual: other authors would better serve someone looking to train their new puppy. Read this if you’re looking for a history of how dogs became what they are and what we can do to help them thrive.

In the first three chapters Dr. Bradshaw explains where dogs come from and how they were domesticated. He discusses some of the myths that persist about wolves, such as packs being hierarchical with a strong alpha being the dominant leader, and explains how modern science has moved past these views. I found these to be the most repetitive chapters in the book. The author was clearly basing the rest of the book on the idea that wolf societies aren’t based on dominance and dogs and wolves are different so he felt it important to repeat this idea several dozen times. Fortunately he used different evidence each retelling taking away some of the tedium. If you consider this a controversial idea it might be appreciated, if you agreed with this premise coming into the book it is a bit tedious.

The next 7 chapters make up the bulk of the book and get into some more interesting topics. Bradshaw discusses the ability of dogs to understand human actions and thoughts and why this means we shouldn’t use dominance training. The chapters on which emotions dogs can feel were particularly interesting. He explains tests created to determine if dogs can feel emotions like love, guilt or jealousy and how long they can remember past events. Understanding dogs’ emotional capabilities is important since punishing a dog who doesn’t remember doing anything wrong would be counterproductive.

Bradshaw ends the book with two chapters discussing the current problems dogs face and what it means for their future. The chapter on pedigree dogs discussed how inbreeding reduces the genetic diversity and causes more disease is fascinated but disturbing. I was amazed that in only 150 or so years of dog fancying humans have been able to cause this many problems by breeding to standards. He closes the book on a cautiously optimistic note pointing out how we haven’t caused irrevocable harm to dogs (mainly due to dogs adaptability) and if we want to have them be around for another 15000 years we’ll need to change how we interact. Modern dog owners have less use for many jobs dogs were bred for such as herding, hunting and ratting. Instead we should focus less on standards and appearance and ensure pets have the temperament and physical abilities to be good pets.
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