Lindsay's Reviews > Through a Dog's Eyes: Understanding Our Dogs by Understanding How They See the World

Through a Dog's Eyes by Jennifer Arnold
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Dec 01, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction

‘Our dogs never grow past the point of seeing us as their universe. Is it any wonder we adore them?’

We have had our dog for just about two years now, and she is our first dog. Although I write this review myself, I say ‘we’ because she is certainly a member of the family - she is my dog and my husband’s, (and also very fond of my in-laws too!) We have been through puppy training with her, and gone to a beginner’s training class too, and have learned many useful tips along the way. There are always challenges though; she is still quite young and is very exuberant and enthusiastic about just about everything! I was therefore really interested to read this book and discover the author’s theories about looking at the world through the eyes of our dogs.

The subtitle to this book is key to the approach taken inside it -'understanding our dogs by understanding how they see the world.'

Jennifer Arnold has been training service dogs for over twenty years. These dogs go on to assist people with physical disabilities and special needs. The things they achieve, the tasks they are able to accomplish, and the support they can offer, is truly awe-inspiring:

‘Working with children and adults who have mobility difficulties or seizure conditions, these incredible dogs learn to do a variety of tasks, such as turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, pushing buttons, picking up dropped objects, and running for help in an emergency. They transform lives with their constant companionship and unconditional love in ways that no human can equal.’

This book is an inspirational read, both in terms of the stories Jennifer Arnold recounts about the dogs she has trained, and in terms of inspiring us as dog owners to rethink what we know about our dogs, and to reconsider how things might look to our dogs. It offers us a wealth of ideas, drawn from the author’s experience of working with dogs every day, that we can think about when spending time with our own dogs, and thereby improve our relationships with them. I thought the sections on body language were particularly interesting and enlightening. There are sections where the author considers the origins of dogs – including discussing wolves and dogs, their personalities, language and characters, discusses play and also her choice teaching methods.

The author looks at the world as she believes dogs see it and experience it. She has leant so much in terms of understanding dogs – their skills and intelligence, the things they are capable of doing. In this book Jennifer Arnold puts forward her approach to training, based not on the alpha dominance type theory of physical correction but instead on encouraging the dog to make the right choice, and by using positive reinforcement, treating the dog kindly. She advises us to ‘use only positive motivation to convince the dog that it is in his best interest to do as asked.’ She explains that she herself only developed and moved over to this method over time:

‘My approach to handling changed as my understanding of dogs grew, until one day I realized that it was morally wrong to treat dogs with anything other than patience, understanding, and kindness. I have come to appreciate that dogs are capable of deep feeling, that they have individual personalities and intellectual capacities, extraordinary at times. Most of all I have learned that, beyond all other species, dogs have evolved to be our partners, protectors and helpmates.’

I enjoyed reading about the dogs Jennifer has worked with and learned from; there are some heartwarming and very moving true stories contained here, and the dogs that go on to make a positive difference are evidence of the efficacy of her methods. She offers scientific support for her theories. I think there is a lot to be said for the philosophy that this author puts forward. If anything I would have liked to have read even more stories about the dogs she has trained.

This is an enlightening read, and after finishing this book, I felt I looked at my dog in a new way and I have definitely learned a lot about dog behaviour. Additionally, I’ve learned different techniques that I might use to communicate better with my dog, and I developed a greater understanding of dogs as a species. This book is a fascinating, informative and worthwhile read for any dog owner.
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