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Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones

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More than ninety percent of dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family. But often, despite our best intentions, we are letting our dogs down by not giving them the guidance and direction they need. Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue groups. The key to training dogs effectively is first to understand why More than ninety percent of dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family. But often, despite our best intentions, we are letting our dogs down by not giving them the guidance and direction they need. Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue groups. The key to training dogs effectively is first to understand why our dogs do what they do. And no one can address this more authoritatively than the diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, whose work, the culmination of years of rigorous training, takes them deep into the minds of dogs in an effort to decode how they think, how they communicate, and how they learn. In Decoding Your Dog, these experts analyze problem behaviors, decipher the latest studies, and correct common misconceptions and outmoded theories. The book includes: • Effective, veterinary-approved positive training methods • Expert advice on socialization, housetraining, diet, and exercise • Remedies for behavior problems such as OCD and aggression With Decoding Your Dog the experts’ experts deliver a must-have dog behavior guide that ultimately challenge the way we think about our dogs.


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More than ninety percent of dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family. But often, despite our best intentions, we are letting our dogs down by not giving them the guidance and direction they need. Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue groups. The key to training dogs effectively is first to understand why More than ninety percent of dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family. But often, despite our best intentions, we are letting our dogs down by not giving them the guidance and direction they need. Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue groups. The key to training dogs effectively is first to understand why our dogs do what they do. And no one can address this more authoritatively than the diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, whose work, the culmination of years of rigorous training, takes them deep into the minds of dogs in an effort to decode how they think, how they communicate, and how they learn. In Decoding Your Dog, these experts analyze problem behaviors, decipher the latest studies, and correct common misconceptions and outmoded theories. The book includes: • Effective, veterinary-approved positive training methods • Expert advice on socialization, housetraining, diet, and exercise • Remedies for behavior problems such as OCD and aggression With Decoding Your Dog the experts’ experts deliver a must-have dog behavior guide that ultimately challenge the way we think about our dogs.

30 review for Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones

  1. 5 out of 5

    Debra Brunk

    I was looking forward to reading this book once it was published - I even ordered it early. But I was disappointed. I learned a few things, but much of the book seems to be written for folks who either don't have dogs (yet) or who have dogs and have never bothered to spend much time with them. Solutions for problem behaviors seemed to fall into two groups: 1) give the dog a food toy or spend all your time with the dog, or 2) call a veterinary behaviorist. For the former, they don't address how t I was looking forward to reading this book once it was published - I even ordered it early. But I was disappointed. I learned a few things, but much of the book seems to be written for folks who either don't have dogs (yet) or who have dogs and have never bothered to spend much time with them. Solutions for problem behaviors seemed to fall into two groups: 1) give the dog a food toy or spend all your time with the dog, or 2) call a veterinary behaviorist. For the former, they don't address how to deal with an (eventually) overweight dog - or one that won't do anything without being given food. I also had some issues with their message about adopting. Basically they suggest adopting a dog from a known breeder, where you can see the behavior, etc. of the parents. This makes excellent sense in a perfect world; however, there are so many dogs out there that need homes that don't fit into this category. What do we do with them? I agree that picking a dog up at a shelter and then finding out you can't deal with the dog is not a good situation - especially for the dog. But having a behaviorist essentially warn the reader away from shelter dogs didn't sit well with me. The book is also highly repetitive, which I found annoying. Some additional editing could have addressed the redundancy that occurs many times throughout the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cyndie Courtney

    This book was all I hoped for and more. As a veterinarian, finding training books to recommend to clients is very frustrating. Some training advice is downright dangerous (see Cesar Milan) and many books have enough significant inaccuracies to prevent me from endorsing them (an unseemly number of training books make unnecessary and potentially dangerous feeding recommendations.) This book echoes all the current science and focuses on safe, positive reinforcement techniques, appropriately emphasiz This book was all I hoped for and more. As a veterinarian, finding training books to recommend to clients is very frustrating. Some training advice is downright dangerous (see Cesar Milan) and many books have enough significant inaccuracies to prevent me from endorsing them (an unseemly number of training books make unnecessary and potentially dangerous feeding recommendations.) This book echoes all the current science and focuses on safe, positive reinforcement techniques, appropriately emphasizing when owners should see a vet because a medical condition might be causing their dog's behavioral problem. It is a relief to have a comprehensive book that discusses all the major training and behavioral concerns I address in practice on a regular basis in such an approachable way. The book makes excellent use of interesting stories, down to earth explanations, and good science. As a pet owner it's hard to know which trainers to believe - especially when dangerous dominance based training methods are still being touted on TV. This is the book you can trust. It was well done by the experts of the experts - the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Fellow vets - recommend this book to this clients but also make sure to read it yourselves too! I do a lot of reading in behavior and there was still quite a bit of practical advice I picked up from this book. Definitely a must read for anyone who has or works with dogs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    For beginners only. This is really a series of essays from different vets and as a result you end up with an incohesive manual for dog owners. My favorite WTF was the essay on choosing the right dog. Basically, don't adopt an adult dog from a shelter unless you are sure it is a well behaved well adjusted dog. Um, no matter how well the shelter evaluates the dog you don't know 100% what you are getting! and so then what is to be done with adult dogs that don't fit this description? Listen, I thin For beginners only. This is really a series of essays from different vets and as a result you end up with an incohesive manual for dog owners. My favorite WTF was the essay on choosing the right dog. Basically, don't adopt an adult dog from a shelter unless you are sure it is a well behaved well adjusted dog. Um, no matter how well the shelter evaluates the dog you don't know 100% what you are getting! and so then what is to be done with adult dogs that don't fit this description? Listen, I think the idea of the vet behaviorist title for vets is a good thing but being a vet does not make you an expert in dog behavior. If the topics in this book interest you, read some Patricia McConnell who is far more knowledgeable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Best book on dogs!!! Better than Cesar Milan that's for sure. Debra Horwitz went to med & vet & dog behaviour school. Notes: But every other time is too easy to predict, so you’ll have to start offering rewards randomly—every second time, every tenth, every fifth, and so on. He can’t predict when the reward will come, so he’ll keep offering the response in hopes that next time will get him the payoff. This is called a “variable ratio of reinforcement,” which means the frequency of the reward (the Best book on dogs!!! Better than Cesar Milan that's for sure. Debra Horwitz went to med & vet & dog behaviour school. Notes: But every other time is too easy to predict, so you’ll have to start offering rewards randomly—every second time, every tenth, every fifth, and so on. He can’t predict when the reward will come, so he’ll keep offering the response in hopes that next time will get him the payoff. This is called a “variable ratio of reinforcement,” which means the frequency of the reward (the rate of reinforcement) varies Numerous recent studies have shown that punishment-based training methods (also known as aversive training) can do more harm than good because they may cause reduced welfare and increased fear and anxiety. Punishment is intended to decrease the frequency of a behavior, and reinforcement is meant to increase it To teach look Hold a treat at arm’s length, well above your dog’s head. Just hold it there. He will look at the treat and maybe try to jump for it, but after ten seconds or so he’ll look at you. Quickly pop the treat in his mouth. Repeat about ten times, and you’ll find that he begins to look at you more quickly. Now you can pair saying “look” (or “watch me”) with this action. If you only say “look,” he won’t know what you mean, so you must say it just as he is turning his eyes to yours. He will associate this action with the word. Important because - There are all sorts of fascinating things on the other side of the road, and your dog is tempted to cross. If you say “look,” he’ll turn and look at you and not run in front of that car. Everyone working with the dog should use the same word every time for a given action. And one word is better than two. So skip “lay down” (every dog and grammar teacher knows it should be “lie down,” anyway) and just say “down.” And when you want your dog to get off of you, say “off.” The tone of your voice is also important. If you want the dog to come or do anything active, like fetch, use short, rapidly repeated notes. If you want him to stop doing something immediately, use a sharp, single note. Slowing or soothing your dog is best done with a long, monotone note, like “Staaaaaaaay” or “Eaaaaaasy.” The solution to most jumping problems is to ignore the behavior. Do not speak to the dog or look at him or touch him. Turn your back. If he jumps on your back, leave the room. The behavior will eventually be extinguished. As soon as your dog knows “sit,” he can begin to learn “stay.” Stand right in front of the dog. Hold the palm of your hand in front of him like a traffic cop and say “stay.” Count to three and then release him. The release word can be “okay,” but be careful because we use “okay” in too many other contexts. You don’t want to accidentally teach him the wrong thing. You can use “come” as the release word; this will help him be eager to come to you. A minute is a long time for a dog Our puppy won’t potty outside, but comes right back in and pees on the floor. The first few minutes If your puppy doesn’t eliminate on that outing, go back inside, put the puppy in her crate for ten or fifteen minutes, then go back out to the toilet area. Repeat until she eliminates. dog’s natural inclination to keep sleeping or den areas clean, and adhere to the substrate and location preferences learned early in life, help make housetraining a dog possible. Until a puppy or dog is reliably housetrained, she should either be in an area where elimination is acceptable, under your direct supervision, or confined to an area where she is not likely to eliminate. Set routines for meals and exercise, and frequently scheduled potty breaks, to avoid indoor accidents. Appropriate toilet areas are usually outdoors Leashes are usually made of nylon, leather, or metal and attach to a neck collar, head collar, or harness. These tools give us some control over the movements of the dog because owners can control forward progress and redirect the dog while on leash Retractable leashes provide variable lengths in a single leash and give the dog room to roam. But these leashes provide little real control over the dog’s movements and are unlikely to be recommended by veterinary behaviorists Ask your dog to perform a desired behavior (such as “sit” or “watch me”) before he gets anything he wants or anything you want to give him. Examples include petting, food, play, walks, car rides, and so on. This approach involves you requesting a behavior, the dog responding appropriately, and then you giving him a reward (request-response-reward). This technique will help you be consistent in the way you interact with your dog and will encourage calm, relaxed behavior in all situations. While this technique is not a physical tool you can put your hands on, it can create clear communication between you and your dog so you can build a good relationship there is a period during which puppies are most accepting of new stimuli. This period is called the “socialization” period. In dogs, the socialization period begins at three weeks of age and continues to roughly three months of age is true that beyond twelve to fourteen weeks of age, a dog may meet new experiences with more suspicion. However, just because your puppy is beyond the ideal socialization age, you should not simply abandon socializing her altogether. In fact, as long as you see no signs that your puppy is distressed, exposure to many different places, people, and things should continue at least until your puppy is officially a dog. Developing a Socialization Program for Your Puppy 1. Identify situations your puppy will probably encounter as an adult and make sure these situations are part of her socialization. For instance, if you hope to travel with your puppy when she grows up, begin to take her on car rides to places other than the veterinary clinic. 2. Expose your puppy to new situations in a nonconfrontational and calm manner. Do not force her if she shows signs of fear or anxiety, often exhibited by hesitation and cowering. If she balks when you try to walk her past a fire hydrant, for example, sit nearby for a while. Pet her, let her relax, then move a little closer. As she relaxes, she may choose to venture closer and give the hydrant a little sniff. 3. Recognize that a small amount of hesitation in new situations is a normal and healthy part of learning Reward her confidence with verbal praise and a small food treat. If your pup is only showing normal reluctance to a new situation, she should gradually show greater relaxation and interest after a few exposures to the stimulus. 4. Address any concerns early; they won’t just disappear! If your pup is growing more concerned or anxious in everyday situations, you might try setting up a slower progression of exposure (systematic desensitization) for specific problem areas. If in doubt, discuss your concern with a veterinary behaviorist, your veterinarian, or a qualified trainer. The book talks about over vaccinating and when to vaccine and that there are core vaccines to take them non core and not recommended ones Core: distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus-2), parvovirus, rabies once every three years. Many of my holistic veterinarian friends think that even three years is far too often to risk exposing your dog to the health risks of overvaccination, since multiple studies have shown that dogs properly immunized in puppyhood maintain lifetime immunity to hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus The dog isn’t learning how we would prefer him to behave; he is simply prevented from behaving in an unwanted way in a situation because we control the options and outcomes. But management is a great short-term measure for getting relief, especially for young animals with nuisance behaviors, and it often works well enough to satisfy many people in the long term too. Ie. If he isn’t allowed in the kitchen, he never learns that jumping on the counter yields rewards Whatever the dog wants, don’t give it away for free. Don’t open the door just because the dog paws at it; Your dog also learns a degree of impulse control. He realizes that not immediately acting on impulse, but rather stopping to consider alternative options, can be rewarding. Training also becomes linked in the dog’s mind to all his favorite activities Use a “please” action before throwing a ball, Frisbee, etc.; handing over a toy; putting the food bowl down; giving a treat or chew toy; opening a door; clipping on a leash to go for a walk; taking off a leash at the park or beach; delivering a belly rub or a good ear scratch; allowing the dog into or out of the car How to Solve Leash Pulling 1. Use a head collar or front buckle harness with a regular leash, not a flexible leash (see chapter 5). 2. Teach the dog loose-leash walking. 3. Whenever the dog pulls (the leash goes taut), immediately stop walking or turn and walk in the opposite direction. Lesson to the dog: When you pull, you’re not going anywhere, or worse, we are going back. 4. When the leash is slack, start walking again. 5. Frequently reward the dog with treats and praise when he walks without pulling, and especially for being right by your side. 6. Walk fast enough for the dog not to get bored and start sniffing and peeing every few minutes. 7. When you allow your dog to sniff and go potty, deliberately stop and let your dog do his business, perhaps signaling with a phrase like “Go sniff” or “Go potty.” When you’re ready to walk again, say, “Let’s go!” That way, the dog knows when it’s okay to sniff and when he should begin walking again. 8. Don’t vary leash length by stretching out your arm. 9. Be consistent. Everyone in the family should use the same rules, cues, and equipment. Don’t ever let the dog pull. Tired dogs chew less, bark less, sleep more, and are more likely to relax when home alone. Recommend toys: Kong toys, Jolly Balls, Buster FoodCubes, and the Tug-a-Jug. Stimulating a dog mentally and physically: Enrichment: Providing objects or having interactions with your dog that occupy and stimulate his thinking and/or physical activity. The overall goal is to help your dog use these activities to dissipate stress and relieve boredom. Social enrichment: Providing an animal with opportunities to interact with people or other animals and to develop social relationships. Social relationships relieve loneliness, encourage thinking, and help develop and maintain appropriate social behavior. Environmental enrichment: Providing new objects and other variations in the environment that encourage investigation and allow the animal to have a choice of activities. In some cases, environmental enrichment also includes enabling the animal to be alone, if that’s what he wants Stimulation: A type of enrichment; stimulation is opportunities for thinking or physical activity that are available to the dog. Exercise: The physical activity part of stimulation. Dogs will have different capacities for exercise, depending on their breed or mix, the size of the dog, his age, health, temperament, and other characteristics. Mental stimulation: The thinking part of stimulation. These might be activities in which the dog works out a problem, hones his social abilities or physical coordination, or investigates his environment. Interactive play: This is play involving social interaction. The term is usually used to distinguish solitary play from play with a person or another dog Chew toys, as suggested in the table, are long-lasting edible treats, such as rawhides, or inedible toys that are filled or smeared with food that the dog has to work to obtain. Puzzle toys require the dog to think and try different strategies to obtain a reward. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on toys or doggie sport classes; there are lots of inexpensive toys and activities. Exercise and mental stimulation may be combined (for example, playing with other dogs in a park provides both exercise and the opportunity to practice social skills). Mental stimulation is a way to provide enrichment in situations in which an animal is confined or otherwise unable to be physically active. Training a dog to perform a behavior on cue is an example of mental stimulation because the dog must figure out what is wanted of him. Does the dog like to chew, or does he steal and shred items? This dog might enjoy food toys, puzzle toys, or safe recyclable items, such as cardboard. Food toys are handy in that they are inherently rewarding (food usually trumps nonfood household items). Does the dog like to dig? Consider placing a sandbox or dirt box with toys or treats hidden in it in your yard. But be careful: Avoid the sandbox if your dog tries to eat sand. (Eating a little dirt is not so bad, as long as it is not enough to clump.) Does your dog just seem to enjoy sniffing around outside—and possibly urine marking on things like trees? Consider taking him out on leash and just letting him choose the direction for a slow sniff walk, taking his time to investigate the environment and choose what smells to check out next. This is an opportunity for a thinking activity that can help many dogs unwind. Does the dog like to retrieve or chase objects? Play fetch, or consider a dog sport such as flying disc, flyball, or treibball. Does your dog love the water? Many dogs enjoy running and swimming in the water. Consider water fetch or dock jumping, or simply go swimming with your dog or play fetch at the water’s edge. Does your dog adore playing with other dogs? Find a fenced area and some dog friends for him to play with regularly. Like people, most dogs enjoy spending time with their friends more than they enjoy meeting lots of new individuals. Does your dog really enjoy enjoy meeting new people? Seek out more activities for him to take part in with human friends. You can even teach him tricks to show off! Consider dog sports. Make Greetings and Exits No Big Deal Greet your dog calmly and only when he’s relaxed and quiet. Ignore jumping, barking, licking, and general frantic cuteness. only rewarding (through petting him, talking to him, and looking at him) calm, relaxed behaviors. Exposing dogs to noise recordings of the fearful stimuli in a specific manner helped reduce their fear of fireworks. Play her favorite game, Give her a special treat to work on—a long-lasting bone or a food puzzle toy stuffed with yummy food, Create a cozy place for the dog to rest, such as a closet corner or a bathroom, and see if she does better in that environment. asking her to “sit” and “down,” or have her perform tricks. Use a very high-value food as a reward. Some dogs may do better outside, so if you are up for it, put on your rain gear and go for a walk. You can also try a white-noise machine. puts a leash and perhaps a head collar on them and holds the leash. crate. engage your dog in activities. Correct tail chasing because it could turn into compulsion. “sit,” and then redirect him with a toy. make abrupt noise then ask to sit and reward.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Even though the behaviorists at AVSAB are kind of my personal gods on canine behavior, I am still miffed with this book even after the newest edition. Most of the content is from 2014, when several things that are recommended in here had already been proven to be detrimental to canine welfare in long term studies way before then. How on earth is it still ok to recommend Citronella collars? Yes, if only given two options on earth, a shock or citronella collar, choose the citronella. Thankfully we Even though the behaviorists at AVSAB are kind of my personal gods on canine behavior, I am still miffed with this book even after the newest edition. Most of the content is from 2014, when several things that are recommended in here had already been proven to be detrimental to canine welfare in long term studies way before then. How on earth is it still ok to recommend Citronella collars? Yes, if only given two options on earth, a shock or citronella collar, choose the citronella. Thankfully we now know that they are far from the only options, and they are among the worst an owner can use. Furthermore, when talking about chewing materials that are not artificial like puzzles or toys, the ONLY one that is talked about is rawhide. That is asinine to me. What about bully sticks? Again, in 2014 it was widely known what horrible effects rawhide has on the canine intestinal tract and overall health. Additionally, I always get a little upset when I notice that quite clearly, a company has paid some of the recommendations, in this case Purina. There are many, many higher quality foods available, prescription or over the counter, than Purina. I found that a little unsettling. To continue, this book is for dog owners and not people like myself whose profession is in this field. I cannot say I would wholeheartedly recommend this book as the definitions, for instance of the four learning quadrants, sound convoluted and not clear-cut. If I were an owner, I'd be confused. I also am having issues with the fact that while the AVSAB position statement on punishment is much clearer, this book doesn't go far enough in denouncing aversive methods. Again, this is for owners, and some of them may be on the fence. If I read 'should never use' I would say 'oh, ok, that sounds bad, I will stay away from that. If I read 'we do not recommend' as a reader, that gives me some leeway. The highlights for me included interaction with kids and senior dogs with cognitive disorders. Good information in all, but the message is not always strong enough.

  6. 5 out of 5

    KATHY

    I've read this book twice now, once when my doggies were well past the house training stage and just recently, having acquired a puppy. It helps me understand what NOT to do, but I wish this book would give more details about what to do with house training. Some tips are there, but they just are not enough. My puppy needs more decoding in that area. First reading, I would have given this five stars. Second reading, I give it three. That's why I gave it four stars. I've read this book twice now, once when my doggies were well past the house training stage and just recently, having acquired a puppy. It helps me understand what NOT to do, but I wish this book would give more details about what to do with house training. Some tips are there, but they just are not enough. My puppy needs more decoding in that area. First reading, I would have given this five stars. Second reading, I give it three. That's why I gave it four stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lectus

    Wow! This book comes with an 'Acknowledgments,' a 'Foreword,' a 'Preface,' and an 'Introduction.' After all that, you get 315 pages of nothing you cannot find online, a 'Conclusion,' an 'about the editors,' 'about the authors'.... Seriously, these people could not stop writing!!! Wow! This book comes with an 'Acknowledgments,' a 'Foreword,' a 'Preface,' and an 'Introduction.' After all that, you get 315 pages of nothing you cannot find online, a 'Conclusion,' an 'about the editors,' 'about the authors'.... Seriously, these people could not stop writing!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    An insightful book that gave me many helpful hints to better understand my new pup!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Decoding your Dog is a decent book as an introduction to dog training and behavior. It summarizes the main points that you will read in more detail in other books. I think the biggest draw back is the level of redundancy found throughout the chapters. This is most likely in part, due to the fact that several people are writing this book. It would have been wiser to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book about seeing a vet first prior to behavior modification and seeking professional help Decoding your Dog is a decent book as an introduction to dog training and behavior. It summarizes the main points that you will read in more detail in other books. I think the biggest draw back is the level of redundancy found throughout the chapters. This is most likely in part, due to the fact that several people are writing this book. It would have been wiser to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book about seeing a vet first prior to behavior modification and seeking professional help if the situation is too severe. These points were repeated soooo often in each chapter that it really bogged down the material. In general, it is a good beginner book as an intro.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Keely

    I really felt like I got a lot out of this book being a first time dog owner. I have had family pets as a kid, but never was the primary care giver until now. I really enjoyed learning about dog behavior and have been applying a lot of the training techniques with great success. I recommend this to anyone who truly wants to understand their dogs behavior and even learn a trick or two in creating a well balanced and happy relationship with their pet. :-)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jane Weeks

    I enjoyed this book very much. Even though I've had various dogs through most of my life, I still found lots of information that is helping me with my 2 3/4 year old rescued coonhound. I first read about the new(ish) scientific discoveries about dog behaviour with John Bradshaw's "Dog Sense," and this book makes that information useful, with practical approaches to behaviour modification. I recommend this book to any prospective dog adoptor or old hand at the joy of canine companionship. I enjoyed this book very much. Even though I've had various dogs through most of my life, I still found lots of information that is helping me with my 2 3/4 year old rescued coonhound. I first read about the new(ish) scientific discoveries about dog behaviour with John Bradshaw's "Dog Sense," and this book makes that information useful, with practical approaches to behaviour modification. I recommend this book to any prospective dog adoptor or old hand at the joy of canine companionship.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    A must-read for veterinary professionals and dog owners. Good emphasis on positive reinforcement and the fact that everything takes patience and time. Everyone can learn something from this book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kati

    Like many other, I got this book in the hopes of learning something new about dog behaviour and psychology. However, like many other dog owners have commented, this book is more of a training manual for novice owners, but it is not a guide I would recommend as despite the fact that it was written by veterinary behaviouralist (who should be experts in all things dog) there is actually a lot of very bad and harmful advice in the book. For instance, whether intentionally or not, in the chapter about Like many other, I got this book in the hopes of learning something new about dog behaviour and psychology. However, like many other dog owners have commented, this book is more of a training manual for novice owners, but it is not a guide I would recommend as despite the fact that it was written by veterinary behaviouralist (who should be experts in all things dog) there is actually a lot of very bad and harmful advice in the book. For instance, whether intentionally or not, in the chapter about choosing a dog/puppy, the authors steer readers towards pure bred puppies coming from a professional breeder on the basis that it is only with such puppies that you can be sure of breeding, temperament and that the dog comes as a blank slate. While it is true that adopting dogs is more uncertain in the sense that you do not necessarily know the breed, the personal history or the medical background, this does not deter thousands of people from adopting, rather than buying. In addition, I object to the authors ‘downgrading’ mixed breed dogs on the basis that you don’t know which breed’s traits will dominate - people (myself included) choose mixed breed dogs because they generally have fewer health issues than purebreds and they want a more ‘holistic’ dog (for instance, both our dogs are Border Collie x Lab mixes because while we like the intelligence of Collies, we also wanted the personable traits of a Lab). In addition, as breed-specific rescues can attest, choosing a purebred puppy in no way guarantees that the dog will stay with their owner (as no dog is 100% perfect and rehoming is usually down to lack of understanding/training by the owner, rather than an inherent trait in the dog). Another thing that the authors really advocate is rewarding your dog with treats and clicker training. However, this assumes (incorrectly) that all dogs are food motivated. For instance, our first dog is 100% toy motivated - he will stop literally anything he is doing (engaging with another dog, running off into the sunset or jumping into the river) if you pull out a ball, but will completely ignore you if you have a treat (even cheese, which is his favourite food). In addition, while our second dog is food motivated, she will respond to commands even without treats (we have never rewarded her for sitting, coming back or getting off somewhere we don’t want her to be) because she is satisfied with attention (pats or strokes or being told she is a good girl). However, the authors presume that without treats, dogs will not be motivated to follow commands, as there is no reward in it for them. On this basis, they are inadvertently setting up dog owners (especially those who are inexperienced) to only try a limited number of one-size-fits-all training methods, and ignoring the fact that there are dogs who (with the right approach) can learn to follow commands because they trust their human (not because they are being bribed by them). The chapter on toilet training also had some really bizarre advice that I had never come across before, like the statement that a dog can only be considered to be fully housetrained when they can stay inside without supervision for 8 hours straight, or that you need to feed and water on a set schedule in order to be able to predict when a puppy will need to go outside (both our dogs were housetrained by 5 months and we have food and water out all the time, so they can choose how much they want to eat when). Dogs will quickly learn to signal that they need to go outside - humans just need to pay attention and take them outside fast enough. One useful thing that I should mention in the toilet training section is the idea that dogs view the interior of houses as distinct zones (e.g. there is the den, which is the sleeping zone, there is the eating zone, there is the social zone, etc.). As a result, unless each part of the house is used regularly, a dog may start using the under-used or unused zones for toileting (on the basis that these zones are on the periphery of the owner’s territory and dogs tend to go to the toilet away from their den and food zones). This happened with both our dogs (our first dog went to the toilet on the landing and our second dog used the basement). We were originally a bit confused by this behaviour (as both dogs at this point were otherwise toilet trained and only very occasionally eliminated indoors), but this ‘zone’ theory makes sense. They both grew out of the behaviour / were discouraged from entering those spaces without supervision, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but this tip is actually useful. Other strange recommendations include using head collars on puppies (I have never seen anyone use this on puppies as I did not think that their bodies were developed enough for such a device and most people actually recommend harnesses as it distributes stress more evenly), electric shock fences (whereby the shock is delivered via a collar, even though a couple of paragraphs earlier the authors discouraged the use of electric shock collars as a training aid), and citronella collars to discourage barking (this is very outdated advice and no longer recommend by trainers). Overall, not a book I would recommend (neither to novice or experienced owners).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charles JunkChuck

    I've had some good dogs in my life, and I've read more than a few books about how to best manage the transition of those dogs as they joined my household. I can't recommend this book enough. It is fantastic and, if you take it seriously and put in the time, will help you to have a great relationship with your dog. In early February, while delivering some donations to a local no-kill shelter, my wife suggested that we look at the puppies. I was unimpressed, still smarting from the previous year's I've had some good dogs in my life, and I've read more than a few books about how to best manage the transition of those dogs as they joined my household. I can't recommend this book enough. It is fantastic and, if you take it seriously and put in the time, will help you to have a great relationship with your dog. In early February, while delivering some donations to a local no-kill shelter, my wife suggested that we look at the puppies. I was unimpressed, still smarting from the previous year's loss of a beloved companion who'd been with us for 17 wonderful years. I was drawn to a sad-eyed young bulldog mix who huddled in the back corner of her cage, but tentatively crawled towards me when I knelt to her level and called. Like a lot of folks, I was not inclined to adopt a Bullie, but I couldn't get her off my mind. She seemed so sad, and had a story that explained why--she'd been surrendered by an owner who became too ill to care for her, then mistreated by a second owner. Knowing that she would be a project, we took her home a few days later--and bought this book a day after that. I cannot say how much "Decoding" has not only eased the adjustment period for all of us, but helped us to find the sweet, affectionate, intelligent, and enthusiastic dog that was hiding behind the shivering, sad, sixty-five pound ball of muscle we first took home with us. The approach here is contrary to a lot of the old wisdom I'd read about pack dynamics and dominance and relies much more on experiential results and the growing body of animal psychology. None of that old Alpha and Omega stuff, but scientific methods of support and conditioning that teach your dog what you want her to do, rather than forcing them to comply out of fear. Managing behaviors, training your dog to do what she needs to do--it's remarkable and, frankly, it makes so much sense that I'm amazed it took so long for someone to get this in print. It's not magic, of course. It requires work (if playing with your dog is work) and consistency on your part, but we experienced progress almost immediately. Our dog quickly came out of her shell and learned that she can trust us, and that we wouldn't hurt her, and blossomed into an energetic, affectionate, playful, and attentive companion. She's still got work to do, but it's been a remarkable process and I owe so much to reading this book and taking the advice seriously.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Solita

    Fair enough. You get a bit more than decoding your dog. Where and how to get a dog is a whole other subject, and I skipped through most of that, since I already have a dog. I do like that this book dispels popular notions about dog behavior (many of which I've heard over the years), and they explain facts based on science. I wanted to know about aggression, and this subject is covered in the book. Aggression can't be cured, but it can be handled. You have to pay close attention for the clues you Fair enough. You get a bit more than decoding your dog. Where and how to get a dog is a whole other subject, and I skipped through most of that, since I already have a dog. I do like that this book dispels popular notions about dog behavior (many of which I've heard over the years), and they explain facts based on science. I wanted to know about aggression, and this subject is covered in the book. Aggression can't be cured, but it can be handled. You have to pay close attention for the clues your dog is signaling to say you're pissing her off, making her nervous. But I already figured that one out. I still don't know why my dog is aggressive at night. Apparently, "night rage" has been dispelled. But my dog didn't get that memo. She's a rescue, and after three years of not getting the right answers from vets, including a behaviorist, I finally found a great vet who took one look at my dog, and knew instantly what was wrong. She has a personality disorder which might be severe trauma or genetic or both. I suspect she wasn't socialized, she may have been taken away from her mother and the litter too soon, or maybe she was just tossed out. Who knows. I don't blame my little mutt for her deficiencies, I'm just trying to give her the best life experience I can. This book helps me some toward that end.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brandi D'angelo

    This is an excellent book that brings us all up to speed on the latest science of dog behavior. It challenges the old theory of humans needing to be dominant over their dog. I highly recommend it, especially if you are having any behavioral issues with your dog. The book starts out with choosing a dog, general training and then addresses specific issues such as separation anxiety, aggression, housetraining, etc. One helpful tip that everyone can use right away is how to properly greet a dog. "Th This is an excellent book that brings us all up to speed on the latest science of dog behavior. It challenges the old theory of humans needing to be dominant over their dog. I highly recommend it, especially if you are having any behavioral issues with your dog. The book starts out with choosing a dog, general training and then addresses specific issues such as separation anxiety, aggression, housetraining, etc. One helpful tip that everyone can use right away is how to properly greet a dog. "The respectful way to greet a dog is no direct eye contact and no reaching out or over a dog. Instead, give the dog a chance to sniff you before engaging in direct physical contact or visual contact." Of course, this is so contrary to how humans greet each other with eye contact and hugs. Kids especially like to rush up, put their faces in the dog's face and hug them. I try to teach every kid I know not to do this. It may save them in the future!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katsim Simons

    So, this was a bit of an odd duck. Quite dry, but it defined words that I didn’t need a definition for - it seemed aimed at high school reading level at the most. But while it was informative, it was definitively not engaging. I ended up skimming a fair portion, partly because I’ve read similar books and it was repetitive, partly because the book itself was repetitive from chapter to chapter. It certainly didn’t make me excited to get a dog. I’ll refer to it if any problems crop up, but it isn’t So, this was a bit of an odd duck. Quite dry, but it defined words that I didn’t need a definition for - it seemed aimed at high school reading level at the most. But while it was informative, it was definitively not engaging. I ended up skimming a fair portion, partly because I’ve read similar books and it was repetitive, partly because the book itself was repetitive from chapter to chapter. It certainly didn’t make me excited to get a dog. I’ll refer to it if any problems crop up, but it isn’t a training manual, it’s a problem-solving manual. It detailed a lot of problems and left one thinking all dogs have issues, and that dog ownership is not going to be fun. It just was not terribly enjoyable. I much preferred the writing style of The Other End of the Leash. That one assumes a certain level of reading comprehension, education, and vocabulary, but was much more pheasant to read. Useful, but not fun. A reference book you hope you won’t need.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Evans

    As a dog owner who adopted from a high kill shelter, this book has opened up so many possibilities on getting my not-so-perfect pooch to living his best and most well-behaved life. Charlie (the dog in question) came with a lot of baked-in problems at 9 months old. They were manageable at first and then got way worse over the course of time resulting in plenty of hardships in our relationship and a few very urgent vet visits. Since reading this book and learning how to really understand how he's As a dog owner who adopted from a high kill shelter, this book has opened up so many possibilities on getting my not-so-perfect pooch to living his best and most well-behaved life. Charlie (the dog in question) came with a lot of baked-in problems at 9 months old. They were manageable at first and then got way worse over the course of time resulting in plenty of hardships in our relationship and a few very urgent vet visits. Since reading this book and learning how to really understand how he's been trying to communicate with me, we've made immense progress on his behavior and he has become a happier and healthier dog. I can't wait to continue to work by his side and get him truly comfortable with the world around him. In conclusion, whether you are a new dog owner or have had dogs throughout your life, please give this book a read. Although some of it may seem like common sense to the seasoned pup lover, you might learn something new just as I have.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    For complete dog novice's such as my family with our first puppy this book was reassuring and made me feel my instincts had led me down the right track when it comes to training our puppy. I got this book from the library after we had our puppy for about 8 weeks so did not follow the advice on selecting a puppy. I agree with another reader that writing off rescue pups or in our case a pup from an unplanned pregnancy (farm dog) is not ideal. I am glad I didn't read that advice before getting our For complete dog novice's such as my family with our first puppy this book was reassuring and made me feel my instincts had led me down the right track when it comes to training our puppy. I got this book from the library after we had our puppy for about 8 weeks so did not follow the advice on selecting a puppy. I agree with another reader that writing off rescue pups or in our case a pup from an unplanned pregnancy (farm dog) is not ideal. I am glad I didn't read that advice before getting our lovely pup. What was reassuring for me is that what I had been telling my children about how they interact with the puppy can determine the way the puppy reacts to them, rather than as many people I have spoken to seem to think a dog should never react in an 'unacceptable' way no matter what people/ children do to them.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sheilah

    I read this book at the request of an animal behaviorist I saw regarding my own pup who has anxiety. In truth, I am not the average reader, as I have past experience working in animal environments where I learned many of the elements that are covered in this book. Regardless, even for someone who is not a newbie to dog behavior, I found nuggets of wisdom within this text. Additionally, I feel this book is a good reminder/guide for all dog owners, especially those who may be seeing some strange beh I read this book at the request of an animal behaviorist I saw regarding my own pup who has anxiety. In truth, I am not the average reader, as I have past experience working in animal environments where I learned many of the elements that are covered in this book. Regardless, even for someone who is not a newbie to dog behavior, I found nuggets of wisdom within this text. Additionally, I feel this book is a good reminder/guide for all dog owners, especially those who may be seeing some strange behavior from their Fido. This was an easy to read and understand dog behavior bible that all dog owners would benefit from exploring. It is one of the better texts I have come across regarding this topic. If you are a dog owner, I feel it is worth your time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Decoding Your Dog is a perfect introduction for first time dog owners, but anyone who owns or works with dogs will benefit from this. All of the information is backed up by studies and I love that it is compiled by veterinary and veterinary behaviorists. I have 2 dogs that have been through all levels of training, this book reaffirms everything that I've learned. While some of the information does seem repetitive, that is because a lot of issues overlap. This isn't the be all, end all of trainin Decoding Your Dog is a perfect introduction for first time dog owners, but anyone who owns or works with dogs will benefit from this. All of the information is backed up by studies and I love that it is compiled by veterinary and veterinary behaviorists. I have 2 dogs that have been through all levels of training, this book reaffirms everything that I've learned. While some of the information does seem repetitive, that is because a lot of issues overlap. This isn't the be all, end all of training books, and the authors are aware of that. They provide resources at the end that you can use to further research. This book is a great start for anyone who wants to understand dogs.

  22. 4 out of 5

    stormhawk

    Of Course I'm Reading This because of a Bad Dog This book presents a lot of behavioral information for dogs and their people. Much of it is targeted for pups, but there are chapters in adult and senior dogs, which provide some interesting insights. Still haven't decided if the info is going to be useful for my fur nephew's issues, but it has given us some things tho think about, at least. Of Course I'm Reading This because of a Bad Dog This book presents a lot of behavioral information for dogs and their people. Much of it is targeted for pups, but there are chapters in adult and senior dogs, which provide some interesting insights. Still haven't decided if the info is going to be useful for my fur nephew's issues, but it has given us some things tho think about, at least.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Norbert

    Great insights on dogs behavior One of my two senior dogs currently started to become aggressive towards our other senior dog. I bought this book to try to find out about what would have caused the issue. I really enjoyed the reading and I got a lot of information I needed to understand a dogs behavior

  24. 4 out of 5

    nancy jill kennedy

    Very informative I found it worth the time and effort it took to read this book about dogs and behaviour issues. It is written so that anyone can understand and hopefully put the techniques in action. It is reassuring that a frightened dog can become calm and relaxed during stressful situations.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edi McNinch

    Good resource Good resource for helping train your pet or figure out the why's and 'what fors ' when your fur baby has out of character behavior or before your pet has any behavior issues. Interesting to know what you makes that fur baby 'tick' and what you thought was true may be just an old wives tale. Good resource Good resource for helping train your pet or figure out the why's and 'what fors ' when your fur baby has out of character behavior or before your pet has any behavior issues. Interesting to know what you makes that fur baby 'tick' and what you thought was true may be just an old wives tale.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Richards

    Limited but informative I wanted to read this for information on senior dogs and concerns relating to changing behaviors. The last chapter dealt with this and was good, but limited. As to majority of the book, it seemed to cover many dog behaviors and advice mainly for newer owners. It would be very helpful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Me

    Good tips and advice for those who have just adopted, brought an older dog into the family, have a new puppy and/or are experiencing behavioral problems. In short, something for any dog owner! I especially liked the chapter on separation anxiety.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Allison Springer

    Just got my first pup 3 weeks ago, this book was incredibly helpful as we navigate puppy life. So many great tips, training advice, and general information that has shaped the way we are raising Loki. New and seasoned owners alike can definitely get something out of this quick read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Lajeunesse

    I admit to not reading this cover to cover. I focused on the areas that applied to issues with my own dog. But the coverage is comprehensive enough, that any reader with any dog would find useful and applicable help for their own dog.

  30. 5 out of 5

    donia eastman

    Lots of good information Lots of good information and the chapter titles allowed me to read what I wanted in the order that interested me. Followed from puppy to older dog. I liked that.

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