Home
book reviews
Culture: Stories & Lit
Chase! Managing Your Dog’s Predatory Instincts
Dogwise Publishing, 136 pp., 2010; $16.95

As human to a couple of large, highly prey-driven dogs, I was thrilled and relieved to learn of Clarissa von Reinhardt’s book, Chase! I had done a fair amount of research over the years on the topic but hadn’t learned much beyond the fact that good management and a fail-proof recall were in order. Until I read Chase!, that is.

Every good training program begins with a solid foundation, and Reinhardt’s is no exception. The fundamental element of the program is what Reinhardt calls “communicative walks,” which she defines as “using the walk as an opportunity to build a strong bond between you and your dog through interaction and communication,” including discovering “sausage trees” together, among other activities. (The sausage tree is one of several unique and creative training ideas.)

Reinhardt provides instructions for humanely and effectively training behaviors ranging from basic to the more unusual. She also includes a chapter on mental stimulation, in which she emphasizes the importance of play and outlines games that are appropriate and inappropriate for prey-driven dogs.

While I found everything in the book to be of use, I did not find everything of use to be in the book. Two things in particular were conspicuous in their absence: instructions for training a fail-proof recall and a serious discussion on working with dogs who have killed prey animals.

Regardless, Chase! is definitely worthwhile if you’d like to be able to allow your prey-driven dog off leash. Reinhardt’s training philosophy is right on: “The success of anti-predation training doesn’t just depend on how well you train your dog to steer his natural tendencies in an alternative direction— toward you—but also how well you concentrate on the dog as your partner.”

Culture: Reviews
Dog Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend
Avery Publishing, 320 pp., 2010; $26.00

After the birth of Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, a handful of biotech entrepreneurs envisioned a thriving business that would provide grieving dog lovers with genetically identical clones of their deceased pets. In Dog Inc., Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist John Woestendiek exposes the grave folly behind those science-fiction dreams.

Woestendiek travels between the United States and South Korea, following the companies looking to cash in on cloning technology, and their clients, who hope cloning really will approximate resurrection.

Although much of the book focuses on the salacious story of Bernann McKinney, a woman obsessed with cloning her Pit Bull, the strength of Dog Inc. is in Woestendiek’s ability to lay out the science and laboratory politics in a way that’s both accessible and engaging. Readers will understand the X-inactivation process that made the first cloned cat so physically distinct from her progenitor — and, consequently, such a public relations failure — as well as the allegations of scientific fraud levied against Woo Suk Hwang, one of the pioneers of canine cloning.

Woestendiek never outright condemns canine cloning, but the details leave little question as to where he falls in the debate. He shines light on the poor treatment of the laboratory dogs used in cloning, the cloned puppies who do not survive the process and the heartbreaking fate of Snuppy himself. As for the actual clones, Dog Inc. tracks kittens, puppies and even a bull cloned at great financial and biological cost, only to prove physically and behaviorally distinct from their genetic parents.

The book serves as a valuable reminder that, like people, our pets are far more than the sum of their DNA.

News: Guest Posts
Animal Joy
Jonathan Balcombe studies the animal pleasure principle

In our house, we call it sun-dogging: When Lulu and Renzo stretch out on the hot slate of the porch or cool grass and heat up in the sun. Their black fur gets pretty hot to the touch, but still they soak it all in, moving to shade long after it seemed like a good idea. We love watching them sun-dog because they seem to be enjoying themselves so much.

Apparently, there is a scientific term for the habit, “behavioral thermoregulation.” But it just doesn’t capture the pleasure of the moment. “Oh, honey, look at Lulu behaviorially thermoregulating.”

Based on recent reviews and preview materials, I’m thinking animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe would understand “sun-dogging.” In his new book, The Exultant Ark, he doesn’t mince words about animals experiencing pleasure—the study of which he calls, hedonic ethology. Yum.

Of course, you can’t really get away with saying animals experience pleasure (a little too anthropomorphic), so in amongst the photos he makes his case for the biological imperative of pleasure, but I’m happy to let the photos do the work. I mean, look at that cover!

More about The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure.

Watch an interview with Jonathan Balcombe (in parts on YouTube):

News: Karen B. London
The Adventures of Salt & Soap at Grand Canyon
It’s a great kids book!

Like most people who live where I do (an hour from Grand Canyon), I consider it part of my backyard and I love stories and art inspired by and about this wonder of the world.

In The Adventures of Salt & Soap at Grand Canyon, Park Ranger Lori April Rome narrates the true story describing how two lost puppies became her own dogs. Salt and Soap were just three months old when they were found wandering together in a remote area of Grand Canyon National Park. These puppies had a variety of adventures, including capsizing during a ride on the river, lots of hiking, a thunderstorm, and finally a helicopter ride out of the canyon. Though written for kids ages 4 to 8, this story appeals to a much broader age range.

Tanja Bauerle’s illustrations capture the wildlife in the area, the facial expressions and body language of these two exuberant puppies and the grandeur and beauty of Grand Canyon. The puppies take their names from Salt Water Wash and Soap Canyon, which are features of Grand Canyon near where they were first found. Their permanent home in Grand Canyon Village near the rim of the canyon is also beautifully depicted.

Among the many reasons I adore this engaging book are the fact that the puppies are mixed breeds, that it was a cooperative effort by many people to help the puppies survive in this harsh, unforgiving habitat, and that there are other animals in this outdoor adventure tale. The puppies see a variety of wildlife while they interact with rangers, hikers and river runners. It’s refreshing to read a children’s book in which dogs are one of many species inhabiting our planet.

The story is told with that sense of wonder that is so captivating to children. The emphasis is on positive aspects of life: the friendliness and trust of the puppies, the compassion of strangers, the majesty and vastness of Grand Canyon and the contagious happiness that dogs bring to us all.

Culture: Reviews
The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

In 1960, a young Maltese made his way from England to America, stopping along the way in Hollywood at the astoundingly dysfunctional home of actress Natalie Woods’ mother. From there, he landed in the lovely lap of Marilyn Monroe, a gift from Frank Sinatra, and lived with her until she died in 1962. As Maf (short for “Mafia Honey”) observes, “A dog’s biggest talent is for absorbing everything of interest,” and here, he not only absorbs it, he recounts it. Telling a story in the voice of a dog is a risky business, but O’Hagan pulls it off in this entertaining novel, which looks at the life and times of an iconic and much-mythologized woman through the eyes of a dog who loved her.

Culture: Reviews
Do Over Dogs

“It’s never too late to begin again,” says veteran trainer Pat Miller, and in her new book, she shows us how to do just that. Whether you have a newly rescued pooch or a long-time canine companion with lingering “issues,” Miller offers guidance and insights that are both practical and inspiring. Her discussions of the shelter world, adopting a do-over dog, and the science behind training and behavior provide valuable context in which to understand and apply her advice.

Culture: Reviews
Dogs Can Sign, Too
A Breakthrough Method for Teaching Your Dog to Communicate

All of us talk to our dogs, but with this book, we’re given a way to teach them to talk back. Adding to dogs’ innate repertoire of communication signals, the author shows us in step-by-step fashion how to help our pups develop a vocabulary of gestures that convey both basic ideas and more complicated concepts, including answering questions. While many experts feel that dogs lack the capacity to learn a non-natural language, Senechal disagrees, and created K9 Sign Language to prove it. The basis of this approach is that “anything a dog can identify can be linked to a word and a corresponding body gesture.” From that perspective, dogs using sign language may not be such a far-fetched idea after all.

Culture: Reviews
Mini Encyclopedia of Dog Health

This compact book is indeed encyclopedic in its coverage of the common and not-so-common pitfalls of canine health. Beginning with an overview of how to have a healthy dog, it then segues into specifics of first aid and emergency care and the more complicated issues of system-based ailments. Neurological, circulatory, respiratory and more are covered. It is also fully illustrated; the diagrams showing how the various systems work are particularly informative. While no book can substitute for a vet’s attention, this one goes a long way toward helping us know when it’s time to seek that attention.

Culture: Reviews
Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog

Well-educated dog owners and dog professionals worldwide continue to be dismayed by the ongoing presentation of Cesar Millan’s inappropriate, sometimes dangerous approach to dog behavior modification or, as Millan likes to call it, “dog psychology.” This new book may be an attempt to quell some of the ever-growing opposition to Millan’s less-than-scientifically supported dog-handling techniques.

Though Millan acknowledges that he disagrees with many highly regarded, experienced and educated professionals in the field of dog training and behavior, he includes some of their perspectives here. From the “positive” side of the trainer world, he invites comments from the notable Bob Bailey, guru to thousands of educated dog trainers, and Dr. Ian Dunbar, founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), author and early advocate of rewardbased training. Among the professionals included are Bonnie Brown-Cali, Patrick Burns, Barbara DeGroodt, Mark Harden, Katenna Jones, Joel Silverman, K irk Turner a nd G ary Wilkes. If you think this creates a confusing end product, you’re right.

There is more actual substance in this book t han i n p rior M illan e fforts, thanks in large part to the contributions of his visiting trainers. Information on Millan’s own approach to modifying the behavior of the dogs he works with, while somewhat more fleshed-out than in prior books, is not a comprehensive description of his methods. Although— for the first time—he attempts to define some of his non-scientific terms such as “balanced,” the results are less than satisfying.

In the end, while the book appears to be an attempt at an historical and current overview of a wide spectrum of training philosophies and methods, it falls short of being a usable guide to dog behavior and training.

Culture: Reviews
Play with Your Dog
Dogwise Publishing, 149 pp., 2008; $14.95

In our second book, Play with Your Dog, Pat Miller shares her observation that almost every dog-human interaction is an opportunity to have fun while building a stronger relationship. Rich with photos of dogs at play (by themselves and with each other, children and adults), this book sets the stage for playtime with lively descriptions of a wide variety of dog play styles, including “body-slammers,” “chasers” and “wrestlers,” personalities I recognize in neighborhood dogs.Having identified your dog’s style, you’re well positioned to match compatible playmates or introduce a new dog to your family pack. For those nervous about loud and energetic play, including growling, snarling and biting,Miller demystifies mock aggression and explains how to tone down exuberant play before it escalates. She briefly samples dozens of play opportunities that allow you to subtly reinforce obedience commands, which will help ensure that your dog remains a welcomed participant in family and public outings. Devoting an entire chapter to play between children and their dogs, Miller emphasizes ways that are safe and fun for all. (The chapter on “Rehabilitating the Play-Deprived Dog”will come in handy at my house for Sport, our senior rescue, who is still learning how to play.) 

So, when the weather outside is frightful, take your favorite doggie cookbook off the shelf, whip up some tasty training morsels and surprise your best friend with your special attention, yummy treats and great new games inspired by these creative and experienced authors. 

Pages