Complicated behaviors are glossed over. Owners are told to teach a dog to play fetch, but this behavior doesn’t come easily to many dogs, and is in fact a complex behavior chain. Where is a how-to list of steps? What if the mom-to-be has a Whippet, not a Labrador?
Other omissions give me pause. No mention is made of resource guarding, a serious problem if a crawling baby goes for a toy or bone. No claim is backed by statistics or reference to work by others on the subject. (Peter Borchelt and Brian Kilcommons come to mind.) The author’s own pregnancy appears to have been the prototype for the book, and her home her laboratory. Ethically speaking, this should have been a memoir, not a guide. We cannot responsibly extrapolate from one pregnancy to advice for a nation.
Sadly enough, her “research and development” appears to be with five families, all from California, all clients. All give glowing recommendations, itself problematic because even the best trainer would never claim a 100 percent success rate. An anecdote of a failure would have gone a long way toward convincing me that this author was as interested in accuracy as in politics. You can’t convince me that babies and dogs are simpatico simply by telling me it worked for you.
The shame is, I know Ms. Scott-Fox’s research must have spanned more than five families. With her years of experience working at a humane society, couldn’t she have documented the thousands of cases she has shepherded during that time? Where are the notes, the records? One pregnancy and one interesting idea are not enough. As trainers, we must never cease to do what we least enjoy: make records of trials and sessions, describe where clients begin and where they end, and track dogs over time. I’d like for us to stop writing advice manuals that rehash what we have heard at a series of seminars. (This is why all dog training books have one voice, why we all desensitize “slooowly,” why all treats are “yummy.” We’re unconsciously quoting each other.) We’re on the front lines, and we have loads of experience—we just don’t write it down. If we did, when it was our turn to write, our advice would have a sample size of larger than one, and we wouldn’t have to rely on our recollection, or worse, groupthink. And think of the legacy we’d leave to those who come after.