review: The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs

The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet by Victoria Stilwell

First up: I haven’t seen any episodes of the author’s TV show, so I don’t have any previous experience with her or her style. She takes the approach that we should try to understand our dogs and where they’re coming from and maintains that punishment isn’t effective (because dogs’ brains don’t work the same way humans’ do), both of which I think make sense. She also notes that if a person tries to be the dominant “pack leader” (as espoused by some other TV dog trainers), they end up as the “socially incompetent bully” rather than fostering a healthy environment within their house. This also makes sense! She also encourages each person to figure out what works with their dog and go with that type of training. Not every dog will respond equally well to clicker training, problem-solving exercises, shaping, or any other type of training; it makes sense to figure out what works in each case and go with that. Above all, “no matter how we choose to humanely and effectively change our dog’s behavior and teach necessary life skills, we should always respect the dog’s autonomy.” I heartily agree!

Stilwell covers some history and gives a brief overview of the basics of dog behavior, body language, emotions, motivation, sensory learning, aging, and more. A few tips are included here or there, though this book is primarily informational rather than overtly instructional. Plenty of references are provided at the end of the book and though I don’t feel qualified to judge the science included here based on my own (lack of) knowledge, the sources cited seem to be legit. If nothing else, dog-lovers will enjoy the super adorbs dog photos throughout this book.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books