Want a Good Dog for Christmas? Read Steve Dale's "Good Dog! Practical Answers to Behavioral Questions"

There are those of us who simply want our dogs to behave.  And then there are those of us who want to have a deeper understanding of the 'whys' of dog behavior.  While understanding the 'whys' has not yet been pinpointed by science other than the speculation that many behaviors occur in the limbic system, many books are written to  help us understand the human-dog connection.  When I learned that Steve Dale was writing his book, "Good Dog!," I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy and read it over the weekend.

For those of us who want to understand the 'whats' and 'hows' of dog behavior, this book is a treasure of information ... whether the focus is on dogs themselves or on their relationships with us. Steve covers most topics that typical dog owners struggle with, such as aggression, whether or not to crate your dog, destructive behaviors, and training, among others.  You can use his book as either a reference for suggested solutions to specific problems with your dog or you can read it from cover to cover, as I did, because it covers most aspects of raising a happy, healthy, confident dog.  My favorite chapters included management of excessive barking (an issue I have with my Tibetan Terriers who were bred to bark), and cognitive dysfunction (which is an issue I hope to not encounter for a number of years with my young dogs).  I actually laughed out loud when reading his chapter "A Grab Bag of Offbeat Questions" that addresses issues I would have never even thought people might ask.

While Steve is credentialed as a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and could easily speak independently from his own training and expertise of over 17 years duration, he opens each chapter with a specific issue, and offers suggestions drawn from well-known canine behavioral specialists in the field after encouraging readers to check with their veterinarians to rule out any medical reasons for behavioral change or behavioral problems.  As a clinical (health-focused) psychologist in my 'real life' specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy, I was particularly pleased to hear that he endorses the cautious use of medications to help the quality of life for those animals whose behaviors cannot be managed with training, counter-conditioning, or other behavioral management methods.  When all is considered, I'd rather have my dogs on "Doggy-Prozac" rather than face the idea of abandoning, giving up, or euthanizing a dog.

Steve also ascribes to positive reinforcement as his primary means of training, a practice I likewise heartily endorse, along with Victoria Stilwell, Nicholas Dodson, Ian Dunbar, and Andrea Arden.  His links and sources are impressive … top of the field.  These authors are among my ever-growing library of canine behavior books as I still fruitlessly am trying to understand the 'whys' when I need to learn to accept what 'is.'  And yes, I still anthropomorphize my Tibetans' behavior even though I know I shouldn't.

Finally, you can't beat the price for the quality of information.  It will make a great stocking stuffer for anyone who loves his or her dog(s).  And no matter how much you think you know about dogs, you can always learn more.  Kudos to my colleague at ChicagoNow for having the time, energy, and commitment to devote to compiling this information in an easy to read format.  I now anxiously await his "Good Cat!" book, as I lived in a multiple cat household for over 25 years before my home became a dog home.

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