Friday Review: Decoding Your Dog by Members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted OnesDecoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not really sure what I expected when I decided to read this book. I am always looking out for resources to help me work with my dog to make both our lives better. It is written by a team of diplomates from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and that made me think it could have some valuable information.

The book would probably be a good basic guide (with a few caveats) for a first time dog owner. There are sections on housetraining, crate training, and basic behavioral training. It does also have chapters on specific behavioral issues. I guess for me, a lot of it was either too fundamental (as in I have been there, done that with my dog) or talked about things that aren’t issues. Neither of those are the fault of the book. I did get some tips and ideas on how to work with my boy in some new and hopefully interesting ways.

I mentioned some caveats. For one thing, some of the behavior modification techniques are a bit outdated in light of what we know today. This is supposedly an updated version of the book, but it still recommends things like citronella collars which are generally not recommended now. It also puts a high emphasis on food based rewards which is not a bad thing in itself, but there is no mention of watching the rest of a dog’s diet to prevent excess weight gain. There is also very little on what to do if you have a dog that is not particularly food oriented. The authors also seem to be adamant about not adopting from a shelter because “you don’t know what you are getting.” While that is true in a lot of cases, a good shelter will have evaluated each dog in its care and can give a prospective buyer a decent understanding of what you are getting in that dog.

I am not a dog expert. I am just a dog owner who wants the best for my dog and myself. I think this book has some very good advice, especially if you are new to owning a dog, and can help with many specific issues. But it would be good to check other sources and other behavior-based training methods as well.

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