Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: The Other End of the Leash

So Winnie and I are going to try something new here at Herding the Corgi and move some of our favorite books and toys from the sidebar and into actual posts.  Then we'll put them on their own page so you can find them again more easily.  

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around DogsAs I was collecting some of the information for the Book Review page I noticed that although I've talked about it a LOT I've never actually written an official review for The Other End of the Leash so here it is! 

In my opinion, if you were only going to read ONE book about dogs it would have to be The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell.  In fact, I've had a few friends that have gotten dogs in the last year or so and I went out and just got the book for them.  I think so highly of it that I've actually purchased the darn thing 4 times.  Now, that's an endorsement, right? 

Patricia McConnell is an animal behaviorist that specializes in dogs.  Besides the usual academic litany you would expect she has a sheep farm and several different herding dogs of her own.  As an added bonus I keep a link of HER blog over in the Dog Blogs section.  Check it out! 

The Other End of the Leash is written from a bit of an academic perspective and can be scientifically minded.  However, this is an angle that I found quite helpful since Winnie was my first real swing at owning a dog.  I mean, we had a dog or two when I was younger but without ever building real relationships with them.  (My mother was scared of them so mostly they stayed outside and like most things... out of sight is out of mind.  I'm not proud of the start but that's what it was.)  I however did like dogs and wanted to correct my own behavior to better communicate with them.  That is exactly what this book talks about.  How to act around animals of another species. 

A short skim of the table of contents looks like this:
  1. Monkey See, Monkey Do
  2. Translating Primate to Canine
  3. Talking to Each Other
  4. Planet Smell
  5. Fun and Play
  6. Pack Mates
  7. Patient Dogs and Wise Humans
  8. Personalities
  9. Love & Loss
So you can see how it's a little sciency but McConnell does a terrific job of speaking plainly.  Here's an excerpt so you can get the feel:
"Greetings, Canine and Primate Style - Imagine walking down the street and seeing someone whom you know and are happy to see.  What do you do?  Most of us call out his name, maybe wave to get his attention, and move directly toward him.  It's especially polite to look directly at his face as you get closer, walking straight toward him, looking right into his eyes and smiling. ... This is just not friendly if you're a dog.  Direct head-on approaches can be threating to dogs, ... The politest of dogs tend to approach from he side, perhaps even at 90 degrees.  They avoid direct eye contact.  On the other hand, two dogs standing face-on staring into each other's eyes are trouble - big trouble... "
I think this is just one of the best dog books out there but if this is a little too basic for you then I would definitely suggest looking into some McConnell's other materials via her blog and website.  Have you read The Other End of the Leash?  Feel free to post some of your own thoughts and experiences! 

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