Book Review: ‘Dog Sense’ by John Bradshaw – A Dog Owner Must Read

Dog Sense by John BradshawFour Paws Up!  This is a MUST read for all dog owners.

If you truly want to understand and develop a wonderful relationship with your dog, this book is a must read.  I’m always looking for information that can help me better understand my dogs, yet it seemed like most available literature on dog training and behavior was mostly anecdotal.  Less common are books based on scientific studies, written by a scientist.  I had not read one until this excellent book written by anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, “Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet

In his book, Dog Sense, John Bradshaw brings the science that sheds light on dog behavior out of the scientific journals, where the average person would never find them, into an easy-to-understand book that is full of invaluable information and insight.  Bradshaw uses science to explain to us humans how it is our dogs really perceive the things we do and why they see things in their way.  It challenges many of the anecdotal folk knowledge most of us have learned and gives the dog owner a real foundation with which to develop a wonderful relationship with their dog.

Where dog training books simply give you techniques to train your dog, Dog Sense gives you the insight to understand how your dog thinks and understands the world.  This insight helps you better understand how to communicate with you dog and correctly interpret their behaviors.  While this book does not give instruction on training methods, it does explain the reasoning behind, and effectiveness of, positive reinforcement.  It also explains the science and reasoning behind why dominating your dog doesn’t make much human or dog sense.

The book also addresses the problem that in our modern society, dogs are often not permitted to be dogs.  People expect flawless behavior from their dogs with no effort and little concern for the dogs’ needs.  Often, dogs are expected to behave much better than children and show more restraint and control than an adult human.  Even worse, they expect dogs to understand what they are saying and doing just like a human.   While we all are guilty of anthropomorphizing our dogs to some extent, many people expect their dogs to understand what is “right” or “wrong,” just because they said so.  Bradshaw discusses the many ways most people misinterpret dog behavior, thus causing them to punish and praise a dog at all the wrong times.  He explains how people assume dogs understand things that, in fact, they do not comprehend at all.  Imagine if the person you trusted and depended on suddenly punished you and you had no idea why?  As the book explains, this causes countless dogs huge confusion, anxiety, and insecurity.

Another major error Bradford covers in the book is the widely accepted belief that dogs are simply wolves in a different shape.  Science, he explains, has disproved this belief.  Dogs have been man’s best friend for so long that their behavior is no longer that of a wolf; it is absolutely unique.  While they are canine, dogs differ drastically from the wolf in many respects, and it is simply unfair to analyze their behavior from the wolf perspective.  With this foundation of knowledge, Bradford also challenges the notion that our dogs are constantly trying to dominate us in an unending struggle for pack domination.

This book truly provides information that substantially shifts your point of view in dealing with your own dog.  A shift that is certainly for the better.  I wish all dog owners would take the time to read Dog Sense, and gain the perspective that the book offers.  By failing to properly understand them, we are doing our dogs a disservice and causing them unnecessary anxiety, stress, and even pain.

Leave a comment!