Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: For the Love of a Dog by Patricia McConnell PhD

For the Love of a Dog by Patricia McConnell is a beautifully written blend of science and anecdote, certain to please anyone who loves dogs, wonders about dogs, studies dogs or works with dogs. This should be required reading for all dog owners and trainers. Dr. McConnell opens up her own soul with hilarious, heart wrenching and always fascinating stories about her own dogs and dogs she has known through her behaviour consulting practice. The book is rife with scientific references and footnotes, but these are presented in such as way as to be accessible to the average reader and give a sense of authority to support the author’s quest for the truth about the nature of canine emotions.

The book takes us through the range of canine emotions from fear to anger to happiness to love. It explains the role of neurotransmitters, hormones, neurophysiology and the latest neuroscience research into emotion in both dogs and humans.

The descriptions of dog body language and the photos are just excellent and give information that is essential for all dog owners and particularly parents. For example, under a photo of a dog showing what Doggone Safe refers to as a “half moon” eye, the caption reads: “In a perfect illustration of ‘whale eye’, this dog has turned his nose away from the visitor, but he can’t take his eyes off her. The combination of the rounded eye, ‘whale eye,’ and a closed mouth is like a blinking neon sign that says, ‘Don’t pet me!’.”

For the Love of a Dog explores the complex relationship between us and our dogs, shedding light on how dogs think and feel and why they behave as they do. Dr. McConnell draws a clear line between conjecture about the emotions of dogs and conclusions based on the weight of scientific evidence. She encourages us to understand that “they are dogs, and that they don’t come speaking English” and that “[w]e have to find a balance here, one that acknowledges that dogs are different from us and at the same time celebrate what we share with them”. “What we share, without question, is a rich emotional life. Emotions like fear and happiness and love simmer within us, sometimes bubbling to the surface, always linking us together. The glass of our shared experience may be half empty, but that means that it’s half full. How luck we are that it’s a big glass, and that, most of the time, the liquid within it is sweet and good.”

This book reads like a novel, not a text book or a user’s guide and I was sorry when it ended. So get this book and the Kleenex and curl up with your best friend for a very enjoyable, emotional, satisfying and educational read.

For more information or to buy the book please click here

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