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Dogs Are From Neptune


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What’s It About?

Jean Donaldson is dogdom’s most influential dog trainer and behaviorist and a best-selling author. In 41 essays, Jean highlights the common and frequently wrong-headed notions people have about why dogs behave the way they do, and explains what really motivates your pooch and how to change behavior. The new edition is substantially updated with many new essays that are sure to both inform and delight you.

Jean has over 30 years experience in dog behaviour and training and is the Founder and Director of the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers. Jean’s award winning books include, The Culture Clash and Oh Behave!

Published 1998, revised 2010 Dogwise Publishing

Pages- 150


Case Studies

Reviewer: DogCatcher
Using a Q&A approach was a good idea and handling a variety of topics with case studies made this an easy read. I liked Culture Clash and Oh Behave, even more.



How many times have you put your dog’s bad behaviour down to the fact that he is just trying to spite you? The truth is that far too much of the time we attempt to justify our dog’s actions with humans emotions, not taking account of the huge differences that exist between us.

In this thoughtful and engaging book, renowned and hugely influential trainer, Jean Donaldson, provides us with 41 essays highlighting the common misconceptions many people have on why dogs behave as they do. Addressing all problems from raiding the bin to dog on dog aggression, Donaldson explains the reasons why our dogs engage in undesirable behaviours and what we can do to help change this. Adopting training approaches that are firmly rooted in science, Donaldson presents us with straightforward and highly effective techniques to modify behavior.

Part one looks at training and begins by discussing some common trainer errors. Donaldson explains that first and foremost in training, in order for a dog to do what he is told he must be motivated. Equally important is to make sure both you and your dog know exactly what needs to be done to gain reinforcement. Donaldson also comments on the importance of timing and the order of events when training.

Donaldson then moves on to off leash control. Using a question and answer format, she gives five suggestions on how to gain off leash control, including practising recalls daily, finding a well socialised canine friend and explaining what to do when things go wrong.

Next, Donaldson looks at stay breaking, answering the question ‘is there a way of approaching this problem without using aversives?’,  by suggesting a three-part solution.

She then looks at heeling versus loose leash walking, explaining that heeling is a tough command for dogs and should not be expected for extended durations. Instead, we should combine loose-leash walking with a minute or two of heelwork for practice, or to move past a distraction. Donaldson also provides some tips on teaching the correct heel position.

The next problem Donaldson examines is compulsive greeting. She explains that behaviours such as this and prey chasing have a compulsive element to them, and we must teach the dog to ‘snap out of them’. This takes a fair amount of practice and Donaldson suggests a training plan to help achieve this.

Donaldson then moves on to the subject of pulling on leash. She discusses why halting when the dog pulls and only continuing when the lead has gone slack can offer mixed results. She provides us with some alternatives in the form of using head halters or anti-pull harnesses and practising targeted anti-pull exercises.

Next, Donaldson examines the use of food in training. She explains that in the case of high drive dogs we often have the luxury of choosing our reinforcer, as these types of dogs are often motivated by play as well as food. For others however, this is not the case, and Donaldson explains why using food as a motivator is preferential to using avoidance of pain or fear as a tactic. She also explains some common errors to steer clear of when using food in training, which can lessen its effectiveness.

Part two looks at behaviour. Donaldson cites and discusses the top ten behaviour myths. which include:

  • Dogs are pack animals with a clear social order.
  • If you let the dog out of the door ahead of you, you’re letting them be dominant.
  • Support the hierarchy in multi-dog households by giving the presumed dominant animal attention before the presumed subordinate animals.
  • Dogs have an innate desire to please.
  • Rewards act like bribes and therefore compromise relationships.
  • If you pat your dog when he is scared of something, you are rewarding the fear.
  • If you don’t punish dogs for growling, they will become aggressive.
  • Playing tug games makes dogs aggressive.
  • Giving dogs chew toys will teach them to chew everything.
  • You can’t modify genetic behavior.

Donaldson continues by discussing the study of links between coat colour and behaviour. She provides us with a brief history of coat colour research, concluding that the research suggests that this link does appear to be evident, and looks at how this applies to dogs.

She also looks at puppy head starts, reiterating the importance of sociaisation, early obedience and body handling.

Donaldson then introduces us to the work of Robert Young and his colleague Rebecca West to answer the question, can dogs count?

Finally, she discusses the subject of roughhousing, meaning rough play, explaining that as long as certain strict rules are adhered to, there is little harm in this.

Part three addresses naughtiness. Donaldson first looks at counter surfing, stealing things from the side, explaining the varying ways of solving this and which approach she herself prefers.

We then move on to barking and intermittent reinforcement. Donalson explains why some dogs adopt the strategy of barking for attention and presents us with an action plan to remedy this.

The next subject is time outs for mouthing. Donaldson explains how time outs (a social isolation penalty) are often used to cure the problem of mouthing.  She also looks at what we may be doing wrong if this approach appears not be working.

Donaldson addresses rubbish raiding, explaining that as natural scavangers, this is an activity a lot of dogs partake in. She explains how to go about curing this, suggesting a combination of approaches.

Elimination on sofas (urinating and defecating)  is the next issue to be looked at. Donaldson explains that although many owners think there dogs do this out of spite or revenge, this is actually far from the truth. She provides us with some of the possible reasons why dogs do this, and how we can stop them.

Finally in this section, Donaldson discusses puppies eating dirt, explaining the key to nipping this behavior in the bud.

Part four looks at fear, staring with traffic anxiety and explaining the tactics we can adopt to cure this.

We then move on to diagnosing separation anxiety explaining how we can tell if our dog is suffering from this or has just adopted a habit.

The next subject is car phobia. Donaldson considers all three elements of this, which include anxiety secondary to carsickness, primary anxiety, which causes the car sickness, and a phobia about the act of getting into the car.

Donaldson then discusses stress and Addisonian dogs (dogs diagnosed with Addisons disease) , examining how we can reduce stress in our dogs by identifying their possible stressor, and then starting to desensitize them to these.

Part five looks at aggression towards people, first discussing men and sudden contrasts. Donaldson explains that dogs that are aggressive in these circumstances are often doing so because of an emotional reaction, not a volatile one. She tells us how we can use counter-conditioning combined with desensitization to eradicate this behaviour.

The next subject Donaldson addresses is orchestrated vs opportunistic training, discussing the pros and cons of group training and private sessions with a fear aggressive dog.

She then looks at how to deal with a growling therapy dog that growls at the doctors in white coats at a nursing home it visits. Donaldson explains how to adopt an approach using active remedial socialisation to cure the dog of this fear.

Donaldson discusses passive training, giving an example of when it comes to meeting strangers, a dog that lives in a busy city environment can often have the advantage on a dog that has grown up in suburbia. In his daily life he is likely to encounter far more strangers than a dog who lives in a more rural setting, and therefore meeting them is not a big deal to him. Donaldson explains that this is passive training, when a great deal is achieved with no perceived effort from the owners.

Donaldson then moves on to severe food and object guarding, explaining how this can escalate and what we can do about it.

She then looks at object guarding and children, explaining that aggression towards children is often the result of resource guarding. Donaldson advises on what strategy to adopt to treat this serious behavioral problem

She also looks at food guarding and how we might approach this problem.

Finally in this section, Donaldson looks at dominance, explaining what she considers the problem first of diagnosing dogs with dominance aggression and then the methods commonly employed to fix this.

Part six looks at dog-dog aggression, beginning with counter conditioning without desensitization, or in other words, the ‘open bar’ technique. In a dog that is aggressive towards other dogs due to fear, by substituting another emotion, the dog can learn to get over this issue.

We then move on to lunging and chronic fighting, where Donaldson advises intervention, positive reinforcement for when the dog gets it right and reward removal as a consequence for when he gets it wrong.

The next issue Donaldson examines is dogs that are growly in classes. Donaldson explains that although any form of aggression towards humans is unacceptable, if a dog tells another dog to move out of his personal space, which in his own language is by a growl, this is perfectly reasonable.

Donaldson then considers bullying. She explains that some dogs with normal play skills and a normal play history will single out particular dogs, ignore their warning signals and purposely harass or attack them. Such dogs are bullies and Donaldson advises either removing them from social situations or embarking on a behaviour modification programme.

Donaldson adds a second chapter on the subject of bullying adding that it does not help that we try to put dog fights into a human context which gives dogs a raw deal. She also offers some more advice on tactics we can use to remedy this problem.

She also considers and explains some of the reasons for female-female aggression.

Finally, part seven looks at people, discussing the works of behaviour giants such as Susan Freidman and Steven Pinker.

Donaldson also examines evolved fear buttons, looking at why a large majority see dogs as dangerous and believe they should be kept behind fences and on leads.

She then moves on to behaviour burnout, explaining that dog training can be a difficult and stressful job, advising ways in which trainers can help preserve and protect themselves.

Finally, Donaldson introduces us to dogs in drag! She explains that she was having trouble motivating members of a puppy class to practise handling their dogs. So, she introduced costumes for the dogs. The owners loved this idea, partaking in it fully, and  by taking the costumes on and off the owners were teaching their pups important handling skills without even realising. Donaldson adds that it is important to keep training classes fun in order for the dogs and owners to gain as much as they can out of them.

Donaldson uses her wealth of knowledge and experience combined with scientific research to show us how positive reinforcement can triumph over force-based methods.

Donaldson writes with wit and humour, making this book, described by Pamela Reid, as “sure to offer fresh insights to even the most seasoned dog behaviour specialist.” entertaining and informative for all.


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