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Dog Insight


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What’s It About?

Trainers and animal behaviourists around the globe consider Pam Reid’s Excel-erated Learning one of the most important and influential books ever written in the field of dog behaviour. Although that’s a hard act to follow, Dog InSight, Pam’s second book, does not disappoint. In over forty fascinating essays, Pam explores a wide range of topics, including learning theory, training techniques and behaviour problems.

You will learn:

  • Why early enrichment and socialization are crucial when raising a puppy.
  • Why you should take puppy “temperament tests” with a grain of salt.
  • Why dogs are incredibly adept at reading body language and solving certain kinds of complex problems—but “spectacularly dense” when facing other tasks.
  • Why misunderstanding dominance theory often leads to failure when people try to change problem behaviours in dogs.

Pam’s insights are both educational and thought-provoking. Not only does she deliver scientifically sound information; she also challenges the reader to re-examine several widely held—but not necessarily accurate—beliefs about dogs. If you’re at all interested in canine behaviour, you won’t want to miss out on this well-presented wealth of knowledge.

Pamela Reid is a trained scientist, a certified behaviourist and a dog trainer with  PhD in animal learning and behaviour. She has consulted on thousands of cases over the years, working with everything from an attack cat whose owner had to call 911 to a suicidal dog who leapt out a third story window.

Published 2012 Dogwise Publishing


Praise for Dogs InSight

Wonderful! At long last, another book from Dr. Pamela Reid. I can remember eagerly waiting for each new article when they were first published in Dogs in Canada and am so excited that they are now compiled together. I simply can’t say enough good things about this book. Dog InSight is a MUST read for all dog owners. Dr. Ian Dunbar, Founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Dog InSight is a must-read book for dog owners who seek plainspoken guidance on ways to improve their relationships with their dogs. If your dog has ever quivered with fear at a clap of thunder, forgotten his housetraining skills, or simply befuddled you with his wacky antics, Dr. Reid’s insights into the causes of behavioral problems, along with her advice on modification techniques, will prove enlightening. Throughout the book, Dr. Reid debunks myths that have pervaded among dog owners. Readers will no longer fear that playing tug-of-war with their puppies will foster aggressiveness. With her thoughtful approach and real-life examples, Dr. Reid has written a book that is destined to become a resource for dog owners everywhere.
Ed Sayres, President & CEO, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

As a colleague I have had the pleasure of hearing Pam Reid’s insights on dog behavior for a number of years. In her new book, Dog InSight she brings her thoughts to a larger audience. Dr. Reid uses common examples of dog behavior familiar to everyone who has shared their life and home with a dog to illustrate our current scientific understanding of dogs and their behavior. At the same time she weaves a compelling story about how her insights can help to ensure that both dogs and people will enjoy being together and doing things together.
Stephen L. Zawistowski, Ph. D., CAAB, Science Advisor, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Seattle Kennel Club
…She addresses the symbiotic relationship of dog and man in three sections – behavior, training and behavior problems, placing a huge emphasis on early socialization and handling and the huge dividends they produce later.
Boldface titling, short, focused entries and reflective case-in-point examples from classes add up to an empowering read that will enable the owner to interpret his/her dogs needs and behavior at a higher level…
Ranny Green


~~Dog Insight is a fascinating and thought-provoking examination of dog behaviour and training, in the form of more than 40 essays.

It is the work of Pamela Reid, a trained scientist, behaviourist and dog trainer with a PhD in animal learning and behaviour. She is also the author of the incredibly influential book, Excel-erated Learning.

Pamela explores all aspects of dog behaviour including development, the process of domestication, the function of play, dog language, canine cognition and much more. She analyses and often questions learning theories, re-examining popular beliefs with sound scientific knowledge. Finally, she uses case studies from her own work to give real life examples of common behaviour problems in dogs, offering us practical and informative advice on how to overcome these.


Part One focuses on behaviour.

It begins by looking at the stages of your puppy’s mental development, examining the four periods between birth and sexual maturity – the neonatal period, the transition period, the socialisation period and the juvenile period, as distinguished by developmental pyschobiologists, John Paul Scott and John Fuller.

Reid goes on to explore early brain development, and how experiments have shown that a deprivation of stimulation early on has a dramatic effect on development. This chapter also discusses the significance of handling and the relationship this has to developing a puppy’s stress response. It concludes by arguing the importance of providing puppies with the opportunity for good brain development in the early weeks of their life.

Chapter three looks at the dog’s natural instincts and how to handle them. Reid begins by looking at domestication, examining several theories on how dogs became domesticated animals, and how domestication and breeding for certain traits, has led to many unrelated and unexpected changes.  Using evidence from Dr Luigi Boitani’s study of feral dogs in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, she explains how dogs behave when they are left to their own devices. She concludes from this study that dogs are in fact scavengers rather than hunters and require human care to be able to thrive and reproduce in sufficient numbers.

Reid next looks at the role of play for dogs, assessing the ideas scientist have come up with to explain the function of play. She also looks at how dogs communicate a desire to play with one another, as well as discussing whether play is important to dogs. She examines how humans and dogs play differently, using research to explain how, like dogs, we also communicate we want to play by using specific signals. She gives tips on the best ways to play with puppies and how to encourage dogs that are cautious players. She concludes by stressing the importance of play between dog and owner, arguing that the benefits are immeasurable.

In the next chapter, Reid focuses on calming signals, looking at how we can recognise signs of stress and arousal and reduce anxiety. She analyses the work of Turid Rugaas on calming signals and explains the importance of being able to understand and communicate in our dog’s language.

Reid examines an influential survey conducted by Dr Peter Borchelt and Dr Linda Goodloe that looked at behaviours that occurred in combinations. She discusses the findings of this survey, which revealed many correlations but also some intriguing lack of correlations.  The survey suggests that aggression is not a single general trait, and dispels the many myths that are centred on the fact that aggression of one kind will automatically lead to another. For example, predatory play does not lead to a dog becoming more likely to kill other small animals.

Reid discusses coping with and managing multi dog households, and explains the best way to introduce a new puppy and an older dog to the pack, also offering advice on resolving conflicts.

She next examines the dogs’ mind, using examples from various studies in an attempt to determine the extent of canine cognition. She discusses whether dogs can learn through imitation, examining the concept of social learning, identifying the three distinct forms of this – social facilitation, stimulus enhancement and true imitation.

Reid also looks at temperament testing, examining whether this is worthwhile, assessing the Temperament Aptitude Test, what the results of this mean, as well as discussing other types of temperament tests.

Dog behaviour professionals are discussed, examining what all the various certifications mean, how to guide your choice in selecting the right one, what educational opportunities are available, and finally asks ‘can all dogs be helped?’


Part Two looks at training.

It begins by focusing on operant conditioning, giving real life examples,  and explaining how it works through the ABC sequence and the power of consequence.

The next chapter looks at associative learning, examining whether this is the secret to changing your dog’s emotional response. Reid considers unintended learning, how we can undo an association and how counter- conditioning can sometimes work to reward bad behaviour.

Reid studies the key that drives your dog, examining using food for motivation, the right rewards, and how to use anticipation and frustration in channelling motivation. Finally she discusses the super charged dog and the uninspired dog.

She evaluates clicker training, looking at the theory of B.F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning, assessing the significance of the click, and why the clicker has revolutionised dog training.

Reid analyses training for reliable performance in competition, studying the work of Kathy Sdao who trained dolphins for US military operations. She explains how the secret to success in a difficult assignment is to know how to facilitate learning and performance, resisting the urge to cut corners.

She then looks at how to tell your dog he’s done something wrong, examining the learning principles of negative punishment procedures, extinction, counter-condition incompatible behaviour and time-out.

Finally, in this section she adds her thoughts to the great training debate, whether we should use rewards or corrections, covering which procedure is best, asking if corrections can be justified and using corrections humanely.


Part Three focuses on behaviour problems.

It begins by looking at the best way to develop a bond with your dog, which Reid stresses is not through catering to his every whim. She discusses the Nothing In Life Is Free programmes, co-dependants, how to build the foundation block of a strong bond, and how dogs in fact enjoy the challenge of working for rewards, rather than being handed everything on a plate.

The next chapter looks at how behaviour problems can often be prevented if things are done right from the very start. To demonstrate this Reid gives us her 10 pet peeves in how owners make mistakes with their dogs.

She goes on to look at the importance of socialisation, using a real-life example to demonstrate the consequences of neglecting this.

Reid also focuses on housetraining problems and discusses different methods for overcoming these, as well as examining why dogs bark and the ways in which we can prevent and rehabilitate dogs with barking problems. She also studies territorial behaviour.

Reid offers advice on introducing your dog to a new baby, with details on how to prepare, the first meeting, daily life and default behaviours.

She also looks at preventing possessiveness in adults and puppies and lead-induced aggression.

Reid demonstrates the complexity of aggression through using the example of her own dog, Eef, describing life with an aggressive dog.

She investigates fear in dogs, looking at the meaning of fear and how to help dogs overcome phobias, as well as prevention and treatment for dogs suffering from touch sensitivity and helping a fearful pup make friends.

Reid also examines dominance theory, separation anxiety and how to help settle your dog at night, as well as looking at thunder phobias and if they can be cured.  Reid discusses why dogs eat distasteful things and how we can use aversion conditioning to prevent this behaviour. She looks at compulsive disorders as well as behaviour problems that can be avoided with physical and mental exercise. She devotes a chapter to examining how sometimes objectionable behaviour can be caused by a physical problem.

You will also find a particularly interesting chapter written after testifying at a coroners inquest into the death of a child, killed by a Bullmastiff. She examines which dogs’ bite, why they bite, who are the victims and how these tragedies can be prevented.

In a question and answer format Reid addresses the most common behaviour problems, before finally providing advice on dealing with the loss of a beloved pet.

Pamela Reid’s wealth of knowledge on dog behaviour is astounding. Anyone interested in the subject will not want to miss out on this deeply informative and well-presented book, described by Dr Ian Dunbar himself, as a MUST read for all dog owners.


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