The second volume of a 3-book series, Steven R. Lindsay's 315-page, hardcover Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Etiology and Assessment of Behavior Problems is one of those rare gems that is a must-read for dog trainers. Too pedantic for the needs or tastes of the typical pet owner, it nonetheless represents an invaluable resource for the professional or serious student.
Unlike so many publications in this genre, Lindsay's scholarly tome critically summarizes and integrates scientific and applied knowledge of dog behavior problems. It would be worth having on one's bookshelf for the list of references alone - a broad collection of modern and historical citations ranging from popular dog training sources to relevant laboratory research with non-canine subjects.
To his credit, Lindsay is a sophisticated, well-organized, articulate author who relies on factual information. He notes, most accurately, that, "Much of the contemporary popular literature is confounded by moralistic and ideological agendas that deflect from an honest and rational search for an objective understanding of dog behavior and its effective control and management." Reading this text is a delightful exercise in reviewing what is known about dog behavior problems, while grasping the impact of what remains uncertain. So much of what we rely on as dog trainers is ultimately grounded in unproven assumptions that Lindsay's approach is most welcome.
One is not going to find a laundry list of mundane, readily solvable training problems. Rather, the emphasis is on understanding more complex behavioral issues and their species-specific, biological, cognitive, emotional and motivational underpinnings. Seven of the ten chapters explore behavior problems, per se, categorized as follows:
The content is so well researched and comprehensive in scope that it would be futile to attempt to summarize. Several themes run throughout, among them a strong emphasis on a dog's need to have a predictable, controllable environment. The relevance of play and attention are highlighted, as are astute observations of pet owner psychology. Much discussion focuses on fear and aggression thresholds, anxiety and frustration, learning, and the ever-present motivational conflict between affiliation and competition. Control theory and opponent process theory are presented cogently as explanations for dominance aggression and separation anxiety, respectively.
Chapters touching on the history of dog training, behavioral assessment, and dog behavior counseling round out the book. Lindsay notes that, "The ultimate goals of cynopraxic assessment and training are determined by two imperatives: improving the human-dog relationship while raising the dog's quality of life." Although this book hints at treatment protocols, that is the focus on the third and final book in this series.
The bottom line is that this is an excellent book for anyone seriously interested in the science of dog behavior. It won't explain how to teach a dog manners or tricks, and it's not a sentimental look at man's best friend. In fact, for the overwhelming majority of regular dog owners, it would be a colossal bore. But that's not the target audience. Dog trainers, veterinarians, and other professionals and serious students of dog behavior and training should read this book. Although expensive, it's worth every penny.
Kate Connick |
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