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Book Review
Feeling Outnumbered?
by Karen London & Patricia McConnell

Review by: Kate Connick, Jan. 2003

Karen London and Patricia McConnell's Feeling Outnumbered? is an extremely brief, 38-page, paperback booklet that sets out to offer management tips for homes that contain multiple dogs. Described by the authors as a "Cliffs Notes" of sorts, this booklet does contain some good, practical ideas.

The guiding premise of the booklet is the value of teaching "polite, patient, and respectful" behaviors and making a conscious effort to reinforce these in situations where dogs might otherwise be pushy and demanding. The authors point out that, left unguided, many dogs will get pushier as they grasp for their own rewards, resulting in a mob of rude, potentially contentious dogs.

The authors recommend such things as teaching simple obedience exercises to each dog on an individual basis, interrupting overzealous play, controlling doorways, greetings, and mealtimes, teaching dogs to accept being segregated and to accept watching other dogs receive food and attention. The authors underscore the importance of teaching a dog frustration tolerance. All of this is sound and sensible advice.

Additionally, they touch on whether or not someone should add an additional dog, how to recognize that problems might be brewing, and when to realistically consider giving up a dog.

To their credit, London & McConnell don't focus on identifying and favoring the most dominant dog, nor on allowing dogs to work out their own conflicts. Rather, they stress that, "The best way to prevent status-related aggression... is to be a calm and confident leader, projecting a sense of benevolent power."

They place great emphasis on the use of body-blocking, forcing dogs to yield space by physically blocking their pathway or invading their personal space with one's own body. If one thinks about it, experienced dog people do use this technique on an intuitive level, and it does work. Self-consciously applied by a novice pet owner, however, this might be a bit awkward and difficult to master. Even the authors acknowledge that some things are hard to explain on paper. As a result, some of the exercises might be difficult for a novice dog owner to implement without additional help.

Notably, this booklet is not for the owner who is experiencing serious problems or any kind of aggression. Rather, it is most helpful for the person with a few bouncy dogs who needs some general ideas for achieving more control. The suggested exercises do require a commitment of time and effort to implement, as they are training recommendations and not simple management shortcuts that advocate crates, leashes, and muzzles for physical control.

Although brief, this is a very readable, very understandable, practical booklet. The owner who follows through on suggestions it contains will undoubtedly have a more serene household. Many owners of multiple dogs stumble on these ideas anyway, but this book would make a nice gift for an owner of multiple dogs who needs a little help managing the chaos.

Feeling Outnumbered? by Karen London & Patricia McConnell.
Published by Dog's Best Friend, Ltd., 2001. ISBN: 1891767062

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