Best, Short Dog Book Ever – Nicholas Dodman’s “The Well-Adjusted Dog”

March 17, 2009

well_adjusted_dogDr. Nicholas Dodman, Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cumming School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has produced a small gem of a book, The Well-Adjusted Dog.

There’s more good, solid information in its 250 pages than in a whole host of other books written by dog ‘experts’ who have little or no credentials in the science and study of canines (Cesar Milan, I’m looking at you).

“Your job as a dog owner,” Dodman writes “is to try and understand your dog’s life fro his point of view, and to lead and protect, not to dominate, punish, and force a dog into submission, as popularized on too many of today’s TV shows.”

When this book comes out in paperback, I can see giving out multiple copies to neighbors and fellow dog owners, rather than trying to answer their questions myself.

One of the first and most vital points he makes is his belief that most dogs are under-exercised and bored out of their minds.  (From my own experience I think this analysis is on the money). This leads to a multitude of behavioral problems including barking, inappropriate chewing, aggression, tail chasing, licking to the point of skin damage and more.

The average dog needs a minimum 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, every day. How many dogs do you know that meet that requirement?

Given that behavioral problems are the primary reason dogs are surrendered to shelters (the majority of whom are fated for euthanasia/destruction) proper handling of these issues may be essential to save the life of someone’s pet.

What I especially appreciate is his easy prose style and the clarity of his thinking even in controversial areas like herbal treatments and nutraceuticals. Here’s a sample of his writing about alternative medicine for dogs:

“Homeopathy—wherefore art thou, homeopathy? Though it’s popular in Europe, I have serious concerns about this branch of alternative medicine. The theory, of course, is that a little does of what ails you does you good. I can see how the concept applies to vaccination and desensitization to allergens, because inoculates stimulate an immune response—but I can’t see how it applies in other situations. Various homeopathic behavioral remedies containing microscopic concentrations of herbal products are now on the market.”

“One such remedy — anti-anxiety drops— was originally developed by an Irish veterinary practitioner who whipped up a dilute concoction of herbs to treat mastitis (inflammation of the udder) in cows. Being a large-animal vet, cows and mastitis were dear to his heart. In a moment of brilliance, he decided to bottle the cattle remedy for use in dogs to treat what else but . . .anxiety. And thus anti-anxiety drops were created. Whether the product actually works is doubtful, but bottles of the stuff are flying off the shelves. Naturopaths are positively swarming for it. Testing of this product presumably went like this:

  • Take a worried-looking, baking dog and film him.
  • Put the anxiety drops on his tongue.
  • Wait until he has calmed down.
  • Film him again.
  • He’s calm.
  • It’s a miracle!

The point they seemed to miss is that the only mental state that can follow a disturbed one is calm. It’s just a matter of time.  I sent a sample of the anti-anxiety drops to the Department of Biochemistry and Experimental Therapeutics at Tufts medical school to see whether I ws missing something about the ingredients. The reply came back, ‘Nick, there’s virtually nothing here. It’s water.’ I guess that’s the point.”

Dodman also has constructed a pyramid Hierarchy of Canine Needs (adapted from psychologist Abraham Maslow’s triangle of human needs) that neatly summarizes what you as a caring dog owner should be striving towards. See how close you are coming to these goals with your own dog. Click image for larger size.

The bottom line: Buy This Book!



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