2012 Non Fiction Recommended books

In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw

In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding

Five words from the blurb: dogs, research, psychology, behaviour, life

Last year I became a dog owner for the first time. Since then I’ve been reading a large number of books on dog ownership and training. This is the best by a long way and the only one I feel able to trust entirely. John Bradshaw cuts through the old wives tales and takes a scientific approach to dog psychology. He compiles data from a large number of research projects to understand the way dogs think and how we can help them to lead happy, stress-free lives.

The book begins with looking at the way dogs have evolved and how this can be used to understand the bonds they form with humans. It goes on to explain the differences between our interactions with them and the way they behave with other dogs. Body language, the way their brains function and the relative power of the senses are all investigated with regular reference to scientific studies. The book also explains theory of mind and which emotions dogs are capable of feeling.

I was surprised by the number of commonly held beliefs that have no basis in fact:

It is remarkable, given how unformed a puppy’s personality is at eight weeks old, that breeders rely so heavily on puppy behaviour as a way of predicting the grown-up dog’s eventual character. ‘Puppy tests’ carried out at seven or eight weeks of age, before the puppy leaves its breeder, are still widely believed to have this predictive potential. Yet this is the precise age at which puppy’s behaviour is most malleable. Numerous scientific studies have failed to find any validity in ‘puppy testing’ as a predictor of future character. 

It doesn’t give specific advice on training, but anyone armed with the knowledge contained in this book will be able to ensure their dogs understand them and know what they are capable of learning.

I loved this book. It contains a wealth of information and lots of little facts that I can’t help sharing with friends and family. Some of the detail may be too much for the casual reader, but as a scientist I loved the way it didn’t shy away from some of the more complex subjects.

I think this is the most important reference book a dog owner could read and I strongly encourage you to get a copy.