In a nation where our love of dogs keeps growing and dog ownership has reached an all-time high, confusion about dogs and their behavioral problems is skyrocketing. Many dogs are out of control, untrained, chewing up furniture, taking medication for anxiety, and biting millions of people a year.
Now, in this groundbreaking new guide, Jon Katz, a leading authority on the human-canine bond, offers a powerful and practical philosophy for living with a dog, from the moment we decide to get one to the sad day when one dies. Conventional training methods often fail dog owners, but Katz argues that we know our dogs better than anyone else possibly could, and therefore we are well suited to train them. It is imperative, he says, that we think rationally and responsibly about how we choose, train, and live with the dogs we love, and the more we learn about ourselves, the better we can recognize their wonderful animal natures. Misinterpreting dogs is a profound obstacle to understanding them.
Katz believes that both people and dogs are unique-a chow differs from a Lab just as a city dweller differs from a farmer-and he describes how such individuality isn't addressed by even the best and most popular training methods. Not every training theory is for everyone, notes Katz, but almost anyone can train a dog and live with him comfortably. Katz on Dogs is filled with no-nonsense advice and answers to such key questions as:
* What kind of dog should I have? Is there is a specific breed or kind of dog for my personality, family, or living situation?
* What is the best way to train a dog?
* Can I trust my vet?
* How often (and for how long) can a dog be left alone?
* Is it preferable to have only one dog, or are more better?
* What are the secrets to successful housebreaking?
* What are my dogs thinking, if anything?
* How can I walk my dog instead of having her walk me?
* Is it ever okay to give away a dog you love?
* When is it time to put my dog down?
Katz draws from his own experience, his interactions with thousands of dog owners, vets, breeders, dog rescue workers, trainers, and behaviorists, and he has tested his approach with volunteer dog owners around the country. Their helpful and often inspiring stories illustrate how all of us can live well with our dogs. You can do it, Katz contends. You can live a loving and harmonious life with your dog.
As a journalist and columnist on the topic of dogs, and as a lifetime dog owner, Katz manages to breathe new life into the pet-care genre. Though occasionally preachy and redundant, the manual has an empathetic tone; Katz makes clear that he hasn't always been an expert: it was after living with many dogs and only after adopting "a demented border collie" that he was forced to "either learn how to train this hooligan or get rid of him." What Katz stresses above all is that every dog is different-due to breeding, environment and temperament, to name just a few factors-and therefore, every human-dog relationship varies. As a result, Katz's book says there can never be one universal, inflexible methodology for training-unlike most training manuals, which usually argue one practice is superior to others. Says Katz, "training methods fail... if they don't take into account the owner's psyche as well as the dog's." Despite these beliefs, Katz leans on positive reinforcement and offers numerous practical solutions to common behavioral problems. He reiterates that dogs are "comparatively simple animals" that we all too often personify-much to the detriment of the human-dog bond. Photos. Agent, Richard Abate.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 25, 2006
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Excerpt from Katz on Dogs by Jon Katz
It's the question prospective dog owners should ask first, perhaps the most important in anyone's life with a dog:
The most critical decisions about our lives with dogs are often made
before we bring one home. Acquiring a dog in America is disturbingly
simple. You can trawl online, find a breeder, or take one of the puppies
some kid is offering outside the supermarket (I wouldn't advise it). You
might come across a stray while out walking or driving.
Some people seek dogs for rock-hard practical reasons: security,
hunting, therapy, search-and-rescue. But most of us, say psychologists
and behaviorists, have more complicated emotional and psychological
WHY DO I WANT A 1 DOG?
The more trouble humans have connecting with one another, the
more they turn to dogs (and other pets) to fill some of the gaps. We seem
to need to love and be loved in ways that are uncomplicated, pure, and
Contemporary America is, in many ways, a fragmented, detached
society. Our extended families have moved away; we often don't know
our neighbors; many of us hole up at night, staring at one kind of screen
or another. Divorce is commonplace. Work has become unstable, uncertain
for many, often unpleasant. Many people seem to find it easier to
live and interact with dogs than with one another, and so the bonds between
humans and dogs grow steadily stronger.
Yet this development in the relationship of these two species is onesided.
Many dogs are well served by humans' deepening attachment, but
the dogs can't make similar choices. It's human need that has spawned
the great canine love affair.
Humans have decided to bring dogs into the center of their lives.
For all the fussing about animal rights, dogs have none. They don't get
to make consumer decisions. They're dependent on us for everything
they need to survive. They can't talk back; they have no say about their
environments or futures.
Although dogs have helped and worked with humans for thousands
of years, it's only in recent decades that they've come to be seen as
something other than (perhaps more than) animals. Pet-keeping was
popular among the wealthy and powerful in medieval times, notes animal
ethicist James Serpell in the book Animals and Human Society:
Changing Perspectives, but it didn't acquire widespread respectability
until the late seventeenth century, a time of growing enthusiasm for science
and natural history and increased concern for animals' welfare.
Since then, our attachment to dogs has intensified significantly. We
humans have never been closer to another species. We spend tens of billions
of dollars on their care, feeding, and amusement; give them human
names; talk to them as if they can understand us; believe we know what
they are telling us in return.
This emotionalism often entangles dogs in our needs and wants. It
is commonplace now, though it would have been shocking even a gen-
eration ago, to hear people say--without apology or embarrassment--
that they love their dogs more than they love most people, that they see
their dogs as members of their family, that they confide their most intimate
problems and secrets to their dogs, who are more loyal and understanding
than parents, spouses, lovers, or friends. Spending a few days
in a vet's office as part of my research for a book, I was amazed to hear
one woman after another urge, "Look, Doctor, I can live without my
husband, but you've got to save this dog!" Yet vets tell me they hear it
all the time.
And not just from women. Behavioral research shows that women
love dogs in part because they seem emotionally supportive yet complex,
able to understand their owners in a profound though wordless
way. Meanwhile, men love dogs because they are perfect pals, happy to
go places and do things, but unable to hold or demand conversations.
Like it or not, our dogs' upbringings reflect our own. We tend to
treat our dogs the way we were treated, or the way we wish we 'd been.
Either way, our own pasts profoundly shape our attitudes about dogs
and the ways we train and communicate with them.
This is usually an unconscious process. Few owners bring much
self-awareness to their canine relationships or reflect on their own families
when they scream at their dogs to come, or coo at them as if they
understood. One school nurse I know grabbed her dog by the ears
every night when she came home, yelling, "Do you love me? Am I your
sweet mommy?" She wondered why the dog tried to run off during
So the motives for getting a dog become important, if you are worried
about its welfare and want a good relationship. Is your answer to
the why-a-dog question that it's easier to seek companionship from a
dependent animal than from a person? Do you want a dog because of
subliminal messages from TV and movies? Are you more drawn to rescuing
creatures than to training and living with them?