Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Embracing the Wild in Your Dog

Embracing the Wild in Your Dog: An understanding of the authors of our dog's behavior - nature and the wolf

Some people may embrace the message of this book, while others may run screaming into the wilderness to get away from it, but nearly everyone who reads it is bound to have a strong reaction of some sort. 

The anecdotes from the author's childhood in Alaska were vital to forming his approach to working with dogs, so I liked reading them to see what lesson his mentor taught him in each situation. Likewise, the anecdotes from his time working as a trainer illustrated his approach and the different types of clients and problems he has worked with professionally.

The author's knowledge of wolf behavior is something that many of us cannot hope to replicate, and he acknowledges this point. But we can follow his reasoning that treating dogs as small furry humans can lead to trouble. Every time he talked about owners who dress their dogs up and inundate them with toys and treats, I kept picturing a scene from the Nora Roberts book, The Search. In her book, the protagonist is a dog trainer who also runs a search and rescue unit. One of her clients has a very spoiled small dog who goes crazy and barks and attacks any dog that comes near. The trainer tells the owner that the dog sees herself as alpha of the pack and is defending her territory and place in the pack hierarchy. To prevent lawsuits and injuries the owners need to reclaim that alpha position. Mr. Bailey says much the same thing - if owners don't want their dog to bark at or bite other dogs or humans, then the owners must establish their place as the dominant ones in the relationship and have the dogs look to them for cues on how to react in a situation.

Bailey's chapter that discusses his views on rescue programs and no-kill shelters is sure to rile up some readers. He admits that his statements may make people think he dislikes all such programs, but that it is not true. He simply thinks there are dogs who cannot be safely worked into the human world and trying to do so will cause injury, heartache, and perhaps even death (of another pet or a human), or lawsuits. He gives several examples to support his point.

Overall this is a fascinating read and provides a lot of food for thought and discussion. It is comparable in some ways to a book I read years ago about the hidden or secret life of dogs (sorry, I can't remember the exact wording). That book also talked about things like the pack hierarchy that forms when you have several dogs. Embracing the Wild in Your Dog goes into more descriptions of situations that have gone wrong because the humans did not exert dominance when they should have.

If you are looking for a manual on how to train your dog, this is not intended for that use. If you are looking for something to read that will cause you to re-examine your beliefs and behaviors toward man's best friend, then you have found it.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

For more information about the author and his book, visit

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