The Culture Clash: A revolutionary new way of understanding the relationship between humans and domestic dogs

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The Culture Clash: A revolutionary new way of understanding the relationship between humans and domestic dogs

By Jean Donaldson

The Culture Clash has had a profound effect on the world of dog training. The author argues, compellingly, that “problem behaviors,” like jumping up, chewing on slippers, or even growling, are natural to dogs, although we often attribute them to the dogs being “stubborn,” “dominant,” or “dumb.” These labels are not only ineffective, she reminds us, they are destructive. The Culture Clash has stood the test of time because she convinces the reader that dogs aren’t fuzzy, big-eyed humans, but like all animals, they learn how to behave based on the rules of operant conditioning. In The Culture Clash you’ll learn:

  • How “Disney dogs” have harmed our relationship with dogs.
  • Why punishment and “getting dominance” should be avoided.
  • Why positive reinforcement works better than other methods.
  • How to use Luring, Prompting and Shaping to train new behavior.
  • Why dogs are “lemon brains,” but we still love them!

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We humans fall prey to what psychologists call “The Fundamental Attribution Error,” which is assigning negative motivations or personality types to those we don’t know well. We excuse our friend for being impatient because he is exhausted and stressed, while we imagine the same behavior from a stranger being result of his arrogance or bad temperament.

The author’s primary point is that we need to stop doing the same thing to dogs. You might think this argument is no longer necessary, but I still hear over and over “He’s so dumb!” or “I can’t believe she’s so stubborn.” My all-time favorite is “He has a mind of his own!” I love this—exactly whose mind should the dog have? Donaldson does a good job of dispelling the myth of the “Disney dog,” the “Lassie” dog who appears to be some kind of combination of parent, angel and mentor to their less than fully-evolved human owner. I will argue, however, that she overstates her case regarding canine cognition. Recent research suggests that the dog’s mind is a far richer place than previously imagined by behaviorists. Keep that in mind when reading The Culture Clash, but remember it was written in 1996 and is still a book that dogs all over the world wish their owners would read.

The Culture Clash is essential reading for anyone who either 1) still believes that dominance and/or force-based training is the most effective way to train a dog, 2) wants to better understand the perspective of the people who believe in those methods, or 3) would like to learn more about operant conditioning. I’d seriously recommend it for anyone who is committed to learning not just about dog training, but about the history and background of our changing relationships with companion dogs. As the winner of the Dog Writer’s Association of America “Best Dog Training and Behavior Book of the year, The Culture Clash has much to tell us about the unrealistic expectations most people still put onto dogs, and how we can avoid them.

“A very definite two paws up! Quite simply the best dog book I have ever read!”
Ian Dunbar, PhD, DVM, author of numerous books on canine behavior and training.

“The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson is one of the better books on canine behavior.”
Don Hanson, review on

“This is one of the best books I have ever read on understanding dogs. This book is a MUST READ if you love dogs!”
James O’Heare, Ph.D.

Publisher: Dogwise Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1617811122
ISBN-13: 978-1617811128
Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
Author: Jean Donaldson
Publish Date: 2012
Number of Pages: 257


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