There’s only one problem with having active dogs, doing a massive home remodel and a garden begging for attention–there’s not enough time in the day to read as much as I’d like. But I’ve still managed to enjoy some of the tsunami of books being released, and I thought I’d share what I’ve been enjoying lately.
First, on the canine behavior front, The Science Behind a Happy Dog by Emma Grigg, PhD and Tammy Donaldson, is a great addition to anyone’s library, whether a first-time dog owner or an expert in behavior and training. What I like about it especially is its unique perspective. Yes, the book contains a lot about who “dogs are” and how they see the world, how to read their visual signals and training methods that are based on good science. But what makes it especially valuable are its discussions about assessing the quality of life of any individual who can’t talk to you about it. How do we really know if our dogs are happy? Sure, sometimes it’s easy to answer that question, but when a dog isn’t wagging her entire body while grinning like a Cheshire cat, how do we know what she is feeling?
The authors attempt to answer that question by first asking how experts assess welfare and quality of life in other species. That leads to suggestions for us that we do”stress audits” on our dogs, and apply the “Five Freedoms” developed for farm animal welfare. There is a lot of value in this perspective and I love that they included it. Also, the last sections of the book are invaluable: Their discussions on wellness, good veterinary care and end of life decisions are fantastic.
I do have a few quibbles in the training chapters. When talking about puppy socialization, the authors say “During this period [7 days after first vaccination but before 3 months of age] ensure that your pup is introduced, in a controlled situation, to as many new people, places, dogs, etc. that you can.” (My italics.) Eeeps, not what I would recommend. In my experience, it is as easy to sensitize a young dog to new things, and make them more afraid, as it is to desensitize them. I’ve seen far too many young dogs overwhelmed by well intentioned efforts to “socialize” them that I would never suggest to “… introduce your puppy to as many new anythings that you can…”. I’m also not a fan of some of their training recommendations (they recommend head halters as some of their favorites). However, the book shines especially in the beginning and the end, is full chock full of photographs and visual illustrations, and is an important addition to anyone’s library.
Truth in advertising: I met both Dr. Grigg and Dr. Donaldson at the Animal Behavior Society Conference in Milwaukee last week and loved their presentations. They are articulate, compassionate and were great fun to spend time with. (Looking for new speakers on behavior? Just saying…) I talked to several people after my own talk at ABS about “reading dogs,” and that led to a discussion about my own rbook, For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. If you’re interested in comparing the emotional life of people and dogs, you might enjoy it. (She said, feeling awkward about plugging her own book).
Speaking of quality of life, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction this summer. So many great novels out there! My absolute favorite novels of the summer are Beautiful Ruins, a love story described as an “absolute masterpiece” by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and The History of Bees, a spectacular and “deeply moving” story about three generations of bee keepers. They are both so well written that they remind me how astoundingly wonderful we humans can be when we are at our best.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Things are a tad crazy after four months of disruptive remodeling, but many of the flowers are still going strong.
And just to keep things honest, here’s the weedy mess on one side of the house that got trashed by the remodeling. Nothing but compressed clay, weeds and quack grass. This is a fraction of the mess I’ll be working on for the next five years. Good exercise, right?
Speaking of exercise, Maggie goes to get her hind quarters evaluated Thursday. We’ll get a better idea if she need surgery or just lots of rehab for her lame back legs. Cross your paws for her.
And you… what have you been reading this summer? Long nights and bitter cold are coming after all, gotta have some more good books to keep us warm!