A service-dog trainer details a dog-teaching method heavy on respect, kindness, positive reinforcement and choice.
Arnold’s voice is assertive with experience—her insights into working with dogs are hard-won after years of close interaction. Though not a scientist, the author fashions a teaching regime based on canine behavior and aptitude. In her opinion, a solid, loving relationship between a human and a dog requires the human getting into the dog’s head. Understanding how a dog views the world is extremely rewarding. If you know how a dog’s eyes work, as well as the blessings and vulnerabilities of its auditory acuity and the communicative intent of body language and vocalizations, you will be able to appreciate and effectively guide a dog’s behavior. Likewise a dog’s emotional state and cognitive abilities—it’s no news to Arnold that dogs possess qualities like empathy, fairness, intention, personality, discriminating choice, telepathy and precognition, characteristics that she has seen with her own eyes, and backed up by preliminary controlled-experiment research. The force and surety of Arnold’s convictions is only rarely undermined by wayward assertions—e.g., that learning to carry a handbag is an “excellent example that dogs can retain and manipulate abstract images.” Mostly, though, the author’s storehouse of anecdotal evidence is telling and entertaining, and her demolition of various alpha-model and negative-reinforcement teaching techniques is thorough and lofty: “Shock collars are the tools of trainers not willing or able to use other, more humane methods.” For readers who do not possess ample time, patience, kindness and openness to lateral thinking, Arnold would suggest not getting a dog.
Illuminating counsel for canine “caregivers.”