Novelist and essayist McCaig (The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club, 2007, etc.) chronicles his experiences training sheepdogs for companionship and competition.
The author took his two dogs, June and Luke, to Wales to compete in sheepdog trials, where they won. Most of the book, however, is a detailed account of dog psychology and the sheepdog way of life. McCaig discusses his conversations with various trainers and dog psychologists who had different theories about effective methods for training dogs. One trainer advocated the use of the e-collar, which shocks dogs when they misbehave. Another used “behaviorism,” a combination of positive and negative reinforcement of different behaviors, and one even believed in positive reinforcement only. One of the more interesting training methods involved an evaluation of dogs based on their personality, giving dog owners a series of questions that determined whether “prey” drive or “pack” drive was more dominant in each dog. The trainer then recommends a series of exercises to make the pack drive the predominant one. Almost all of the trainers emphasized reading the dog’s behavior over blind practices. McCaig talks about his dogs in an amusing and affectionate way. While the author mentions that Luke is not the best sheepdog, his other attributes, such as being a good companion, make up for his lack of skills. The author provides plenty of information about dog habits and breeds, sheepdog competitions and coaching for them, as well as tidbits regarding the joys of having a dog (or multiple).
A straightforward but unremarkable book for dog lovers or those considering a dog.