Review: The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

The Other End of the Leash is basically the Bible for dog owners and lovers. It should be required reading for every single human being who has a dog in their life. After reading Karen Pryor’s books on clicker training, I realized I have so much more to learn about dog behavior and picked this one up.

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My Thoughts:

This book was eye opening. Instead of focusing just on what the dog is doing wrong and trying to correct it with words and raised voices, McConnell suggests we stop and use the body language dogs can understand. But first, we humans have to understand what we're saying with our bodies. She also emphasized respecting the dog's full range of emotions - dogs are not always happy and cuddly. They feel upset, sad, and anxious, and it's up to the owner to accept that but also do their best to solve problems. (McConnell talked about making sure you can appropriately exercise your dog based on your living situation.)

Being aggressive (leash pulling, yelling, smacking) toward a dog without understanding what it needs is only going to cause problems. I’m never aggressive toward Yoshi, but this book did show me how my own actions might be perceived by him. For example, walking directly at him very quickly. I might just be headed toward the refrigerator, but in dog language this can be interpreted as rude and strange. The "Truth About Dominance" section had a lot of great information on why you should never physically force a dog into recognizing you as "alpha." 

Since McConnell is the animal behavior expert, not me, I have the following quotes to share from the book. I think these all sum it up nicely. 

“The next time you see a dog you’d like to greet, stop a few feet away, stand sideways rather than straight on, and avoid looking directly into her eyes. Wait for the dog to come all the way to you. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t want to be petted. So don’t pet her. It’s not really that much to ask.”

(I loved this the second I read it. It’s ALWAYS been a pet peeve of mine to see a grown human being start squealing in the face of a strange dog. If it’s that annoying to me, how much more does the average dog hate that? I can assure you mine only tolerates it, he does not enjoy it. If this quote personally offends you...you’re probably one of those people that doesn’t respect the dog’s space.)

“We confuse our dogs by repeating words no matter what the dog is doing because that’s what chimps and humans tend to do when they get anxious or excited. We’re oblivious to the visual signals that we’re sending to our dogs while we’re busy constructing long sentences, because speech is so very important to our species. We raise our voices for no reason and are far too quick to jerk a leash around if we get frustrated, because that’s what bipedal apes tend to do.”

“It’s a lot easier to stop catering to your dog when you’re aware that, after about three years of age, she is a mature adult and perfectly capable of the emotional control that is necessary in all social animals.”

“So much old-fashioned obedience training could be summarized as ‘Do it because I told you to, and if you don’t, I’ll hurt you.’ (She’s referring to physical force on a dog, the alpha rollover for example.) ...But this approach terrorizes many dogs and leads to dogs who are afraid of their owners or who become defensively aggressive because they perceive that they are under attack all the time.”

“You don’t need to use physical force to impress your dog. If you do, you’re sending the message that you have no real power and no alternative but force and intimidation… You may get obedience out of a dog by threatening him, but mostly you’re going to get a dog who is afraid of you. Far too often, you’ll get a dog who learns to defend himself by getting aggressive back.”

(I guess this is why dog trainers know there’s no such thing as a dog who “suddenly snaps.” It’s a build up of frustration and their signals getting ignored.)

In summary: Learn what your body language says to dogs. Learn what theirs says to you. Respect the dog.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars (Not a 5 because the writing was a bit cutesy at times.)