It has always been my intent to only write positive Book Reviews here on GSA. I am preparing to make an exception with a newly released book. Why? Because I get to use phrases like, ” A Goose-Stepping Tome to the Purely Positive Political Pejorative” and “A Marketing Tour de force for the Excessively Degreed, Overtly Self-Impressed, Behavioral Science Industry.” I’m almost positive that the review will rile up Pryorites and Skinnerterians into a frothing, apoplectic, salmagundi of “But It’s Proven Science!” and “These People are Degreed Experts, how dare you question them and their facts?” Well, as they say in the faculty lounge while sipping Oolang tea, ” Pish posh.”
Like every book on Canine behavior or training that I review, I begin by perusing the index, table of contents, acknowledgements, and the foreward. These usually give me instant clues to the content and intent of the book. Even though Victoria Stillwell wrote the foreward, I gave “Decoding Your Dog” a few more minutes of my time. Normally, the snotty ,nasal tones of dear Vicky are like handles to an ejection seat for me. “Get Me Outta Here!!!” But that’s more press than I want to give her.
The first thing I want to know is who actually wrote the book? No one actually takes credit for that particular crime, but rather they list themselves as “Editors” of the book. A more detailed reading of “Decoding Your Dog” reveals the reason for listing Debra F. Horwitz DVM, DACVB, John Ciribassi DVM, DACVB with Steve Dale as EDITORS. It’s an honest reason at least. It’s because there isn’t an original or previously unpublished word to be found between these covers. Three hundred and forty seven pages of goose-stepping adherence to all things Skinner and Pryor. If you’ve read them once, there’s nothing new to be had here. Once again, the Purely Positive minority has given marching orders to perpetuate their militant stance on dog training and behavior, and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists et al, has responded.
The attitude of the “Editors” is first revealed by the endless and orgiastic reminder that they are all Card carrying members of Academia, and you are not. Every name is prominently followed by letters signifying every possible degree that can be had, and we are expected to bow to their learnedness. The acknowledgements read like love letters to other Academics and are largely self-congratulatory in the extreme. This quote from the preface tells the story even better:
“The vision for this book arose from the collective desire of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists to make available to dog owners scientifically correct information about dog behavior problems and to correct widespread misinformation about dog behavior. Each author…is an ACVB member and an expert at interpreting canine behavior.” (end quote)
The preface continues into a veritable cornucopia of the long list of qualifiers of said authors , such as publishing scientific papers for peer review (like minded-militants congratulating each other), rigorous written exams,(answers provided by like minded militants) and heretofore countless hours of medical practice. Curiously, not one mention is made of it being necessary for any of these august professors to have actually trained or worked with a dog personally. Or even owned one, or taught one not to piddle on the throw rugs. As earlier stated, the book is rife and profuse with reminders to constantly “Consult with Your Veterinarian about any and all problems. Only such degreed individuals are qualified to help with behavior problems.” Don’t take me wrong, I love veterinarians for the work that they do, and the training they undergo, but this goes on to presume that all dog trainers that don’t subscribe to PP methods exclusively, should be disqualified to call themselves trainers,let alone “behaviorists”.
“Decoding Your Dog” begs you to visit your Vet for everything from hangnails to Extreme Aggression. Bring your credit card please. Among the more ridiculous fixes that these “experts” recommend, are “Halties” and harnesses to stop or prevent dogs from pulling on the leash. Two pieces of equipment that I refuse to dignify with recognition for the stated purpose. Hey Doctor…Harnesses are FOR PULLING! Check the Iditarod or any Pulling competition!!
As if on cue, the book touts the successful and wonderful use of various and sundry Drugs to cure everything from Separation Anxiety to fear of thunderstorms. Dogs can be sedated into proper behaviors, but ONLY your Vet can prescribe these miracle cures. Consult with them exclusively.
“Decoding Your Dog” manages to decode nothing, teach dog owners less than nothing, and supply nothing of worth. It is, rather, a Marketing machine for veterinary behavior “professionals”, often at the loss of truly useful help for dogs with behavioral problems. Those excessively degreed, overtly self-impressed, individuals couldn’t even be bothered to write something original for themselves. Instead they rely wholly on now age-worn Purely Positive theories that are now showing their shortcomings, and the damage they have done to dogs. When these same “editors” begin to adopt more inclusive, balanced , methods, they’ll probably go looking for the books that are currently being written BY balanced trainers that understand not a single dog should ever be pigeon-holed into one militant idea, no matter the number of PHd’s involved.