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The new wave of excluding aversives and training with positive reinforcement is rapidly proving itself to not only be the method of choice for adding behavior, but now, as evidenced by trainers like Jean Donaldson, the method of choice for getting rid of behavior, especially emotionally charged behavior like aggression. If you are of the school of thought that "treats are fine for training tricks but I have a dog that bites," you owe yourself a serious study of the techniques and theory in "Dogs Are From Neptune".

Nowhere else is the case made more strongly for positive reinforcement training for the resolution of serious problems, not simply from the standpoint of dog and handler-friendliness, but from that of efficacy and deep, permanent change.

"Dogs Are From Neptune" draws from real cases to provide clear, step-by-step advice for troubleshooting problems from obedience proofing stumpers to serious biters and fighters. Many of the owners presenting histories had made the rounds of trainers and behaviorists with no improvement prior to submitting their cases.

There is a comprehensive and enlightening discussion of the finer points of classical and operant conditioning and why the former may indeed "over-ride" the latter when dealing with aggression. Donaldson has treated innumerable aggressive dogs and has an excellent ability to tease out key features in each case history. Her description of "Suburban Dog Syndrome" rings true for dog people everywhere. Perhaps most ground-breaking are her discussions of dog bullying, fighting and defensive aggression.

The first three sections cover aggression, towards strangers, family members and other dogs. The aggression to strangers section contains a case of "socialization omission," to men specifically; a more globally aggressive dog with many triggers, a dog on the comeback trail from a bad beginning in life, a therapy dog with a good history that begins growling at certain people and the case of an exasperated family who feel they have a genetic misfit.

The aggression to family members section, entitled "Resource Guarding" gives step-by-step plans for and background on food and object possessiveness as well as a beautifully structured treatment protocol for a dog that will not allow routine handling.

In the dog-aggression section, the topics are reactivity to proximity, chronic fighting in a dog park, a dog that begins growling after a couple of bad experiences at class, a how-to on handling a dog that bullies other dogs, understanding inter-bitch aggression, the owner's role in dog to dog aggression problems and an extremely convincing case for the use of food in the treatment of aggression.

The second half of the book involves cases of behavior and obedience problems and anxiety-related disorders. Counter-surfing, dirt, stool and garbage eating, amusing and informative cases of barking, pushy play-biting in a full-grown dog, sofa-elimination and its likely motives and a mounting Labrador bitch round out the behavior problems section.

The obedience problems range from new insights into garden variety presentations such as pulling on leash, heeling, jumping up and controlling dogs off leash to the more esoteric context-specific stay-breaking, obedience-ring sluggishness and the relative merits of electric shock and non-aversive approaches to undoing a squirrel hunter.

The fear and anxiety section encompasses both mild and severe separation anxiety, anxiety about traffic in general and about getting into cars and a fascinating case of a dog with Addison's disease who must avoid all stress but whose handler would like to continue training in obedience.

 (168 pages)

Donated by Beth Reid