The Other End of the Leash: Book Review

The Author

Patricia McConnell is a well-known animal behaviour expert and holds a PhD in Zoology. She used to be a teacher an adjunct professor in Zoology at the university of Wisconsin-Madison. She also founded a company, together with Nancy Raffetto, called Dog’s Best Friend which specialised in dog training and behavioural issues. The company, though, is no longer owned by her.

Patricia has written many books, some of them self-published, on solving dog behavioural issues and on inter species communication. The book I would like to review today is called The Other End of the Leash.

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs

Image copyright: Penguin Random House

I find it hard to describe what the book is about. It’s not a manual or handbook on how to solve behavioural issues, and it’s not a biography either. I guess I could describe it as a book on dog behaviour and human – dog communication and interaction. It’s very well-written, interesting and engaging. This is no small feat, considering the subject matter!

Patricia McConnell combines the “theoretical” parts with her own experience, both at home with her dogs and with those of her clients. Each chapter usually begins with a personal story that is directly related to some of the topics that will be explained in the chapter. In most cases, there are more stories included as the chapter develops.

The list of chapters is the following (after the Acknowledgements and the Introduction):

1. Monkey See, Monkey Do: The Importance of Visual Signals Between People and Dogs
2. Translating Primate to Canine: How Your Body “Talks” to Your Dog and How to Make Sure It Says What You Want
3. Talking to Each Other: How Dogs and Humans Use Sound Differently and How to Change the Way You Use It to Better Communicate with Your Dog
4. Planet Smell: You Have More in Common with Your Dog Than You Might Think
5. Fun and Play: Why Dogs and Humans Play Like Kids All Our Lives and How to Ensure That Play with Your Dogs Is as Safe as It Is Fun
6. Packmates: The Social Nature of Humans and Dogs
7. The Truth About Dominance: How Social Status Relates to the Behavior of Both Humans and Dogs
8. Patient Dogs and Wise Humans: Your Dog Will Be Happier If You Teach Him to Be Patient and Polite and If You Behave Like a Benevolent Leader
9. Personalities: Evey Dog Is Different, but Some Dogs Are More Different Than Others (Note: I love this reference to Animal Farm, by George Orwell!)
10. Love and Loss: When Your Dog Needs Another Home and When You Need a Hug

At the end of the book, there is a whole Reference section, which includes all the books and articles that are mentioned in the different chapters or that they were used a sources to write the book. So, despite this being a book written for non-experts, it’s based on existing research and the author’s experience.

So, as you can see, the book covers a broad spectrum of aspects related to communication: body language, visual cues, smells, vocal language, social status and social interactions, personalities, playtime and education. Another important topic covered in the last chapter is saying goodbye to your dog – not necessarily because he passed away, but maybe because he is not in a comfortable position in your home. For example, having two dogs that do not get along.

As a bonus, my paperback edition has a section in the middle of the book that includes several pictures, in black and white, of dogs and people. Some of them are merely used to illustrate some of the explanations in the book, and others show the author’s dogs. I always enjoy seeing pictures of the people or dogs mentioned in a book that I’m reading.

Review

I think this is one of my favourite books about dog behaviour. It almost reads like a novel or a biography, although it’s very far from either. It’s interesting and engaging, and it’s a book I wanted to keep reading.  However, this has its drawbacks: it’s difficult to use as a reference book, as all the advice and information on how to deal with dogs is spread through multiple chapters of the book and intermingled with anecdotes and stories. In spite of this, I believe it’s a must read for every dog owner, and an excellent read for any dog lovers.

References

McConnell, Patricia. The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs; New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.

Other books you may be interested in that we have reviewed are:

Turird Rugaas’s On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals: This is a great option if you’re interested in knowing more about how dogs communicate to calm themselves and others down.

Brenda Aloff’s Canine Body Language: A book full of photos illustrating dogs’ way of communicating and what they mean. My older version has black and white pictures which don’t have great quality, but still, it’s a great book to own.

The Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat: This one is particularly useful if you want to specialise in dog behaviour issues and need a reference book. It’s meant for veterinary professionals, but I’m not one and I own it. And I find it really interesting.

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