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Sunday 20 January 2013

Book review - 'The truth about wolves and dogs' by Toni Shelbourne

Here at Happy Dogs we have been asked by Hubble & Hattie to review a new book, one about dog training, and have decided to accept the challenge. The book for review is called 'The truth about wolves and dogs' by Toni Shelbourne. The subtext reads 'dispelling the myths of dog training', and this piqued my interest. Knowing the range of dog training theories there are out there, and knowing the very best there is already out there, I thought it would be interesting to see where on the scale this book placed itself, and if it could bring anything new to the world of dog training books.

According to the cover-wrap blurb, Toni has "worked professionally with dogs since 1989" and "...worked with [a pack of wolves at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust] for ten years as Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer". She is also a "...successful Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner". An excellent start then, someone with a potentially deep understanding of wolf behaviour, and also someone with a leaning towards the compassionate side of dog training.

The book starts well; it lays out its aim clearly and succinctly, to challenge the outdated and incorrect assumptions about dog and wolf behaviour of yesteryear. It moves on to explain the differences between the wolf and modern companion dog, again being short and to the point, using references to important pioneers in their field such as Belyaev, Pavlov and Rugaas, and making good use of quality photographs to illustrate the point. It strikes a nice balance between delving too deep into the technical aspects it describes, and dumbing down too much, covering much ground in a short space whilst pointing towards sources of research should the reader want to find out more.

There is a large section on the signals displayed by wolves and dogs, and this is again illustrated with many pictures. The information is informative and helpful, again not getting too technical but giving a good overview of calming signals and other behaviours that you might see in your average dog.

The book finishes with advice to potential owners on choosing the right breed of dog for their lifestyle, and explaining how to see the world from the dog's point of view. Whilst this is undoubtedly good advice, it seems strange to have this at the back of a book which appears to be aimed more at the budding dog trainer or dog enthusiast.

Nevertheless, this is a somewhat brief but accurate and helpful overview of dog behaviour, how they communicate with us and each other, and the key differences between dogs and wolves. It is not too heavy and the photos used are high quality and informative. It doesn't offer any new revelations about our canine friends, all this information is available from a variety of other sources, but it does package it up in an enjoyable and easy to read bundle.

The truth about wolves and dogs by Toni Shelbourne
Paperback with flaps
112 pages, 126 pictures
ISBN: 978-1-845844-27-1

Reviewed by Kevin Marchant, Naturally Happy Dogs

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