“Canine Confidential” by Marc Bekoff

Wag Audio book cover

Written by: Laura

Laura is founder of Easy Peasy Obedience, and works in positive methods based on teamwork and games, and with focus on minimising frustration in the training - for both dog and human.

Published: December 9, 2021

“Ethology makes clear that dogs display dominance, but that doesn’t mean that dominance has any place in dog training or teaching.” 

Marc Bekoff

Why did I get this book?

Eh… this might be a bit of an embarrassing admission, but I got this book because I had credits available on Audible, but couldn’t find anything to satisfy my guilty pleasure listening. Some of you may know that feeling, and if you do, know that I support you. But what actually caught my eye when choosing this book, was the subtitle “Why dogs do what they do.” – because aren’t we all dying to know that? I know I was, so I pressed the button and started listening.

What does this book do?

This book feels good. That is what it does. If you get the Audible edition, it is narrated by Kirby Heyborne who does an excellent job adding to the feel good experience with this book. Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutional biology at Colorado U, and he has devoted a large part of his life to animal behaviour. In short, he knows his stuff. In this book, he brings you on an adventure into the life of dogs, but in the least science-y way you can possibly imagine.
He brings his soul into opening the world of dog behaviour to the regular person and so the book is a well-balanced mix of wonderful stories of the joys and sorrows of his own life with dogs, hard facts about how dogs work, and highlights from the countless hours he has spent watching dogs be dogs around in the Boulder area of Colorado. I was especially impressed with the chapter “The World According to Dogs”, which provides you with a widely detailed rundown of how dogs work – but written so everybody can understand, and learn, from it.
Chapter 8 is somewhat interesting in the way that Marc tells the tales of dog parks. That is, the tales of dog parks that work. For those not knowing about dog parks or who have limited experience with them, this chapter will be a very nice summary of how dog parks work. He does encourage you to visit dog parks too, but with a mind to have thought to your dog’s individual personality.
At the more controversial end of the scale, Marc also takes a very thorough look at dominance, what it is, and why we as humans don’t need it to communicate. In short, he strongly advocates for kindness towards dogs, both in daily life, but also in training, because kindness and understanding are all we need. And this book helps immensely with understanding. All you have to bring to the table is kindness.

What does this book not do?

Training. If you want to learn training this is not it. It does not go deep into the nitty-gritty science-y parts of dog behaviour, so if you want deep, detailed studies you just need the bibliography of the book (which is 30 pages, btw) but if you want to become a hobby ethologist, you need this book. If you wanna know what gets dogs ticking, this is also the book for you. And finally, if you want support for outdated, dominance-based training methods, this book is not… you know actually, in that case, this book is especially for you. Because this book will encourage anyone reading it to seek out kinder methods than what was of the past.

Where do I get this book?

Any book store. It’s rather new. Published in 2018, and Amazon can hook you up for as little as $15+shipping. If you want to support your local book store (which I absolutely encourage btw), it might be a bit pricier, but you’ll have a good deed under your belt by the end of the day, and I think that’s worth the few extra pennies. And for those curious: yes, I purchased the hard copy for the sole purpose of cute dog pictures (and supporting the writer. Never forget that).

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