Dr. Patricia McConnell Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist with over 20 years of experience consulting pet owners about serious behavioral issues. She is an instructor, teaching about animal behavior, and has written over 10 books on the subject.
The Other End of the Leash (2003) is a very detailed look at canine behavior and interactions between humans and canines. It is based on a large number of studies that have been done on both animal behavior and their interactions with humans. The book is filled with facts, anecdotes and in-person observations.
The basic premise of the book is that dog behavior and human behavior are not the same. We, as humans, quite often misinterpret what our dogs are telling us and we don’t understand why they do what they do. We tend to use a primate filter on a canine. By understanding the similarities and the differences between humans and canines, we can improve our relationship with dogs.
What I Liked
The Other End of the Leash was extremely readable. It was written so that everyone would get good information from it, from the person just reading for entertainment to Animal Behaviorists. The level of the writing, I felt, was just right.
All the major points in the book were supported with outside references to studies that have been performed on humans, canines and other similar animal species. This is one of the major positive aspects of the book. There are references! I have read many other non-fiction books on a wide variety of subjects and seldom do you find such a large amount of references to outside studies. Studies lend credibility to these kinds of books, showing that the topics covered aren’t only the opinion of the author.
I really enjoyed the personal anecdotes the preceded and were interspersed in the chapters. They give the book just enough entertainment value and support all the main points.
Patricia McConnell uses her experience and the facts to advocate for a positive relationship with dogs based on reinforcement and not punishment. And she manages to do this without critisizing negative reinforcement or people who routinely punish their dogs.
Areas for Improvement
Typically when I read a non-fiction book, I find minor or major issues with the writing, the subject, or some specifics that I don’t agree with. This is one of the few books where I felt myself nodding along and agreeing with every single point and feeling that everything discussed taught me something or reinfoced things I had read in other books.
If I had to pick something that could use improvement, it would be the length of some of the chapters. In non-fiction books, pretty much all of them, the idea covered in each chapter could actually be summed up in just a few sentences. In order to sell books, you need to fill up space with words. So some of the chapters are slightly wordier than they need to be. But the very last chapter is extremely short and could use a bit of filling out. Admittedly, I did read an older edition of this book so this may have been fixed in a newer edition.
I would highly recommend this book, not only to animal related professionals, but to every single dog owner that wants to have a happier relationship with their dog, one built on understanding rather than misunderstanding. For animal professionals, this book also will give you insight into why humans behave as they do with their dogs. This is one of the few dog related books that is going to remain on my bookshelf so I can refer back to it occassionally.