Teaching the Dog to Think by Kimberly Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Part memoir, part self-discovery, and part relationship help, Teaching the Dog to Think chronicles Davis' year of agility training with her young collie, Willow. Brought up in the old, punishment based training methods, Davis was used to choke collars and leash jerking to "train" and control her dogs. Reluctantly at first, she begins to see that the reward based training methods used by her agility instructors worked far better, and faster. She starts out with a nearly uncontrollable young dog, and ends up with a training partner who worked with her cooperatively. She also discovered the joy of owning a dog who is enthusiastic about training and work, not just obedient.
But the book is more than that. It is an insignt into Davis' own transformation. Her first instinct is to believe these "new-fangled" methods can't work. Even as she discovers how well they do, she is honest about her falling back into old habits and ways of thinking. The growth is both the dog's and the author's, and we are shown every step.
In addition, Davis outlines how she began to understand how the methods she was using with Willow could be put to use in her relationships with other people. Beginning with her son, and continuing with her creative writing students, Davis starts using positive reward techniques and finds they work as well with people. Her son becomes more cooperative and their relationship grows. Her students are less discouraged and able to move forward more quickly.
The book is a wonderful testament to what can be achieved in dog training, and also a lesson in people skills that everyone can benefit from.
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