Dog training book review - The Culture Clash

Before becoming a professional trainer, I had the normal questions about dog training that most people have. I researched the topic online, read other books and was horrified at the suggestions being thrown around with ease by many different sources. Choke your dog with a choke chain, use a shock collar, squirt your dog in the face with a squirt bottle or throw cans with marbles or pennies were frequently suggested because “that is the way you train a dog”.

I finally read The Culture Clash and things crystallized for me. I found an intelligent point of view that was in sync with my desire to learn how to teach dogs in a logical, humane way.  

Jean has a highly entertaining, no-nonsense approach to her writing that brings dog training into the human perspective in such a way that makes sense.

She is highly scientific in her approach, but also uses entertaining analogies and stories to make her points. She has chapters on many fascinating topics including dog intelligence and morality, predatory and social behavior, socialization and fear aggression, behavior problems and training strategies. 

One of my favorite chapters includes a description of a planet run by a species called “Gorns”.

In the entertaining chapter, humans happen to be the companion animals to the Gorns and Jean sets the stage for a comparison of how dogs perceive their environment. The human in the chapter is “lucky” because he gets to live inside with the Gorns, but is attacked every time he urinates in the toilet, watches videos, eats pizza, or reads certain books. All of these behaviors are considered behavior “problems” to the Gorns.

She continues to make the comparisons between often misunderstood dogs and the human example in the chapter to highlight how tragic it can be for dogs that do not receive proper instruction, care and socialization in their daily lives. It talks about how the person in the Gorn’s world has not seen another person since he was a child, and when he finally sees one on the street he is curious, excited and sometimes afraid. Since he doesn’t know how to act around other humans, the Gorns keep him away and he lives a life of isolation. The chapter continues to use analogies to explain why punishment-based training is unfair and how sometimes dogs pay the ultimate price for lack of socialization and training by people. 

Her other chapters are filled with specific training suggestions from everything to socialization, Kong stuffing strategies as well as specific training suggestions.

She lays out detailed instructions to help your dog move from “Kindergarten” to “College-level” training status. 

While all of Jean’s writings can be complex and full of a lot of information, I find The Culture Clash to be easy to read and hard to put down. 

I know that The Culture Clash has been extremely popular since it was first published in 1996, but to find out how many people Jean’s landmark book has touched, I went to the source. Charlene Woodward, Publisher at Dogwise.com, said, “The Culture Clash is one of our top five selling books year in and year out since it was published and it is selling more now than when it was first published.”

Dogwise is the single largest source of dog training related books anywhere. The second edition was published in 2005 and is revised and expanded with an additional eleven thousand words of Jean’s insights. 

There is no doubt that Jean feels that dogs should only be treated humanely using consistent, fair methods and she is not shy about telling the reader. But, she also backs up her point of view with facts and makes the whole experience enjoyable. 

Her book had such an impact on me that after reading the Culture Clash in 2001 I studied with Jean at her world-famous Academy for Dog Training in San Francisco, CA. and became a full-time professional dog trainer after that.

Whether you find that The Culture Clash changes your life, as it did mine, or you just want to read a well-written, jam-packed dog training book from one of the top minds on the subject I highly recommend this book. 

Jean Donaldson also has a new book called Oh Behave! Dogs From Pavlov to Premack to Pinker as well as, Mine! about resource guarding, and Fight! about dog-dog aggression.

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