For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell, is the best dog book I have read in a long time.
McConnell writes with emotion herself, and some of my favorite parts of the book were stories of her dogs and her small sheep ranch. She is also a scientist, complete with a Ph.D. in zoology. Add to that over seventeen years of working with clients and their dogs, specializing in aggressive dogs, and there is a lot to learn from this book.
It begins with a discussion of emotions: what they are, and why there is so much controversy among different schools of (human) thought about what emotions animals feel. I love how McConnell weaves stories and reports of scientific studies together. (Enough of the academically correct last name: since I began reading her blog regularly, I think of her as Trisha, and so shall she be here.) I held my breath as her beloved border collie Luke was threatened by another dog and Trisha was frozen with fear. That had me hooked, and I read on into the night.
She discusses the expression of emotion in the second chapter, which is well illustrated with photos of dog and human faces showing similar expressions. This chapter alone is worth the modest price of this paperback book. I’ve been paying much closer attention to the body language of both my dogs since reading this chapter. I came up with some surprising results.
Emotions and the Brain is the third chapter, and just to give you a bit more of the flavor, here are the chapter subheadings:
- Use It or Lose It
- the Importance of Touch
- Cleanliness is Not Enough
- Sesame Street for Dogs
- We All Have Our Limits
- Brain Basics
- The Hungry Brain
- Two Kinds of Traffic
- Navigating the Brain
- It’s Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Toes Are? (Your Dog Does!)
- The Sport of Dog Training
- It’s Good for Old Dogs to Learn New Tricks
- Emotion Central
- We All Produce Our Own Reality Shows
- Through Your Nose Only
Fear, anger, and happiness each get covered thoroughly. I thought this would be a book to dip into, but I found that I gobbled it up in about a week, and now I can dip back in!
Highly recommended to anyone who likes to read and reflect on humans and dogs!
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