By: Jennifer Arnold
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 2010
Jennifer Arnold LOVES dogs – in fact, she’s quite passionate about them. Arnold has devoted her life to her canine friends and to helping people with disabilities find the perfect service dog through her organization Canine Assistants. Through those life experiences, she has written a book that examines how dogs see the world.
Arnold first gives an overview of her early life, the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at 16, how her father wanted to start a service dog organization to help her and others like her, and how that dream was finally realized years later when Arnold established Canine Assistants.
Arnold offers a fascinating look into the minds of dogs by examining many aspects of their unique qualities such as their language, personality, emotions, and play. Arnold quotes numerous studies throughout her book to support her arguments. Perhaps more useful, and interesting, are the abundance of examples from the real world. Arnold recounts stories from her twenty years of running Canine Assistants as well as her observations of friends, colleagues and even strangers, with their dogs to back up each premise. Many of the stories include Nick, a beautiful golden retriever and Arnold’s best friend for many years.
Many of the topics discussed will likely offer insight into your dog(s) and how they interact with you. I loved the chapter on “personality plus, ” particularly the part where the author talks about her brother Gary adopting “Babe” a loveable Jack Russell mix. Everybody loved that dog but Gary, who was quite stressed over the animal. Unable to figure out what was wrong, Arnold volunteered to keep Babe overnight. The next morning Arnold had the answer as she discovered Babe was an incredibly needy dog, following her every step, demanding to be on her lap or pet at all times. What I found amazing was that she was describing one of my dogs to a “T.” I suspect you’ll find examples that appear to be taken from your life/your dog(s) too. These stories really help to drive home the author’s hypothesis. Those, coupled with numerous scientific studies she quotes, will likely have you re-thinking your dog.
While I truly enjoyed Through A Dog's Eyes, and found the majority of dog stories fascinating, a few of them went a bit too far in anthropomorphizing dogs. For example, in exploring the intelligence of dogs, the author reports on a study at the University of Vienna in which two dogs were asked to give a paw to a researcher but only one was given a treat. It wasn’t long before the dog not getting a treat stopped cooperating. The study’s conclusion was that the second dog recognized the unfairness of not getting a treat and Arnold agreed with this premise.
I find it hard to believe that dogs have a sense of fairness and suspect that the second dog simply realized he wasn't being rewarded and stopped cooperating.
Through A Dog’s Eyes is not meant as a training book but rather as a look into the minds of dogs. Arnold does drop little snippets of her training philosophy (she abhors the current popularity of training through intimidation, teaching the owner to become the “alpha” of the pack and encourages training through “patience, understanding and kindness.”) There are several appendices in the back that provide brief overviews on topics such as behavioral problems, teaching specifics, and grooming that will give readers a peek at Arnold’s successful training methods.
Quill says: A fascinating look at the minds of our beloved canine friends from a woman who has dedicated her life to understanding, and loving, them.