Think Dog: An owner’s guide to canine psychology (revised edition)


Think Dog: An owner’s guide to canine psychology (revised edition)
John Fisher (Octopus Publishing 2012) ISBN 978 1 84403 709 4


For anyone considering a career in dog behaviour or for the pet dog owner, this book is  a ‘must read’.  Written in plain English it is an excellent resource for both owners and students.

John fisher was one of the forerunners in understanding canine psychology in the early 1990’s and was a mentor to a great many trainers, myself included.

His wit and wisdom was not restricted to the classroom (I use the word ‘classroom’ loosely) and it is what makes this book so easy to read.  The humour with which he regales some case histories will leave you wondering if they can actually be true, and after many years in the training and behaviour field, trust me – they can!!

John’s ‘living room’ manner of explaining to owners why their dogs behave in a certain way and what can be done to help, is explained in a gentle and guilt-free way, with no physical or mental stress to the dog.  After all, everyone wants to do the best for their dogs and the explanations in his book make everyone feel more at ease about what to do.  He explains to both owners and students how the world appears from a dog’s point of view.

Although he wrote his original book using pack theory, several years later he openly stated that it was incorrect and an inappropriate way to work with dogs.  During his revision of Think Dog he tragically died unexpectedly, leaving a gaping hole in the dog world.

The revision was completed using his own notes.

Review by Angela Pitman MAPDT MIACE, Member of ICB


The Midnight Dog Walkers: positive training and practical advice for living with reactive and aggressive dogs


The Midnight Dog Walkers: positive training and practical advice for living with reactive and aggressive dogs
Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA ISBN (i-5 Publishing, 2016)  978 1 62187 1163

This book proved to be a very interesting read.  The author writes openly and from first-hand experience of owning a reactive dog, one that sadly was ultimately beyond behaviour modification. It is this type of personal experience that makes reading Annie’s book so compelling; her writing speaks with the emotion and understanding that only comes from someone who has actually walked in the shoes of the reactive dog owner.

There are still pictures throughout the book with accompanying short descriptions of the canine communication signals displayed, perhaps planting a seed of interest to readers who may be encouraged to further investigate canine communication signals in more depth.

The author uses clear, uncomplicated language throughout the book, and provides the reader with a basic overview of the work of a few pioneering scientists such as Panksepp and Pavlov. She explores the development of canine behavioural problems and discusses how the environment influences canine behaviour from the time of conception throughout the life of the animal, and also how genetics play a very important role in this mix too.

Annie goes to great length to make it clear that inappropriate training methods are also very damaging, and she admits to using these inappropriate methods before she educated herself to know better. There is great emphasis put upon the detrimental results that are apparent when dogs have been mistreated as a result of the use of aversive training methods and tools, these tools being responsible for escalated aggression, fearfulness and the loss of trust, resulting in the breakdown of the human-dog relationship.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and found Annie’s candid, heartfelt writing style very engaging. This book is a well-constructed piece of work, especially useful for readers who are struggling to understand the reason for their own dog’s reactive behaviour. I would also like to think that this book would provide enlightenment to those dog owners who have not yet experienced the anguish and worry that comes with trying to cope with owning a reactive dog, an insight which may hopefully help to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by such a dog owner, encouraging greater empathy and a less judgmental approach from those who aren’t in the process of attempting to manage a dog who has behavioural issues.

Review by Mair Franklin, ADip.CBM, Member of ICB


The Human Half of Dog Training

The Human Half of Dog Training
Risë Van Fleet   (Dogwise  Publishing 2013) ISBN 978 1 6178 103 6

Although this book has ‘Training’ rather than ‘Behaviour’ in the title, it is extremely beneficial to anyone working with clients, in whatever field.  Risë Van Fleet  clearly explains the many barriers that are put up by owners, whether intentionally or not.

She addresses some important questions: Can you get all the family members on board to help the dog? Do any of the family members have their own set ways of working with the dog? Have they been influenced by TV celebrities? (That would make me a heart surgeon as I have watched every episode of a long running hospital series!) Are you seeing no improvement each time you return? There could be personal issues which are overriding the work you have advised and Risë will cover a vast range of reasons for a client’s resistance or training delays.

How to work with children, adolescents, different personalities from the very shy to the downright rude is discussed.  Could these personalities and traits be hiding something else, say a lack of confidence – do they secretly feel a failure with their dog?  Risë will explain the value of patience, empathy and a good listening ear.

A most valuable book for your library and one you will pick up frequently.

Review by Angela Pitman MAPDT, MIACE, Member of ICB

The Fast Track ‘Dog Survival Kit’: Coping with Adolescence and Beyond


The Fast Track ‘Dog Survival Kit’: Coping with Adolescence and Beyond
Lyn Fleet and Helen Roberts (Dogwise  Publishing 2004) ISBN ISBN: 0 9546845 1 6

What a great little book! Packed full of information for dog owners, sound advice and humour, this book is a must read for owners who wish to understand more about their dogs, how to deal with the challenges of dog ownership and make important decisions that will affect their dog’s future health and wellbeing. It dispels common myths about dominance, explains breed-specific behaviour, looks at how dogs learn, discusses diet, aggression and other ‘problem’ behaviours, and gives good information about how to tackle common issues such as barking. It has a useful chapter on how dogs communicate.

Lyn and Helen have covered almost all the things you need to consider when owning a dog in an easy-to-read guide that should be on the shelf of every dog owner.


Review by Kate Mallatratt Ad.Dip CBM, Member of ICB

The Fast Track ‘Puppy Survival Kit’: Coping with the ‘Joys’ of Puppyhood!


The Fast Track ‘Puppy Survival Kit’: Coping with the ‘Joys’ of Puppyhood!
Lyn Fleet and Helen Roberts (Dogwise  Publishing 2004) ISBN ISBN: 0 9546845 0 8

I only wish I had this book when I had my puppy 14 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of trouble, and given me a good laugh as well.

This book is a must for new puppy owners.  It takes you through each daunting stage of puppy ownership when each owner thinks that they have acquired a demon rather than a cute little puppy. Read more …

Review by Sue Lefevre G.Dip CBM, MICB, Member of ICB

The Fast Track ‘Puppy Survival Kit’ is a fabulous book for all puppy owners! Lyn Fleet and Helen Roberts dispel some common myths about puppy training and give excellent no-nonsense advice on how to bring up a well-adjusted puppy. They cover all the essential foundation skills that you, the owner, will need to understand in order to bring up a well-adjusted puppy. The book covers topics such as how to settle a puppy in his new home, dealing with common challenges such as chewing and his all-important socialisation and habituation.

The book is short enough to be read in one sitting and is packed full of information and useful tips offering sensible solutions to many puppy challenges. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is buying a puppy.

Review by Kate Mallatratt Ad.Dip CBM, Member of ICB


Plenty in Life is Free: Reflections on Dog, Training and Finding Grace


Plenty in Life is Free: Reflections on Dog, Training and Finding Grace by Kathy Sdao (2012) ISBN 978 1617810 64 0

I was asked to do a book review of around five to six hundred words on a behaviour book of my choice. The book I chose was “Plenty in Life is Free” by Kathy Sdao, however I cannot fully give this book justice with such a small word count. Wow, just wow!  What an amazing book!  Not only is this book helpful for canine professionals but also first and long term dog owners.

This book is based on the rank reduction programme “Nothing in Life is Free,” which means our dogs must offer us a behaviour before they are allowed, food, water, attention or affection. As a force free dog trainer and behaviourist this is not a method I use within my behaviour programmes, hence why I found this book so fascinating. Kathy talks about rewarding our dogs when they offer us something we want or they look cute rather than “issuing orders”. She explains that reinforcing our dogs being re being “good” creates a flow of information between dog and owner, resulting in successful animal training.

I will forever look at the letters SMART in a completely different sense from setting targets in annual appraisals, to See Mark And Reward Training. Instead of asking our dogs to “do this now” we are giving them back a choice that says, “if you offer this behaviour you will then get rewarded”. Dog training is not only what you can see and ask for but how we can set our dogs up to achieve training success by having a choice. A dog that is rewarded with something fun and exciting will choose to repeat this behaviour again in the future. By reinforcing behaviours we like we are less likely to reinforce behaviours we don’t like.

Kathy explained we would need an idea of what we would like to SMART train so we have a visual of what we are reinforcing. The following are my four behaviours:

  1. No barking when people pass the window
  2. Going to bed when people are eating
  3. Staying in the car until the lead is clipped on the collar
  4. Greeting people with four feet on the floor

These are behaviours that I will continue to reinforce with the SMART x 50 method Kathy recommends in her book. The SMART x 50 technique is a method Kathy started in her training sessions, where owners put 50 treats into a pot daily. During the day the owner can reward their dog when they offer something “good” or “cute”. Therefore straight away the owner is using positive reinforcement training allowing their dog the choice of offering behaviours that will get rewarded and not asking their dog to do this or do that.

The following two amazing sections of information have inspired me from this book and I will continue to use them during my training journey and I hope others will too.

Firstly, if you think you have a “naughty dog” ask yourself:

  • Do I have a dog that is a working dog with no job?
  • Do I have a social dog without enough companionship?
  • Do I have a clever dog without enough mental stimulation?
  • Do I have a hyper dog without enough exercise?

Secondly, instead of using the terms hierarchy or anarchy opt for heterarchy when applied to dog training. It means there is a flow of information  and reinforcement (ie communication) back and forth between human and dog. It encourages moving, behaving and living rather than withdrawing, avoiding and submitting.

Thank you Kathy Sdao for such an inspirational book.

Review by Nikki Caddick, RVN, A1, MBVNA, FdSc, PPG, member of ICB


Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (4th edition)

Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (4th edition)
by Arthur S Reber, Rhianon Allen and Emily S Reber (Penguin Group 2009) ISBN 978 0 141 03024 1

This is a dictionary I frequently find myself dipping into.  It offers fuller explanations than a regular Oxford English dictionary, for those times when a more detailed word or phrase meaning is needed but not the full understanding of an in-depth article.  This dictionary is a great ‘half-way house’.

It covers most of the terms I look up but occasionally I find something missing and I would like to see it expanded in the future.  Nevertheless this dictionary provides some excellent definitions that will help any student with their studies or professional, and I highly recommend it has a place on your bookshelf.  I wouldn’t be without my copy!

Review by Kate Mallatratt, Ad Dip CBM, PPG, Member of ICB

Ninja Writing

Ninja Writing

Shani Raja, Journalist.

“Shani Raja teaches top journalists how to improve their writing and has written and edited for some of the world’s biggest news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Financial Times and Bloomberg News. Shani has also taught advanced writing skills to professionals and edited for leading global companies from Microsoft and IBM to PwC. He also teaches journalism to undergraduates.”  Ref:

As behaviourists, writing good reports is an important part of our job and reflects our professionalism and our personality.  Writing clear and concise client and veterinarian reports requires practice and skill, and I found this course, taught by journalism lecturer Shani Raja, a useful insight into how to improve my written communication.  The course consists of a number of bite-sized lectures focussing on four key themes: narrative, paragraph, sentences and words.

I would highly recommend it for anyone wishing to improve their written communication, not only for client reports but for articles, blogs and use in every day life.  Further details can be found at:

Review by Kate Mallatratt, Ad Dip CMB, PPG, Member of ICB


How to be your dog’s super hero: Transform your dastardly dog using the power of play

How to be your dog’s super hero: Transform your dastardly dog using the power of play
by Dominic Hodgson
(Elite Publishing Academy 2016) ISBN 978 1 910090 65 7

Thumbs up to Dominic Hodgson for creating a very endearing, comical and down-to-earth book for real dog owners. This well written book had me laughing out loud at the author’s funny fables.  He humorously admits that he’s made most of the same mistakes with his dogs that many of his readers may currently be making. It’s refreshing to read such honesty and I believe Dominic’s empathy with the reader stems from his experience of many of the issues that his readers might be struggling with, making the book so much more relevant to the reader.

The author issues a warning that this book isn’t suitable for “sensitive snowflakes” because he uses quite colourful language in places, so if you’re easily offended by the odd expletive, then this book probably isn’t for you!

I like Dominic’s emphasis upon building a strong bond between owner and dog.  He clearly explains simple strategies to encourage a dog to view its owner in a different, more engaging way. He guides the reader to think about the types of activity, food treats and objects that are the most rewarding for their own dog, and suggests that lists can be compiled to clarify what specifically makes their individual dog tick. Armed with a list of the top five things their dogs enjoy (such as top five toys, top five places to be touched and top five food treats) the owner is empowered with a plethora of tools to use, effectively boosting their ability to encourage and reward the type of desirable behaviour that most owners would love to achieve with their dogs.

I would recommend this book as a highly enjoyable, entertaining and easy-to-follow read for dog owners who are seeking to build a fantastic, fun relationship with their canine companion.

Review by Mair Franklin, Ad Dip CBM, Member of ICB


Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs

Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs
by Jonathan Self (The Mammoth Publishing Company 2012) ISBN 978 0 957 0753 0 6

This is an excellent plain-English book for anyone wishing to learn more about raw feeding. Filled with useful facts, it explains what dogs eat in the wild, how to switch to raw feeding with ease and its associated health benefits. The book also discusses a number of common ailments and has a useful “Other Sources of Information” chapter for those wishing to delve into raw feeding in greater depth.

Recommended reading for both owners considering a switch to raw feeding and the more experienced raw feeder, this is a useful addition to any dog-lover’s library.

Review by Kate Mallatratt, Ad Dip CBM, PPG,


Home Alone – and Happy!

Home Alone – and Happy!
Kate Mallatratt (Hubble & Hattie 2016) ISBN 978 1 845848 61 3

Home alone and happy
Prevention is better than cure.  This is a quote that we have all heard, and this book is excellent at looking at how separation anxiety in dogs can help be prevented before it becomes problematic and distressing for both the owner and especially the dog.
Home Alone – and Happy! explains what separation anxiety is and the signs to look out for. Not only does the book give great ways to help your dog be comfortable on their own, it also tells you why these techniques help. It encourages the reader to think from the dog’s point of view. Home alone – and Happy! provides evaluation worksheets and an assessment worksheet for owners to fill in, which are very easy to use and helpful.

book helps the owner with different techniques and explains how to implement them in small steps that are easy to follow. Not only does Kate beautifully explain the techniques, she also tells you why these different techniques will help, using science and scientific research, in a reader-friendly way that certainly won’t overwhelm the average dog owner and will help them understand the process.

This book is beautifully illustrated and easy to understand, and I would recommend Home Alone – and Happy! to anybody who is thinking of getting a dog, whether a puppy or a rescue, or who wants to enrich their existing dog’s home-alone time.

Review by Sue Lefevre G.Dip ABM, MICB, Member of ICB

Home Alone – and Happy is a book which every new dog owner should put on his MUST HAVE reading list. It is clearly laid out and beautifully illustrated. A pleasure to pick up and read.
Kate approaches the subject of preventing separation anxiety with an in depth knowledge of how the dog feels and thinks when left to cope on his own. She explains what action to take in easy to follow steps and in clear language. Her knowledge is based on scientific research but makes easy reading.

This book offers charts and work sheets to fill in by the owner to record the dog’s progress and behaviour when being prepared for Home Alone – and Happy time.

The owner will know and understand what to do as Kate gives clear reasons for her programme and the dog will quickly learn to become independent and cope on his own.

The book is not only for little puppies but also for rescue dogs who already show signs of anxiety when owners have to go out and leave the dog behind. It is clearly explained how to progress step by step without rushing the process and experiencing setbacks. Every owner who has read this book will understand the dog’s body language from showing anxiety to being relaxed and it therefore makes it easy to follow Kate’s advice to help the dog cope.

I can strongly recommend this book for its scientifically based advice presented in easy to read language as well as the ability by the author to express her deep understanding of dogs.

Reviewed by Brigitte Barton, A.Dip.CBM, FISAP, Member of ICB

problematic and distressing for both the owner and especially the dog.

Dog food logic

Dog Food Logic: Making smart decisions for your dog in an age of too many choices
Linda P. Case, M.S. (Doggies Publishing, 2014) ISBN 978 1 61781 138 8

Dog food logic
The best food to feed your dog is a very widely debated topic at the moment, and finding a fact-based, unbiased book has been quite difficult – until now.

This book tells you how to read and understand what is in your dog’s food and how to calculate what your dog needs based on his activity level. It explains the ploys and tactics of the marketing world – well, it is their job to sell you their product!

After reading this book I became aware of how easy it is for me to be swayed by product testimonials and anecdotes rather than looking at scientific studies and facts, and how easy it is to misinterpret what is in a particular food.

All in all I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in canine nutrition who wants an informative, objective and unbiased view.

Review by Sue Lefevre G.Dip ABM, MICB, Member of ICB