Features June 1998 Issue

Corner Book Review

Mother Knows Best:
The Natural Way to Train Your Dog

By Carol Lea Benjamin
Published by Howell Book House
Hardcover, 256 pages, $22.95

Mother Knows Best takes a pack leader approach to dog management and training, comparing a trainer’s body language and physical corrections with observations on how mother dogs similarly train their puppies. Benjamin, a dog trainer, emphasizes the importance of social structure in a dog’s environment, and suggests that because mother is so successful a teacher in Nature, a training regimen that imitates this natural learning will also succeed in owner/dog relationships.

While there is some good information in the book, Benjamin considers only force-based methods to be useful. She scoffs at the use of food in training, which progressive trainers today are finding highly effective. But she ignores the danger of some force-based methods, such as a “collar shake” and face-to-face “assertive stare,” that can result in serious bites to the face when applied to a dominant or aggressive dog.

Don’t be fooled by the words “Mother” and “Nature” in the book’s title. There are far better books available, based on a true understanding of canine behavior, that can help owners train their dogs using humane, positive methods that will encourage a close emotional bond and relationship based on mutual respect, rather than threatening to destroy the trust that we treasure in our dogs.

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