This was the first dog book I picked up in my year-long quest to learn about dogs and I am so glad it was.
After doing some preliminary online research on dog training, Pat Miller’s now classic treatise of positive reinforcement training kept getting a lot of buzz. Thankfully, my local library had a copy and I picked it up soon after reading yet another rave review of the book.
Miller’s basic mantra is that all animals repeat behaviors that are rewarded and avoid behaviors that are not. Punishment rarely achieves desired objectives when it comes to training an animal. Dogs seek to repeat behaviors that are positively reinforced. Quite simply, this is the entire belief system behind Miller’s training paradigm. Capture the behavior you want and then reward it. Attach a verbal cue after a few repetitions and Sparky is throwing sits at you right and left.
Even though I don’t yet have a dog of my own, I’ve spent a lot of time with dogs and trained my childhood Australian Shepherd from scratch back when I was a kid. I wish I’d had this book with me then! And I wish I had been more confident to confront my parents about their punishment/dominance-oriented methods of behavior control. Dogs don’t learn like humans. They don’t readily associate punishment with past behavior. This is why Miller stresses, again and again, the need to turn every desired behavior into an opportunity for positive reinforcement.
I took tons of notes while I was reading this book. I’m planning on putting Miller’s weekly training regimens into practice once we get our dog. She provides step-by-step instructions for teaching your dog each behavior and consistently provides advice for the dogs who aren’t perfectly mirroring these behaviors. I want to give a copy of this book to everyone in my life who has a dog or who is thinking about a dog.
One of the primary reasons I loved this book is that Miller has practical and scientific justification for her methods. Her techniques work and she explains why they do. Even though I like watching “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan isn’t very helpful to your average dog owner. He’s able to calm that psychotic Rottweiler with his “calm, assertive energy,” but what does that really mean for you on a daily basis? Miller is anything but esoteric. She gives you concrete, definite explanations for her methods, which in turn gives her readers a hearty dose of confidence.
My parents are talking about getting a dog once all of my siblings are out of the house. When the time comes, I’ll be mailing them a copy of this book!
For more information about Pat Miller and her programs, visit her excellent website, Peaceable Paws.