Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Review: Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier

Title: Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening our Relationships with Dogs
Author: Suzanne Clothier
Year published: 2005

I've read a lot of dog books and I think this book is one of the best. Clothier writes in a way that I find it very easy to connect to.

Ultimately, this book is the complete opposite of the one I read by Cesar Millan. The basis of the book is respect, love, compassion, and understanding. Clothier draws on her experiences with her own dogs and with her client's dogs to tell stories that illustrate each of her very well- explained points.

I think the main point of the book, what the book was trying to tell the reader from the beginning and through to the end, came on page 222 with one simple phrase: See the dog. It's something Clothier points out a lot of people don't actually see. They see something that has to be pushed down and dominated. They see a human in fur clothing. They see a bundle of unconditional love. But they don't actually look at and see the dog itself, the dog as a dog. And through that, a lot of miscommunication happens.

She also focuses on dogs as spiritual beings and believes that we can learn a lot from them, from the way they interact, from their body language. At one point she tells a story about a friend who got angry at her and was berating her, shouting at her, and how she wanted to walk away, shout back, get angry back. And then she stopped, imagined her as a dog snapping at her and growling, and realized that a lot of her friend's behavior was based around fear. And she stopped, listened compassionately, and allowed her friend to relax. A lot of people get irritated when people compare animals to humans, but I think the way Clothier does it works really well.

I've read a lot of dog books, read a lot of dog websites, and one thing that has always confused me is the amount of behaviorists and writers who disagree with the alpha/pack theory of dogs but at the same time talk about being a leader. I never could quite figure out how to reconcile the two and it's something I've been struggling with. Clothier, finally, seems to manage to do it and do it well. Again, she compared leadership in a dog/human relationship to leadership in a child/parent relationship. You have to be the leader with your children. You have to give them rules and boundaries. You have to pull them away from things that are bad for them. But at the same time you have to be benevolent, always showing them the way and correcting them when they're wrong without getting angry and lashing out. And in this same way, you should be the benevolent leader for your dog(s). Kindness and compassion mixed with rules and boundaries. Too little of one or the other and your relationship with your dog will suffer, not because the dog is going to then become the leader and the dominant one, but because the dog doesn't know how it fits in, what's expected of it.

And one final point about this book, and it was something I really liked. When you read a lot about these various trainers and their relationship with their dogs, you always have the impression that they do all the right things, that their dogs are great because the trainers know what to do, that they never make the mistakes a lot of us do. Clothier very carefully shows some situations in which she acted all too human with her dogs, where she got angry with them and acted out in that anger. She tells the story of Badger, a dog whose owner could not control him and who she agreed to take in. One night, shortly after he arrived, she got up to let the dogs out and when she came back, he was sprawled on her bed. She wanted him off, in his crate, and he wouldn't go no matter how much she cajoled him. She grabbed him by the collar, which results in his showing his teeth, and then, in an all too human move of frustration and anger with a dog, she smacked him on the muzzle. Soon after she realized how blinded with rage she was and calms down and things resort to normal. But the point she made here was that we all make mistakes, no matter how much training and knowledge we have. We're all human and all prone to the same human mistakes. While it's sad to read of someone smacking their dog, it's comforting to hear we all do make mistakes and we can recover from them.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about their relationship with their dogs.

Buy Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier

Check out Suzanne Clothier's blog here.

No comments:

Post a Comment