To celebrate the launch of Canine Behaviour in Mind, we asked the editor Suzanne Rogers a few questions about the book. In the interview below, Suzanne discusses how the book is different from other dog behaviour books, the target audience, the benefits of the book and the current challenges in dog and animal welfare.
- You had previously edited and published the successful Equine Behaviour in Mind– how has that influenced this new book and are there links between the two?
We got quite a lot of feedback that what resonated with people who read Equine Behaviour in Mind was that it didn’t judge many of the common elements of equestrianism but that after reading the book they realised that many of the things we do ‘to’ horses is potentially harmful to them. We have tried to capture that same spirit in Canine Behaviour in Mind – to celebrate the positive initiatives aiming to improve the welfare of dogs and to encourage people to have ‘behaviour in mind’ throughout every aspect of how they interact with dogs.
Also, like Equine Behaviour in Mind, this book has been written by an impressive group of people. When I started to think about the content, I drew up a ‘dream’ list of contributors, thinking I’d be lucky if any of them agreed, but they all agreed! As well as being such knowledgeable experts, they are also really lovely people who couldn’t be more passionate about dogs. It was such a privilege to work beside them to make this book happen.
- How is Canine Behaviour in Mind different than other dog behaviour books?
The desire to understand canine behaviour is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Although books on canine behaviour are available, they tend to approach the subject from a theoretical angle and then include practical examples, or they focus on training. This proposed book has a different approach and because it is written by several authors, with lots of case studies too, each subject is really brought to life.
The world needs more books that are based on science and advocate compassionate approaches to dog training and behaviour because dogs are so misunderstood. It has become so utterly normalised in society to treat dogs in ways that frightens them, that people can’t recognise fear and anxiety in dogs. There are some fantastic books out there, but for every book that contains ‘good’ information, there are many that perpetuate harmful norms and myths about canine behaviour. Therefore, even if this book wasn’t different to other books, there would be a place for it as we need to redress the balance.
- What is your target audience and what are the benefits of the book to them?
Everyone who likes dogs! We have tried to make it accessible and of interest to dog owners and professionals alike. I think the chapter on rescue centres by Steve Goward is really special, I’d love dog rescues all over the world to read it! I also love all the practical tips for how to look after elderly dogs, as they are often just treated in the same way all their adult lives but need some changes as they get older. I now want to highlight each chapter in turn but will encourage people to read it for themselves.
In recent years there has been a move towards more ‘positive’ ways of training dogs. This development has been associated with prime-time TV features on training and behaviour modification. The field of dog training has become fragmented, with owners choosing between training methods and teachers, each of who often have a significant ‘brand’ and training systems that they sell and promote. This breaking up of the market of dog owners has meant that books focussed on training have an ever-decreasing audience as owners turn to one big name or system. By steering clear of promoting any single method or trainer and covering elements of dog behaviour written by respected authors and ensuring the content is wider than training, this book hopes to be of interest to owners across disciplines and chosen training approaches.
- What are the current challenges in dog and animal welfare and how have they been addressed in this book?
One of the key challenges in animal welfare is that so many people don’t recognise when their pets, horses or other animals in our society are struggling to cope with elements of everyday life. Even though most pet dogs are deeply loved, every single day I see dogs that are anxious and fearful of things they encounter regularly, and that is so sad. This book is full to the brim of not only incredibly useful information but also practical tips that will make a real difference to the lives of dogs.
- What are your thoughts on the future of dog and animal welfare in general?
That’s such a big question. Regarding animal welfare, there are ‘forces’ perpetuating welfare compromise and working to further reduce animal welfare, and opposite forces working to improve animal welfare. I believe the key to tipping that balance towards improved animal welfare is applying the science of human behaviour change to change the way we interact with and think about animals. There is a chapter about this human element of dog welfare in the book!
I’d love to see a future where the Five Domains model of welfare is truly embedded in society’s understanding of animal welfare so that dogs and other animals can ‘thrive, not just survive’.
I am generally positive about the future as the field of animal welfare science gains momentum. This is also increasingly being reflected in policy and law. I think we all have a role to play in making the improvements come as quickly as possible – from the way we look after our own dogs and other pets, to the way we talk to our children and young people about animals, to using our influence (e.g., through social media) to increase the visibility of good information – we can all work towards a world that has animal behaviour in mind.