For thousands of years, dogs have worked their magic on human beings. Winning us over with their unconditional love and loyalty, they have wagged their way into the psyche of millions. From their wild, wolf origins, dogs have morphed into master hunters, trackers, livestock guardians, herders, ratters, personal protectors, gladiators, lap warmers, and companions — all by human design.
And working in tandem with humans in the roles we created for them, dogs have become indispensable to human life in most advanced societies. Now that our dogs have earned a permanent place alongside us, living in our homes as family members, often sleeping in our beds, we need to take serious stock of what makes dogs tick. As much as dogs may be universally loved, many are maligned and done a great disservice because the humans in their lives don't' understand them. And that misunderstanding can make living with a dog a nightmare for dog-owners, and literally destroy dogs' lives.
Understanding how your dog thinks, why your dog does what he does, and accepting his limitations as well as embracing all his potential is vital to reaping the rewards that living with a dog can bring.
“Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide To Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior" by Kim Brophey
You may have tried every trick in the book, and your dog is still jumping on anyone who comes to your home, chewing up leather sofas, or begging for food under the dinner table. Just when you thought there is no way you will ever change your dog's behavior, along comes "Meet Your Dog: the Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog's Behavior" a ground-breaking new book by Kim Brophey, Applied Ethologist (study of animal behavior), award-winning Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Certified Dog Trainer, Family Dog Mediator™ and owner of the award-winning Dog Door Behavior Center in North Carolina. "Meet Your Dog" introduces us to Brophey's trademarked Dog L.E.G.S.® (Learning, Environment, Genetics, Self) system of canine science.
In a sea of dog-behavior-information overload, Brophey's new book provides a refreshing perspective and innovative new paradigm for understanding how our dogs think and behave. A dog owner's or prospective dog owner's dream guide, "Meet Your Dog" dispels countless myths about dogs that keep them entrenched in a netherworld where they must be subservient, one-dimensional, and a "good dog" who welcomes overtures from people and other dogs; the book promotes respect for a dog's personal space, which is key to healthy dog-human relationships.
Kim Brophey’s exclusive interview with Cuteness
Eloquent, thoughtful, profound, and powerful, "Meet Your Dog" underscores the author's deep respect for dogs as sentient beings at every turn, and fellow dog-lovers will truly be amazed by the wealth of information found within its pages. In an exclusive interview with Cuteness, Brophey said, "Once we recognize dogs for the beings that they are, like any other living being as it is, and accept that, we can move forward as we continue to learn more about them. Suffice it to say, they think and feel and experience as deeply as we do — albeit differently as dogs. They feel and learn and live no less than we."
And one of the most important precepts in the book is that "everyone needs to know that it is not only possible but far more effective to respond to your dog's undesirable behavior with consequences that simply render the behavior ineffective/useless/a dead-end than it is to raise your voice, your hands, or any other object towards them. Fear and pain are never a necessary evil in teaching."
Like people, dogs are products of their experiences and education (learning), and they are powerfully impacted by aspects of their external world (environment). To add to the complexity of dogs and therefore our struggle to understand them are their genetics — and 10 genetic groups are richly detailed in Brophey's book. And finally, a dog's individuality or unique interior world (self) is shaped by their health, sex, age, development, stress levels, disease, nutrition, disability, and personal idiosyncrasies. A good grasp of these four pillars of L.E.G.S.®, <aname="_hlk510443476"> </aname="_hlk510443476">and how each one affects your dog allows you to find the source of behavioral problems and make informed decisions about what you can do to help your dog, and get their "legs" working in harmony to create balance. When asked which element was the most important, Brophey told us that no one element is more important than the others. Working together, these four "dog legs" — learning, environment, genetics, and self — are "Nature's beautiful design."
Is dog training broken?
Dogs are complex, biological, sentient beings and yet somehow we think we can "train" them to be what we want them to be. We asked Brophey her thoughts on training, and she said, "The whole idea of 'dog training' is broken because it reduces the behavior of our dogs to something that we 'train.' We have this idea that dogs need to be programmed with the 'basic commands' and to learn to be 'obedient' and that all of this will occur during some brief hour a week or period of practice time during the day where we 'train' him, and put him through the paces of his drills so that he will remember his 'training.' It's so silly, really.
Dogs, like us, like any animal, are learning from life all the time. Every moment. Every day. For their entire life. The idea that we 'train' them or 'have them trained' in some compartmentalized period of time and then we are no longer responsible for being aware or responsive to our dog's constant learning throughout the rest of their day (including our own part in it and whether WE are behaving in ways that are actually teaching the dog to use behaviors that we continue to punish — accidentally rewarding behaviors we admonish him for doing) is totally outdated. We need a reality check.
We need to look at what is happening in their dog behavior as a dynamic process and relationship of which we have half the responsibility. We do have to lead the dance — as parents or managers of a sort — simply because we are asking the dog to function appropriately in a world he does not naturally understand."
Do dog parents expect too much from their dogs?
We asked Brophey why contemporary dog parents struggle with their dogs. Do we expect too much of them?
"There are so many reasons people are struggling to live with their dogs successfully for as many reasons as people are struggling to have healthy relationships in their lives. Because it is super complicated. But as the book explains, the whole 'pet' concept we have all been marketed to buy into has a lot to do with what so often leads us astray. They are 'other' and 'less than' us when that is what is most convenient to our 'pet' dog thinking such as; Why would a doggie mind being in a little crate for eight-hours-a-day or indoors in an apartment for 23 as long as he has all those little pet goodies like treats and chews to play with?
Never mind we ourselves would have a psychological break after a week of these conditions. They are 'fur-babies' and 'four-legged people' when that is the most enticing way to think about them. The market has conditioned us to think in the ways that make us the most primed to buy the products they are selling. We have to remember we have been duped a bit — conditioned. The pet industry needs a complete makeover, a profound market disruption. The cultural agreements we have about our dogs need to change. They are about to change."
The biggest takeaway from "Meet Your Dog"
Brophey hopes the biggest takeaway for anyone who reads her book is that "it is the 1-ton rock dropping into the pond that we all need to make some real waves and open up a new level of conversation about our canine companions. 'Meet Your Dog' introduces us to a new chapter for dogs and their people. It will answer a hundred questions that dog lovers have about their dog, and it will raise a thousand more for all of us. What I want people to get from this book is a cathartic wake-up call and reality check that will inspire and ignite dog lovers into new attitudes, practices, and market demands for the 'pet' dog world."