Don’t Shoot the Dog! – Review

Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training is much more than a training book for pets or animals. It is a book that will teach you how to change your own behavior, your children’s behavior, your pets behavior, or even a sea lion’s behavior.
This book came highly recommended to me, or I probably would never have picked it up. The title certainly makes it look like just a dog training book, and most of the examples do relate to animals. However, this quick read is also a goldmine of the two best kinds of information: valuable and practical.
The purpose of this book is to convince you that positive reinforcement is the best way to shape behavior. Chapter 2 lays out 10 Rules for Shaping. “Shaping consists of taking a very small tendency in the right direction and shifting it, one small step at a time, toward an ultimate goal.” (35) These rules can help you do a variety of things for yourself and others. The personal examples that the author lists through her experiences training marine animals and teaching students hold your attention and are varied enough to appeal to everyone. 
Chapter 4 lists the eight methods that you can use to change behavior (the first is Shoot The Dog). These methods are comprehensive and will help you think about how you react to everyone around you. Each of the eight methods include a chart detailing various problems and how to use each method to change them. The problems that are tackled include a dirty roommate, noisy kids on a car ride, lazy employees, a faulty tennis swing, a spouse’s bad mood, an ornery cat, and adult children that aren’t self-sufficient. Intensely practical problems . . . this chapter will change the way you think about raising your kids. Just being able to visually compare punishment with seven other methods of behavioral change is eye-opening. These eight methods were the highlight of the book for me and helped to shed light on how my reactions were reinforcing negative behavior in others. They are:
  1. Shoot the animal
  2. Punishment
  3. Negative Reinforcement
  4. Extinction
  5. Train an incompatible behavior
  6. Put the behavior on cue
  7. Shape the absence
  8. Change the motivation
The last two chapters detail more real world environments and how these lessons can be applied. The author also answers the objections raised by some that training is a form of brainwashing. She clearly lays out the facts in these chapters and shows that we are always training someone to do something. This book just helps us to be aware of how we are affecting others around us and what to do about it.
This book is highly recommended. It is one that I will refer back to repeatedly in the future.