Last night - while I was procrastinating on my work - I finished reading How to Speak Dog by Stanley Coren. My intention with reading the book was to learn more about dog behavior so I could better help my dogs. I was disappointed. The book talked a lot about what abilities the dogs have and how they communicate with each other. It told me how to greet a skittish dog and how to avoid being bit by an aggressive dog. It even told me how to not communicate with them. What it didn't do was tell me how to communicate back when they were struggling. Coren (2000) writes, "having your dog under full control is achieved by a combination of two factors. The dog must accept that you are the Alpha dog and the animal must want to please you" (p. 240). This is lovely advice. It did however leave me with the question of what do you do with a dog like Diva? A dog who really does march to it's own drum. Diva really does NOT want to please me. To be honest, I don't see that changing any time soon.
Coren also likened things like the Alpa roll to child abuse. Strong words. What he didn't do was provide advice of how to address dog aggression or communication problems. He provided some tips but they were minimal. This has left me feeling frustrated. Do I now have a good understanding of how dogs communicate? Yep. But I did before I read the book. I have learned to be very observant of my dogs. I watch them while they play. I watch them while we walk. I watch them when we are at rest. I've developed a very good understanding of who they are as dogs, what things are red flags, and am left with the missing piece of how I can help them be the best dogs they can possibly be.