Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review of Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D

Patricia McConnell needs no introduction. She's the author of the seminal book "The Other End of the Leash" (which I feel should be mandatory reading for every dog owner). I've read dozens of books on dog training and behavior and I've also noticed that the most helpful ones are written by people who have a scientific background and formal education (McConnell has a Ph.D in Zoology and her research focused on interactions between animals and their trainers).

Feisty Fido - Help for the Leash Aggressive Dog, is one of a series of short booklets McConnell's publishing company designed to address very specific behaviorial issues and offer advice in a very succinct and easy to digest manner.

This booklet is designed to help you if your dog is suffering from fear-based aggression while on leash. This book won't be that helpful for other forms of aggression (food/resource guarding, handler aggression, etc.)

What I like most about this booklet is the fact that its written in a way that makes me feel like McConnell and London are talking to me directly. My favorite example is when they describe different training situations in increasing difficulty:

On the sidewalk, as Muffy sees a dog she is friendly with 25 yards away

On the sidewalk, as Muffy sees a dog a third of a block away that she's charged at before

Really Hard:
On a walk when two off leash dogs run up to your dog and try sniffing her while their owner grins from a block away saying "It's Okay! My dogs LOVE other dogs!"

The other strength of this booklet is that it is the best description of a classical counter conditioning program I've ever read. Even a novice dog handler could read this book and do a decent job of implementing the prescribed program.

The only shortcoming of this book is its brevity and where this book ends. By following the program you'll have a dog that is counter conditioned to look at you and avoid pulling towards other dogs while on leash. A side benefit of this program is your dog will heel really nicely too. That's plenty for most and when we got Duke to this level, we were able to enjoy walks again and take Duke all over the place. But if you want to go beyond that and have your dog meet and greet dogs on leash consistently, you'll need to look at Feisty Fido as the first step in a much longer program.

(You can buy the book (and support from on the sidebar to the right)

1 comment:

Kate and Rob said...

Dr. McConnell's update to that first edition, is on her blog :

I also found Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed" a handy resource for teaching your dog emotional control. Her exercises for other cues are invaluable as well. Clicker based rather than lure.

re: toys

re: other dogs