Reviews /

Dogs: Understanding your very Best Friend

Authored by Dr John Bradshaw
Illustrated by Clare Elsom
Published by Andersen Press

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Did you know that whilst humans mostly rely on sight to make sense of the world, dogs rely on their sense of smell?  In his new book Dogs: Understanding your very Best Friend, anthrozoologist (a scientist who studies animal-human interactions) Dr John Bradshaw unlocks some of the mysteries in the behaviour patterns of man’s best friend – the dog.  What are dogs trying to tell us with their demeanor and how can we best nurture our four-legged friends to make sure that they feel safe and secure?

Dogs: Understanding your very Best Friend tells the story of Rusty, the family pet who has been adopted from the local rescue centre.  The day-in-the-life-of, narrative format of this nonfiction book makes it accessible for readers to understand and digest chunks of complex, factual information.  Did you know, for instance, that humans have the same internal ‘smell detectors’ as dogs, however, as we have only 100 or so, dogs have over a million?  The author provides scientific facts within real-world contexts to bring the ideas to life for young readers. The lively illustrations by Clare Elsom also help to make new information accessible.

Whilst this book will be an instant hit for dog-loving readers, I feel that it would also benefit readers who are fearful or unsure of dogs.  My son, for instance, has a fear of dogs due to an encounter when he was younger.  I’m looking forward to sharing this book with him as knowledge is power.  Perhaps by helping to educate children about how to interact with dogs and also how to recognise behavioural signs of dogs feeling unsafe as outlined in the book (e.g. licking nose, yawning, blinking, panting, wide eyes or flat ears), we may help them to manage this fear.

A fascinating fact that I discovered in reading this book is how much dogs miss humans when they are left alone. The author also provides useful behaviour training tips and ideas for helping dogs to overcome these anxieties.  The practical nature of this text make it a valuable tool for dog-loving families and also for those who may want to adopt a family pet, but are feeling unsure.  Additionally, a springboard study into the work of the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) in the UK could help young readers be more aware of how to help our four-legged friends.

This non-fiction work for ages 9+ is a must-have for dog-lovers, but also for those who just want to learn a bit more about our canine friends.  What will you discover between the pages?