Help for Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears, by Nicole Wilde.
I forget how it happened, but in a little internet serendipity a few weeks ago I found myself at Nicole Wilde’s blog. I read around for a while, and thought, “I like her. I wonder if she wrote a book?”
Not only did she write a book, it turned out, but she wrote a book on kind of my pet topic. And my, what a book it is.
I’ll go ahead and get my niggle out of the way first: one of the first things Wilde recommends is that you “establish a firm foundation for your dog” by “becoming a good leader.” If your dog has to ask for permission to do anything he wants, he will understand his place in the world, see you as a benevolent leader, and magically become less anxious. Cue my NILIF groan.
Otherwise, this book is very, very good. (And I do think anxious dogs need structure; I just have a long list of gripes about strict NILIF as a panacea.)
In fact, for the casual reader, this book may be too good. I read the Kindle version, but the print copy is listed at a hefty 432 pages. All this room lets Wilde take a three-pronged approach. First, she outlines the causes of fear in dogs and some basic strategies, from a veterinary exam to some training cues, that you should undertake as a foundation for the rest of the book. Wilde also takes the time to discuss things like body language and the various appearances of fear in dogs.
The second section contains specific treatment plans for a variety of fears. What I loved about this is that she really does cover all of the biggies. Noises, people, dogs, thunder, grooming, riding in the car. I haven’t seen another book that is so comprehensive. She does make the standard counter-conditioning assumptions that you have both a dog who will take treats in stressful situations and an endless variety of friends and dogs to help you. I found it less obnoxious here than I have elsewhere, for some reason. If your dog has a specific fear, and you struggle to generalize counterconditioning advice to that situation, you should check to see if Wilde covers it.
The third section was the most interesting for me. Here Wilde details all those touchy-feely helps for fear like massage, T-touch, compression wraps, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and even acupuncture. There’s also a short section about conventional medications. While the information is mostly intended as a primer and a basis for further research, it was, again, impressive in the breadth of coverage. You can’t do more research about a remedy if you don’t know it exists.
This is not a great book for an average dog owner. The last book I posted would probably be better for someone who isn’t really interested in all the details. It isn’t that Wilde gets bogged down in esoteric details. The book itself is quite readable. It’s just that it is a big book. Also, I could easily see an unsympathetic reader getting to something like Wilde’s discussion of homeopathic medicine, disagreeing with her, and then discounting the rest of the book. “If she believes that, she must be a quack about all the other stuff, too.”
Bottom line: I liked it.