Things Your Dog Wants You To Know – Dog Training With Dognitive Therapy

dog training guide - Things Your Dog Wants You To Know cover imageThings Your Dog Wants You To Know by Laura Vissaritis
Penguin RRP:$19.99AUD 

There are plenty of different schools of thought when it comes to dog training. I know you shouldn’t compare it to raising children, but there are definite similarities! The basic aim is to provide boundaries, encourage rules and discipline and offer the right variety of physical and mental stimulation. The way you reach those goals varies tremendously from family to family.

Laura Vissaritis is an experienced dog behaviourist who believes the key to creating a healthy, happy dog (and owner) is learning to understand behaviours from the dog’s point of view. Things Your Dog Wants You To Know is the doggy equivalent of a modern parenting guide, where indiscriminate punishment is viewed as far less effective than talking to your dog on their level.

According to Laura, physical punishments produce nothing but fear and while food treats have their place, intrinsic rewards are better. You must earn your dog’s respect rather than merely ordering it around if you want long term loyalty and good mental health (yours and theirs!).

Packed with super cute photography by Alex Cearns, this guide to ‘Dognitive Therapy’ (yes, seriously) is an at-a-glance guide to common canine conundrums like digging, barking or not playing nicely with others. The size of a paperback with the look of a picture book, it will be attractive to readers of all ages. The dog psychology theories it reveals are evidence-based, the problem-solving advice is practical and break out boxes contain bite-sized quotes to help the messages sink in.

“If you want a smart dog, you’ve got to be a smart owner,” says the cover blurb. So, again, much like parenting, the onus is on YOU to get it right, no matter what breed or temperament you’re dealing with.

If you want a smart dog, you’ve got to be a smart owner

Critics of this approach might find it a bit warm and fuzzy, especially if you’re of the old school belief that dogs should be seen but not heard. It should be noted though, that Vissaritis is not advocating treating (or mollycoddling) your dog as though they’re a mini-person; quite the opposite, in fact. Arguably, it’s when we do treat our dogs like people that we get the training wrong. There’s no point shouting orders at someone that can’t speak your language!

Personally, I love the idea that my dog may indeed experience his own ‘black dog’. Perhaps he has down days; thoughts and moods and beliefs based on his life experiences to date? It kind of makes sense.

Here’s my black dog….

dog training family dog


His name is Santo. The name was given to him by the shelter that rescued him on Christmas Eve. They thought Santa was inappropriate given his colouring, so he got Santo instead. I like to think it gives him a touch of Euro mystique. He’s the anti-Santa – deep and enigmatic. If he could wear a skivvy and write puppy haiku he totally would.

I, misunderstood

wide eyed but smarter than you

just throw the damn ball.

When it comes to dog training, our guy is pretty well behaved, but we do still struggle with a few things like jumping up on visitors (he loves to entertain…) and pulling on the lead (so much world to see!). I’m looking forward to working with this guide to see what I can learn about my dog, rather than just what I can teach him to do.

What are your thoughts on Dognitive Therapy? What dog training approach has worked for you?




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