Book review

The tail’s like a clock pendulum, and you know what that means.

Your dog needs something, and you’re going to get it for him because, after all, he makes you happy so you’ll return the favor any time. Only the best for your best friend, your baby, your fur kid, your helper — but how do you know when he’s finally happy? In “Wag” by Zazie Todd, you’ll see how science is not just for the Lab.

Treats, toys, food, and water. You make sure your dog is covered in those categories and all should be well. He has a nice place to sleep. He has windows to the outside world. What else could a dog want?

Fifty-five years ago, a U.K. firm developed a report called the “Five Freedoms” and though it originally applied to farm animals, Zazie Todd says that it’s a good list for dogs, too. It states that animals should have freedom from thirst and hunger, freedom from physical discomfort, freedom from illness, freedom from fear, and freedom to exhibit normal behavior. These might seem like simple things but, says Todd, science can help enhance whatever efforts you put forth to make them a reality.

Having a happy dog starts by getting the right dog for you. Though it’s tempting to gravitate toward dog-of-the-moment, ignore movie and pop culture influences. Be realistic about the dog you’re thinking about bringing home.

As for training, the first thing to know is that reward-based methods work better than do aversion methods. Make things fun for you and your dog and reward good behavior, rather than punishing the actions you don’t want; Todd herself uses Push Drop Stick rules to teach her two dogs.

By using science, you can help lessen (or even eliminate) fears that your dog might have. You’ll understand why play is essential for a pup’s well-being, and how to create a great relationship between dogs and kids. With science, you’ll know that your dog loves you. And when it’s time for the end of Doggo’s life, it can help you cope.

When you think of science, white coats and Bunsen burners probably come to mind, not squeaky toys and kibble. “Wag” changes all that, in a most delightful way.

At first brush, it might appear that this is just another book about canine behavior, but that’s not so. Author Zazie Todd adds her (human) social psychologist background to her training skills to look at things with a dog’s mind in mind, which leads to many AHA! moments for dog devotees who are up for a little experimentation. Even if this information’s been right in front of your muzzle all along, there are still fresh takeaways.

Some of those nuggets are buried, like juicy bones, inside Todd’s own experiences with her two dogs, her cats, and her family that loves them, and those bits will charm you. They serve as further teaching moments and glue to hold the scientific lessons together, all which helps to make “Wag” a pretty informative tail tale.

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