Susan Overfield,
Saturday Dogs ... & the owners they trained
(Muddy Creek, 2007)

In her introduction to Saturday Dogs, Susan Overfield points out that despite all the dog training manuals out there, dogs still don't read books. There are, she asserts, two things to keep in mind when training a dog: the changes that humans have made to the environment -- changes that humans have adapted to, but dogs haven't -- and the reactions of each individual dog. Dogs, she says, still think and react much the way they have always done for thousands of years, and humans must understand this if they intend to work with dogs.

On her website, Overfield makes a distinction between dog trainers, people who use intimidation and/or treats to get dogs to do what they want, and dog handlers, people who understand dogs, dog behavior and dog pack dynamics, and can work with dogs in a way that the dogs understand intimately and immediately.

Overfield is the latter, and it is that knowledge and understanding she brings to training -- that you need to train the human owner to understand what the dog needs and wants as much as you need to train the dog to understand what the human owner is asking of it. Saturday Dogs isn't a classic dog-training manual. Rather, it's a book about the method Overfield uses to help owners understand and work with their problem dogs. Each chapter tells the story of one dog (or pack of dogs) and owner, and how Overfield helped them become a well-adjusted team. The chapter then goes on to analyze the problem or problems that the dog and owner were having, as well as to answer a question on a similar topic, presenting a bit of theory and psychology.

While many training manuals are dust-dry and boring, Overfield's writing is engaging and funny; she has a knack for story-telling. Her behavioral analyses and explanations are presented in a clear, straightforward manner, while her disapproval of traditional methods is often obvious and sometimes forceful. I would absolutely recommend her book to dog owners before they tried a traditional training manual or obedience class; even if they then moved on to manuals or classes, they'd do it with a better handle on how dogs think and feel.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Laurie Thayer

13 September 2008

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