Book Review: The Evolution of Charlie Darwin by Beth Duman

The Evolution of Charlie Darwin
The Evolution of Charlie Darwin

Published by Earth Voices Publishing, 2011

191 Pages

“Do you want to learn to train your dog using the gentlest dog-friendly methods but you get overwhelmed reading long, complicated training books? If so, this book is for you!”

The Evolution of Charlie Darwin is part dog ownership manual, part chronicle of the the adoption of a rescue dog. The author, Beth Duman is a well known animal trainer – most recently she lectured at the 2011 APDT conference, and is a core dog trainer with Dog Scouts of America, CPDT certified, and is a Victoria Stillwell Positively trainer. Charlie Darwin is her rescue dog and this book chronicles the first year of his life with her, organized around a large collection of training articles.

I’m going to start this review by posing a question to you, assuming you are a fairly knowledgeable dog owner that understands how clicker training works, why we shouldn’t use force and intimidation with our dogs, and have a good general understanding of the science behind how we interact with our dogs.

Have you ever discovered that a friend or family member is getting a new dog, for the first time? What went through your mind when you first found out?

If you’re like me, I hope they ask me for some pointers – perhaps recommendations for good books, finding a great puppy school, develop a love of training their dog, etc.

My worst fear, and what makes my stomach turn, is when I find out later they didn’t take their puppy to puppy socialization classes, or took their dog to a yank and crank or dominance theory trainer, and have been leash popping and tsssting their dog just like “that guy” on TV does. And, it happens. I have friends on Facebook that post videos of going to dog training classes where dogs are tethered to them as they wrap them around poles and trees. It absolutely breaks my heart.

That’s how a book like this can help. It covers a lot of ground – on topics as important and as varied as bringing a new rescue home, how to introduce them to your other pets, crating and confinement, long-lines, socialization, recall, polite greetings, loose leash walking, desensitization to handling, shaping go-to-mat … a LOT of topics. Each topic gets a short two to three page treatment – enough detail for the lesson to be understood, but not so much as to bore anyone. It is really like a collection of useful articles that if you could have eight hours in a quiet room with your friend, you’d go through with them (who does!).

Along the way, Duman includes excerpts from her own training journal with Charlie Darwin, where she writes about her own frustrations with two of his most naughty habits – running off with stolen objects, and fence jumping. We get a glimpse into the thought process of an experienced positive reinforcement trainer about how to address behaviors in her own dog – without using force or intimidation.

While there is content specifically for new puppies, this book shines as a guidebook and reference manual for those with new adolescent or adult rescues – just like Charlie Darwin.

Although primarily written for new dog owners, or those unfamiliar with positive reinforcement training, experienced dog trainers can get a lot out of this book as well. In many ways the book can be looked upon as a checklist of important topics to cover in private consults, group classes, and lectures.

This week, it’s featured on and 30% off, so pick up a copy for yourself, and consider it a book to get for friends and family that are getting a new dog and need that first solid reference manual on their journey.

What I liked:

  • It is a solid collection of training articles covering possibly every topic that a new dog owner should know
  • Each article is detailed enough to make sense and benefit the reader and their dog
  • It can be read in any order, so it is very much a reference manual, which makes it very useful for time-pressed people

Some considerations:

  • It’s best suited for those with a new adolescent or adult rescue. A puppy owner (8 weeks old) would benefit from this book in conjunction with a puppy-specific book as well.

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