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.

Book Review: When Pigs Fly! by Jane Killion

When Pigs Fly by Jane Killion
Training Success with Impossible Dogs

Published by Dogwise Publishing, 2007

198 pages

This is the book that inspired the name for the school!  Years ago when I got my first beagle rescue, I was struggling to get him to hear his name while on walks, nevermind train a loose leash walk.  While walking on King Street, a woman driving by slowed down, rolled down her window, and said “Don’t bother! Beagles can’t be trained! They pull!”

If this sounds familiar to you, and you look in wonder why that neighbourhood Poodle,  Border Collie, Golden Retriever, or German Shepherd are so naturally attentive to their owners, this book is for you.

Even if you happen to have that “naturally obedient” dog, this book is for you.

Of all the obedience training books I have read in the last few years, this is the most concise, clearly written training manual for dog owners of all levels.

Firstly, the book helps you understand why certain breeds are predisposed to handler attentiveness while others aren’t.  Killion coins those dogs (the Collies, Shepherds, etc.) as “biddible” dogs, selectively bred for their ability and desire to pay attention to their handlers and follow instructions.  Conversely, terrier and hound owners have “non-biddible” breeds that have been selectively bred for work that does not require handler instruction.  She gives new meaning to the phrase “Release the hounds!”.

Secondly, Killion gives readers a clear and concise explanation of the laws of operant conditioning and clicker training, and specifically calls out the importance of using shaping techniques, not lure-reward methods, for non-biddible breeds.  Non-biddible breeds are known for being stubborn, and as a result, training using shaping takes advantage of their natural breed characteristic of never giving up.  The truth is, ALL dogs, biddible or not, learn better with shaping, so this is particularly why this book should be recommended reading for any dog owner looking to train their dogs.

Lastly, Killion spends the majority of the book on focus and attention, work ethic, and using real-life rewards to train our dogs.  Some obvious examples are using sniffing for Beagles, jumping in a lake for Newfoundlands, or even jumping up and wrestling.

Hands down, this book is now my top recommendation for dog owners who are new to training.  It is concise and easy to digest for casual dog owners, but without insulting their intelligence by omitting key concepts.

Our first post! Welcome!

Hello there,

This is our first post!  We decided to create a separate blog from the main When Hounds Fly website.  The purpose of this blog is to allow us to more frequently update the community about things that we discover along our journey and mission of helping dogs and their owners live happier lives.

The types of content you’ll see here include:

  • Photos and videos of our students and their dogs doing amazing or cute things.
  • Review of books and videos that help us learn more.
  • Information about upcoming events and seminars on all things related to dogs.
  • New developments from the world of dog cognition, behavior, and training.

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