Fight! offers owners of dog-aggressive canines a wonderfully positive alternative to traditional punishment and intimidation -based training techniques for correcting their dog’s social woes.
Written by the award-winning author of The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson breaks down dog-dog aggression into it’s most simplest forms- 1) over-exuberant greeters, 2) proximity sensitivity to other dogs, 3) resource guarding, 4) bullying, 5) play skills deficit, and 6) genetic predisposition. She then takes the reader through each form, discussing the positive training methods that can be used to overcome each, as well as discussing proper training tools and a breakdown of common learning methods used in positive training.
As the owner of a fear-aggressive dog, I’ve read every book, article, pamphlet and beyond that I can get my hands on regarding training techniques that deal with behavior modification. It seems that everyone has their own magic mix of methods that they gather here and there from a common list of books- and near the top of almost every list is Fight!.
I’ll add that almost every book on these lists are now out of print, so it’s taken me a while to find the funds to acquire each title, Fight! being my most recent purchase. With such high hopes and downright nerdy excitement, I couldn’t wait to dig in- but unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed with this book. Let me explain.
Read any of the reviews online and you’ll see people complaining straight off the bat about the painfully formal language that the author uses. I wasn’t worried about that at all, since I fancy myself pretty versed in the usual behaviorist / training lingo (quadrants, CER, Premacking, SD/CC, etc.). Regardless, I wasn’t prepared for this book. While Donaldson brings readers through definitions (somewhat quickly), she presents it in a very wordy and somewhat confusing format that would try almost anyone’s patience. Not a book I would recommend for just the average Joe who recently had the misfortune of adopting a fuzzy version of Hannibal Lecter. (FYI one of my favorite reads that tackles dog training terminology with ease and understandability is The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Positive Dog Training by Pamela Dennison, check it out- you won’t be disappointed!)
I would also argue that this book is not exhaustive in it’s application (real world use), but is instead more geared towards formal training sessions and those who have access to 1) a large number of “bombproof” dogs to use in training your own, as well as a “neutral” controlled fenced area to train in with said dogs. For those with proximity-sensitive dogs, I felt the section of this book dealing with D&C (systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning) was pretty basic- while thorough in explanation of what it lacked in my opinion sufficient ideas or plans of how, or proper real world execution.
With that said, there were a lot of things I did really appreciate in this book, chiefly that the author stresses the importance of basing training techniques on observable behavior and not assumptions of what the animal is thinking. By doing this, we can avoid costly training mistakes that can lead to worsened or even new behavior issues down the road.
Secondly, Donaldson is one of very few people willing to publicly state that certain breeds that have been historically bred for aggression towards other dogs are at least partially genetically predisposed to an aggressive temperament, stressing that these breeds ought to be improved through breeding for better social temperament. As the owner of a fear-aggressive pit mix, I have often been ridiculed for holding this opinion, and hearing it come from a professional is, at least to me, a breath of fresh air!
So, bottom line, I would say this is a great book for those who have a dog with mild aggressive tendencies towards other dogs, such as bullying or overly-excited play that can tip over into aggression, as well as dogs that are prolific resource guarders. The ideas put forth for modifying these issues is fairly straight-forward; but I would only go so far as to say that this is an “okay” starter for the rest of us with dogs who are either leash reactive or else just fully fearful/aggressive. You might want to give it a try anyway, but I highly recommend more user-friendly books like BAT: Behavior Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart and Click To Calm by Emma Parsons).
Rating: 3 stars
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