Nearly one in four people in the western world own a dog. Chances are, you’re one of them–or you’d like to be. But is everything you think you know about dogs correct? How much conventional wisdom can you really trust?
Welcome to thirty-two of the most common mistakes that people make about dogs. Learn the truth about ideas you didn’t even realise were wrong, and become even closer to humanity’s very best friend.
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware,
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
It’s a funny thing, writing a book about dogs. A huge percentage of the population has owned or currently owns a dog, and it seems that as with children, everyone who has a dog knows the best way to raise them. As a culture, we are pretty dog-savvy, and the dog’s position as man’s best friend is well established in our arts and entertainment.
You might think, then, that a book on mistakes that writers make about dogs would be a slim volume indeed. In actual fact, the opposite is true. Writers – and people in general – make many of the mistakes they do about dogs not because they know nothing about them, but because so much of the cultural knowledge we possess is false. Myths about animals abound, and it seems the animal is to humanity, the more myths it will generate.
So what makes my perspective worthwhile? First of all, I’ve dealt with a wide variety of dogs in a wide variety of situations ever since I was little. I won my first obedience ribbon with a dog at age twelve, and saw puppies born in my own backyard when I was seven – and the very first puppy I bred myself became an Australian Champion at 14 months of age. I’ve done obedience trials and conformation showing, and started training dogs as all-purpose house assistants; I’m a registered Labrador Retriever breeder and have experienced the joys and woes of breeding and raising our own litters, and consequently the deep bond that develops when you own a dog from birth.
I’ve hit the training paddock in the deep, miserable wet of winter, and I’ve suffered through the consequences of no-dog-walks-for-a-month. If there’s a mistake to be made, I’m pretty sure by now that I’ve made it, and kicked myself in the rear end about it later. And because I’m a writer, I know how all of these things can impact the one most important thing in any writer’s life: story. I’ve seen people suffer from making the same mistakes over and over again, and in writing this book I want to offer you the opportunity to learn from my mistakes – to be not just the writer, but the dog-savvy real life citizen, who gets it right. I want to convince you that dogs have a place in fiction, and I want to help you to use these common mistakes and misconceptions to strengthen and deepen your characters – and your story. I want to answer the questions that people who have grown up around dogs and people who have never had a dog both forget to ask.
This book is divided into six core sections: People In Fur Coats, which establishes a baseline for interpreting and understanding canine behaviour; The Senses, which explores the various ways in which dogs receive information from their surroundings; Learning and Development, which delves into the way in which dogs learn; Communication, the section which contains perhaps the most common of all mistakes; Pedigrees and Breeding, which deals with common misconceptions about breeds, mongrels, and their associated bad habits; and finally, Relationships, discussing the various complexities that come with meshing the personality of a dog with that of a person.
I hope you enjoy it, and find it useful.