The Culture Clash

ISBN: 1888047054
ISBN 13: 9781888047059
By: Jean Donaldson Ian Dunbar

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About this book

Winner of the Maxwell Award for BEST DOG TRAINING BOOK (1997) from the Dog Writers? Association of America. Voted #1 BEST BOOK (2000 & 2001) by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers?the largest and most influential worldwide association of professional pet dog trainers. The Culture Clash is utterly unique, fascinating to the extreme, and literally overflowing with information so new that it virtually redefines the state of the art in dog behavior and training. The Culture Clash depicts dogs as they really are?stripped of their Hollywood fluff, with their loveable "can I eat it, chew it, urinate on it, what's in it for me" philosophy. The author's tremendous affection for dogs shines through at all times, as does her keen insight into the dog's mind. Relentlessly she champions the dog's point of view, always showing concern for their education and well-being.

Reader's Thoughts


Another reviewer (who gave it 1 star) wrote, "(Jean Donaldson) writes as though she thinks most (99%) humans are irresponsible morons." If I were the publisher, I would be like, "Yes. Nailed it! There's our pull quote for the cover of the next edition."


This was a great book and I highly recommend it for anyone that owns a dog. She touches on behavior, training and psychology. Her insights into why dogs do what they do and how they perceive the world are extremely valuable to me as a dog owner. Her training methods focus on positive reinforcement (which I agree with), but even if you don't I think some value could be gained from her methods. She has a witty way of pointing out some of the absurd things that have been done in the name of training.

Barks & Bites

I'm marking this one DNF because I just can't bring myself to keep reading or to keep interested right now. I also adopted a puppy and, dare I say this aloud, who is so EASY it's unbelievable to me. I've always had nutty labs and retrievers who took years to settle down. My new little guy moved in, learned the routine and housemanners in only 2 weeks. I still can't believe my luck. He's cute and perfect too. I never get this lucky ;) So, for now at least, I'm putting this book aside because I'm not having any of the sorts of problems she describes in this book (mainly aggression issues) and am training him positively. I'll keep it around for a bit just in case something crops up but the technical language makes it more of a reference book than a pleasure read and I don't like the way she takes shots at clueless owners constantly. I preferred her book "Mine" much better. Possibly because it was shorter?


Really enjoyed this book. Jean Donaldson pulls no punches with her views about the use of aversive dog training - she thinks its inhumane, unnecessary and shouldn't happen. I agree. She makes a significant effort to lead her readers to better understanding of dog behaviour and motivation and to dispel the "Disney Land" dog fantasies so many dog owners have; dogs exist to please us, are intelligent (like humans) and moral (understand the difference between right and wrong). Jean makes it clear that dogs are motivated by making nicer, better things happen for themselves, more often. More good stuff (food, chew toys, walks, games) less bad stuff (scolding, containment, isolation etc). The downside to the book is that she uses a lot of behaviourist theory and language and that could be hard reading for a lay reader (I use behaviourism in my work so it was no biggie for me). All that said, if you can persevere with the science and terminology this is a great book, a must for all dog lovers, whether your pup is trained or not!

Book Him Danno

Great for any dog owner to read and take notes on

Fred Dickson

One of the best dog training books ever. EVER. That being said, it might be a bit dense for people that are unfamiliar with the subject, the terminology can get a little confusing if you don't already have a firm grasp on what Donaldson is talking about. However, if I could make every dog owner read this book and actually put it's principles into practice I would in a heartbeat. I've heard some people complain that the book has an annoyed tone, and as someone who deals with idiotic dog owners fairly frequently I can say I completely understood where she was coming from and laughed out loud several times while reading this. Honestly, if you don't understand why she might be annoyed you haven't been working with dogs long enough.

Harry Steinman

Humans apply human standards to dog behavior. This anthropomorphism mortally imperil dogs. This theme underlies Donaldson's book--at once an objective (though eye-opening) exposition into canine behavior and an unabashedly polemic diatribe, railing against the harm we do by misunderstanding our Best Friends. We two-legs must understand that normal dog behavior includes behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not. Incessant barking, peeing on the carpet, chewing the shoes/furniture/handbag/favorite object, biting a child--these are all normal dog behaviors that are clearly unacceptable. So, how do we prevent or stop unacceptable behaviors, short of permanently restraining the dog?That is the meat of Donaldson's award-winning first book. Love dogs? Read it. Hate 'em? Read the book. Understanding dogs as dogs (not trying to see them as small, furred humans) is the beginning of wisdom. This book occupies the Number One spot on my dog book shelves, and one I sometimes gift to very promising students at the MSPCA, where I am a volunteer trainer.


Perfect book for me this past week when I was absolutely fed up with my [failed:] training of Mingus. Brought me back to Dog Basics through a well explained "culture" comparison of Dog vs. Human. Through easy to understand text, clear graphs, well organized chart comparisons, and an extremely helpful basis of having the reader (i.e., human) see the world through a dog's perspective -- Donaldson urges dog owners to give the dog a break in it's world, but also use this dog culture knowledge to best train your pet in a positive and constructive way. I'll remember many things from this book when I work and live with Mingus.


This book is probably one of the best dog training books out there. It's the only book that I've found that really, truly, describes the positive reinforcement (+R) method which in a nutshell involves ignoring unwanted behavior and rewarding good behavior.Why only three stars? This vitriolic book is hard to read. The author is apparently so fed up with owners who don't have a clue that she rarely holds back any opportunity to disparage any and all owners. The book drips in hatred for the mistakes made by average dog owners.And I found a couple of huge mistakes. In particular, she talks about how dogs know when they've done something bad. She describes a boxer tearing apart the furniture when the owner is gone, and then cowering when the owner returns. She doesn't mention that if the owner was an incredible actor and made no reaction upon seeing the mess, that the dog would probably have no reaction - the point she missed here is how well dogs read just a flicker of our emotions. That boxer had no idea the owner was upset about the mess he'd made. He just knew the owner was upset from the instant she saw the mess. Had the place been pitch-black, the owner and dog would have greeted one another without incident. It bothers me that an "expert" like Donaldson would so completely misread something that I see clearly as an amateur. I feel I have to get my complaint about Donaldson in since she spends so much time yelling at average folk.Beyond that, if you really want to understand complex aspects of +R training, this is your book. Unfortunately, it won't go into the detail you'll want. For instance, you'll feel like a real dummy if you follow the section on avoiding "counter surfing" and still can't keep your dog from grabbing food off the counter.Donaldson lives alone with her dog. She doesn't understand the complex nature of family life. She doesn't explain the one down side of +R training: that when we share our dog's living quarters (unlike zoo animals in which +R training is often used and the animals are already living in a safe, enclosed environment) so ignoring unwanted behavior is just not always easy or practical. Her ideas for approaching specific training and behavior problems are usually pretty thinly described.

Mary Nelsen

Although Culture Crash was originally published in 1996 the ideas in it were so new and revolutionary at that time that Jean Donaldson remains a leading thinker in the dog training world and this book has become a classic. Sadly, many of the abusive training methods she argues against (ear pinching, choke collars, and shock collars) can still be found in dog training schools today - also, many owners still believe in the Walt Disney dog; intelligent, moral, capable of revenge and planning, a problem solver and understanding the value of his owner's belongings. Rather, Donaldson recommends we realize our canine companions are hard wired to eat, chew, chase, urinate and be with their people and other dogs and they respond or learn from consequences, a la BF Skinner. Sadly true that socialization of a puppy between 3-5 months of age sets the stage for a mentally healthy and socially adept dog. During this re-read to get some ideas for a new rescue dog with a lot of fears and baggage I particularly liked the section on rehab of fearful and aggressive dogs and the bite threshold model Donaldson diagrams. Also, chapter 4 starts with a really interesting (and instructional) story about an imaginary world where humans are kept as companion animals to a higher species who are as clueless about us as we are about dogs. Even if you don't end up using all of the many obedience training tips and techniques this book will still provide a ton of ideas to help make your life with dogs more enjoyable.


A very good book to explain behavior learning and how to train your dog using reward instead of punishment. She does a very good job of covering potential pitfalls and why other training methods (dominance, punishment) may not work. She does, however, harp on the downfalls of these other methods more than necessary, to the point where it is distracting from the rest of the information she is presenting. I especially liked the levels of training (kindergarten, high school, college) she presents at the end for several commands. I think that those instructions will be incredible helpful in training my own dog. She helps you to see things from your dogs perspective which in turn allows you to understand why your dog behaves the way s/he does.


Jean Donaldson is so mad at dog owners. I was sort of expecting her to punch someone in the first few pages. But she's 100 percent right."There is no question whatsoever that the second view [she's referring to B.F. Skinner as opposed to the Walt Disney anthropomorphism view] is correct. The question is really no longer which interpretation is the truth but rather why anyone still argues the point. Amazingly, this information has been around for decades, yet most people who own dogs haven't learned it yet. If people's knowledge about driving cars were similar to their knowledge about "driving" dogs, they'd try going across lakes and then sue the manufacturer when the thing didn't float." (from page 10 - Getting the Dog's Perspective).


I cannot recommend this book strongly enough if you have ever wondered what's going on in your dog's head. Jean Donaldson writes clearly (most of the time) in lay person speak about why your dog is behaving the way that it is, and what you can do preventatively and remedially to shape your dog's behavior. Often, we humans tend to erroneously believe that our dogs "know" what we want from them even if we haven't really ever trained it into them, and this book helped me see why my expectations of perfect dog behavior were unrealistic and misguided, given the way that I was not-training my dog.I read this book through my local library, but I intend on purchasing it to refer to again. Highly recommended!

Katherine Blocksdorf

This is an excellent book and is a must read for every dog owner, especially those who think their dogs have a favorite pink jacket and sparkly collar. The author clearly describes why the 'Disney Myth' is harmful to the dog/owner relationship. Training is discussed and the author thoroughly supports all of her theories. Now, it's time for someone to write an equivalent book about horses so horse lovers will stop expecting their horses to heal, bond, love and re-parent them. Let's honour and respect each species for what it is, and not expect them to be furry four-legged people.


I have never read a book on dog training as extensive as this one. Holy COW! I had a hard time keeping interested because she just kept going on and on without really telling you HOW very clearly, until the last chapter, which was the best chapter in the book. I really wanted to know what Ms. Donaldson had to say, but the length of each section was amazing. If she could have toned it down, just a tad, I would have definitely given her a 5.

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