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


Great info but tedious reading.

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 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!


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).


Embarrassing admission: I have known for years that this book was one of the "big" books on the topic of positive reinforcement dog training, but I never got around to reading it because I thought I was "beyond" it. I thought it was going to be about how to clicker train a dog to sit and why Cesar Millan is a moron. I thought, "I already know all that!" It turns out that this book is totally and completely amazing. It's full of valuable training games and tips, and it also shows you what life is like through your dog's eyes. Sure, there was plenty of stuff that I did already know, but a refresher never hurts, and Jean Donaldson's quippy, sometimes-snarky narrative style made reading fun and fast. If you have a dog, READ THIS BOOK!(The main thing in here that I don't necessarily agree with is that Donaldson is a fan of the no-reward marker. I have used NRMs with Faith, and they seemed to act more like a positive punisher than they should. Then again, Faith is a little quirky.)


Very good overall. The most common criticisms of this book are the tone and the organization. They are legitimate criticisms. The author is extremely sharptongued when it comes to dominance theory and anthropomorphizing. I personally find her derision amusing rather than insulting, but I concede that the tone isn't for everyone. I do appreciate someone who speaks bluntly and honestly rather than dancing around strong opinions, but I can see some readers being turned off by this. Personally, I found myself laughing at the just-so explanations I'd concocted for my dog's behavior, when the real explanation is probably a lot simpler.The book (as far as I can tell) has no index. Also, if you want information on a specific topic, you often have to look in several different places. Explanations of learning theory and specific instructions for training common behaviors are often intermingled. I solved this problem by bookmarking.What I like most about this book is the merging of practical step-by-step instruction with explanations of why the steps work. The author explains it in simple, scientific terms. And she doesn't just give recipes for specific behaviors; she explains why those recipes work so that you can train literally any behavior using a similar method. It's not an in-depth technical manual on operant conditioning, but it does give a general overview of how an animal learns. This is extremely helpful when you're trying to crack a problem behavior with your dog, or train him to do something complicated.A good example of this is one explanation of why dogs sometimes seem to "know" a command and then suddenly stop obeying it. We might say the command and then immediately prompt the dog in some way, taking advantage of instinctual behaviors. So we say "come" and then bend down and make inviting noises. The dog is naturally inclined (at least as a puppy) to come when we clap our hands or makes kissy sounds. That doesn't mean he's learned what "come" means. We assume he does, and then expect him to come when we say the word and label him stubborn if he doesn't obey. In reality, he's never made the connection. The author describes a process called "fading the prompt" (the prompt being the kissy noises or clapping or whatever gets the dog to instinctively come). You have to give the dog a chance to start coming without the prompt. You wait a few seconds and see if he gets it, even by accident. If he doesn't get it, then you prompt. Do this enough times, and eventually he'll connect the dots (if you're reinforcing properly, that is).Another example: generalization versus discrimination. We think the dog "knows" a command because he does it at home. Take him to the park and try to get him to do it and he looks at you like you've got nine heads. The fascinating thing about this is that it's not a problem - it's a feature. Dogs are so good at discriminating, at figuring out what is different this time, that they don't necessarily generalize what they've learned to new locations. As soon as you introduce a variable like location, as far as the dog is concerned this is a completely new circumstance that could require new behaviors. It's what makes it possible to train them in the first place: they notice what is new. But it also means that if you want them to always sit when you say sit, you have to practice in multiple locations and be willing to sort of "retrain" for each location, until the dog understands that this cue applies everywhere.I could go on, which is why I think the book is worth buying. Basically, the information in here takes a lot of the frustration and stress out of training by making the dog's behaviors explicable and thus mutable.

Book Him Danno

Great for any dog owner to read and take notes on


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 the book that really got me keen on dog behaviour. The author illustrated observations I had made over the years but hadn't categorised until I read her words. Ms. Donaldson knows her stuff and it shows. Though it was a book I was assigned to read, I wasn't able to put it down, which usually is the opposite of how I am with assigned reading.It has been 5 years since I've read this book but I still want to add it to my library. I feel it is an essential read for anyone interested in dog behaviour.


I believe Jean Donaldson is a genius. I went to the Pawlitically Incorrect Dog Symposium at Marin Humane Society in 2002 and I was blown away by her! There was a segment where they took some of the shelter dogs that had specific behavior problems, and then they had 4 dog trainers that each use a different technique. There was one lady who taught guide dogs for the blind, and another guy who taught police dogs, and Jean. Well, there was this one chow mix that kept pulling on the leash and choking itself whenever anyone would try to walk it. Each of the trainers went up there and the police guy was jerking the poor dog around, the guide dog lady said that first she had to "bond" with the dog and sat there petting it for 5 minutes, but no one could get the dog to walk properly on the leash! So Jean was last and what she did was put a pile of treats on the ground about 15 feet away. Then with the dog on the leash, she started forward towards the food and each time the dog went ahead of her she said "too bad" and went back to the starting line. Well, after about 4-5 tries, the dog walked perfectly next to her until he got to the treats (and then she let him eat the whole mountain of treats). That doesn't have anything specifically to do with the book, but it's just an example of her understanding of how a dog's mind works. I truly believe everything she says in this book. It is probably hard for most dog "owners" to grasp, but if you are one of those people, you probably wouldn't be reading this book in the first place. Anyway, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!


This should be required reading for every person who gets a dog. This book explains how dogs learn (principles of reinforcement) and how they do NOT learn (choke collars, punishment after the fact, etc.), why they do what they do (classical/operant conditioning history, innate behavior), and what they are NOT capable of (spite, desire to please, "understanding" human language). There are countless dogs out there that could potentially lead much "happier" lives if their owners would just change the way they think and behave.

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.

Amy Johnson

Brilliant. If you have a dog, you should read this book.

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.


I admire Jean Donaldson as a trainer but this book does not get a high review from me. The book is very difficult to follow and at times makes the reader feel as if they are a complete idiot. As a trainer myself this is not a book I would ever recommend to my clients.

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