Canine Body Language - A Photographic Guide

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Brenda Aloff
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A Dog World Top 12 Training and Behavior Book - 2010!

Winner of the DWAA Maxwell Award for 2006, Best General Reference Book

Your dog is talking. Are you listening?
More important are you WATCHING? Dogs are attempting to communicate with humans as well as other dogs all the time. It's up to us to learn how to interpret their native language the language of body movement, facial expression and proximity to things and other beings.
Canine Body Language is an exhaustive photographic documentation of dogs in their day-to-day activities: dogs alone, dogs together, dogs in the water, dogs having fun, dogs that are stressed and dogs in relation to human beings. In addition to the incredible photographs, author Brenda Aloff gives the reader detailed descriptions of what is happening in each photograph so that you can build your canine vocabulary.

Never look at dogs in the same way again!
Learn how to analyze what you see when observing dogs to prevent problems or improve behavior.
Follow the helpful photographic sequences and text to learn how to identify the subtle changes in canine body posture that tells you what a dog is thinking.
Develop a profound appreciation for the intelligence and adaptability of dogs.
Great for professional dog trainers! Use it to teach students important behavioral cues.

What dog trainers are saying about Brenda Aloff's Canine Body Language
A great tool for the dog professionals. A truly valuable work which will be used as a reference for my clients, as well as the behavior staff at the Marin Humane Society. Brenda's comments on canine communications are as valuable as the excellent images that form the bulk of the book.
Trish King, Behavior and Training Director of Marin Humane Society, author of Parenting Your Dog

Once I started reading it, it quickly became apparent that this book should be mandatory reading material for virtually every dog owner. Brenda's description of the canine language and the contexts in which they occur is very well documented.
Ali Brown, author of Scaredy Dog! Understanding & Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog

Author Brenda Aloff is a professional dog trainer specializing in problem behavior. A large part of her practice consists of dogs that have been referred to her when traditional training techniques have failed. She works with owners on re-socialization of fearful and aggressive dogs as well as teaching puppy socialization, competition obedience, conformation, tracking, back-packing, musical freestyle, and agility classes at Heaven On Arf Behavior and Training Center in Midland, Michigan. She is a member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and The Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Trainer's Forum and several other breed and training organizations. Brenda travels all over the United States giving talks on canine aggression and learning theory.

What reviewers are saying...

Aloff has written one of the first really comprehensive books on dog body language. She is building nicely on the foundations laid by experts such as Abrantes and Rugaas. I would say this book is going to be of particular interest to owners, dog professionals such as groomers and pet sitters, and novice trainers. I like the overall layout of the book and the fact that Aloff uses a lot of pictures to demonstrate her points. I particularly admire her ambition in undertaking such a daunting project! This is a timely topic and, to my knowledge, there was no other book on the market that could even come close to this at the time it was published. It has a lot of very useful information, and is a useful book for reference.

There are many ways a book on body language can be ordered; the order Aloff has chosen is a useful guide for most people interested in dog body language. She has categorized the various body language signals into six sections: Expressions of an Emotional State, Calming & Negotiation Signals, Neutral & Friendly, Space Invaders, Predation, and Play. She has a final section named Quiz, in which the reader can test and improve their knowledge. Each section begins with commentary. She uses plenty of actual photographs to demonstrate the postures she is discussing, and most photos have a useful list of the specific body language features that make up the overall posture.

Unfortunately, the photographs are of mediocre quality, at best many of them are not even useful. To be fair, some of the photos are really great; however, in a book demonstrating body language, all of the photos should be good enough that the features being discussed can be seen. Within the sections she also has a variety of tips, which are enclosed in a box. She categorizes the tips according to their purpose. Many of the tips are useful and serve as clarification for the actual postures. My preference would have been to stick with the paradigm tips and leave out the training tips. This is not a training book, but a book on body language, and the training tips are not comprehensive enough to be of much use. Unfortunately, the editing of this book was very poor. Aloff uses capitalization very inappropriately; I understand that she is trying to emphasize certain concepts, but the capital letters disrupt the flow of reading to the detriment of the book. A good editor would have pointed this out. Additionally, there is awkward phrasing, unfinished sentences, mis-numbering of photos, inconsistency of formatting, and text overflow away from the photo which is unnecessary.

I hope that these niggling problems are corrected in the next edition of this book. A glaring omission is that there is either no mention or just a brief mention in passing with little to no explanation of numerous important behaviors which dog owners and professionals should be aware of. Some of those missing behaviors are: mounting, T-position, agonistic pucker, grab and hold, muzzle punches, piloerection, and others. In the play section, there's a picture of a dog mounting another dog; this would have been a perfect opportunity to mention mounting, but it is completely skipped over with a comment about the dog taking the predator role. To my knowledge, mounting is not a part of the predation sequence, at all!

Aloff's writing style is free-flowing and light. It's amusing to read her descriptions of the interactions between the dogs, and makes for a very pleasant and fun read. I do, however, wish she had refrained from interpreting the dogs' intentions and thoughts. I am a proponent of describing the behavior rather than intention. Behavior, all by itself, speaks volumes! She also liberally uses a term that has come into vogue lately hind brain which I've also heard described as the dog is not operant. Aloff, like many others, falls into the trap of using a neuro-explanation which is far more complex than this usage indicates and doesn't really add to the book or our understanding of the behavior.

This book has a lot of really great qualities and a few problems. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and recommend it. I would love to see Aloff revise the book for the next edition correct the editing problems, replace the unacceptable photos, leave out the subjective commentary, add some behaviors and turn this into a more scientific endeavor. Susan Smith

4 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 5
    Canine Body Language

    Posted by Suzanne Martin on 24th Feb 2023

    Very helpful guide to understanding our canine compadres.

  • 2

    Posted by Theta53 on 22nd May 2022

    I'm on page 24, ready to pack it all in, sell my dog and move to Timbuktu. Guess I'm just not cut out to be a dog owner. Thought this book might provide guidance. I'm lost.

  • 4
    Canine Body Language

    Posted by Jessica Caldwell on 29th Jun 2018

    I am a trainer in the making. I love the information and explanation of the body language of a dog. I will highly recommend this book for all dog lovers.

  • 4

    Posted by Maureen Stotland on 11th Feb 2018

    Good resource, but would be better as hardback with color photos.