The Education of Will: Healing a Dog, Facing My Fears, Reclaiming My Life

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Patricia McConnell
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Atria Books

Expected ship date is 26th Jul 2024

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When a troubled and aggressive young border collie named Will enters Dr. Patricia McConnell’s life, she is confronted with a problem that she has never faced in her decades working as a world-renowned animal behaviorist. Her special connection with Will triggers memories of harrowing traumas in Patricia’s own life and unearths a secret she had long repressed. In order to save Will from his dangerous behavior, Patricia must summon the courage to address her own buried emotional pain. On her journey to healing, with Will as her trusted companion, she transforms fear into compassion, confusion into insight, and isolation into empathy.

Beautifully written, interweaving enlightening accounts of other dogs she has helped with tales of her deepening bond with Will, The Education of Will chronicles Patricia’s fight to reclaim her life—and relieve Will’s fears in the process. Hopeful and inspiring, their story reminds us that, while trauma from the past casts a long shadow, healing is possible—for both people and dogs.

Patricia McConnell, PhD, is an internationally known Zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has treated serious behavior problems in dogs for over twenty-five years. She speaks around the world about canine behavior and training, and is the author of fourteen books, including the critically acclaimed The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do around Dogs. Dr. McConnell lives with her dogs and husband on a small farm near Madison, Wisconsin. 


That night I sat on the couch and worried about this bundle of behavioral problems that I had brought into the house. I turned to see Willie watching me, his face baby-soft and expectant, his body wagging from the shoulders back. I moved off the couch and lay down beside him. He nuzzled into me, the side of his head pressing against my neck. I inhaled the scent from the top of his head, as a girlfriend had told me she’d breathe in the smell of her son’s hair, savor it, and yearn for it when they were apart.

Even as a tiny puppy, Willie wanted nothing more than to be with me, to cuddle against me with his face pressed against my neck or chest. Willie’s love of people was as extreme as his fear of dogs outside of his own pack. He loved everyone on two legs and appeared to be overjoyed that the world contained an infinite number of us. When friends came over to meet Willie, he’d stop for a second as he watched them get out of their cars, seemingly stunned by the appearance of yet another person. He’d quickly glance at me as if in amazement—“Look! There’s another one! I’ve found ANOTHER ONE!”—and then he’d charge forward, tail thumping, body soft and loose as he transported us into puppy rapture. . .

Something had sent Willie out into the world set on HIGH, like a blender with its last button pushed. Raising him was both wonderful and horrible. Underneath his craziness—his extreme reactions to unfamiliar dogs, his phobias about noises, his disastrous digestive system—I was sure there lived the dog we all want, brimming with love and loyalty, with a face that sparkles when you come home. But Willie desperately needed to feel safe and secure.

The thing was, so did I.

3 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 5
    The Education of Will

    Posted by Tamara Dormer on 20th Jun 2021

    Excellent book, as are all of Patricia McConnell's books. An emotional read about a dog and a human who help each other through traumas

  • 5
    Beautiful and Emotional Read

    Posted by Breanna Norris on 26th Jun 2020

    This is not a dog training book! I could see this book becoming a movie. It is a story about Mconnell and stories about Will the dog and how these stories beautifully intertwine, trauma, grief and resiliency. Have tissues handy.

  • 5
    The Education of Will

    Posted by Valerie Vale on 26th Jan 2019

    I have all of Patricia McConnell's books, and went into this one with expectations. I was absolutely shattered for several days after this one. Not your standard training book. Covering her personal history, puppy selection and re-homing, nature vs. nurture, and the healing of dogs for human hurts. Profound and brave, I re-read it as soon as I finished it. Highly recommend, but there are a lot of moving parts in this one.