Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: Bones Would Rain From the Sky, by Suzanne Clothier

I read a lot of dog books.

I read enough dog books that when people ask me to recommend a good book that came out lately, I really have to search my mind for something I've read in the past month that wasn't a dog book.  Not a whole lot of people talk to me about books anyway, so I've let it go.

Why do I read this many dog books?  Clearly there's a point at which they become repetitive.  Also, if they're training books, I may not agree with methods, or it maybe be skills that Elka already has.  While these things are frequently the case, and sometimes I don't make it through them, other times I find one that I love. And reading a really good dog book makes me more mindful, both of myself, and my dog.  Bones Would Rain From the Sky, by Suzanne Clothier, is one of these.

The book opens with Clothier, as a little girl, under the dining room table at a family gathering,  pretending to be a dog.  Family members who read this will remember, and friends who read this see my confession now: this was me.  I don't think I ever licked people, though.

The first time I read this book, I was disappointed.  I wanted more stories about dogs and their situations, and how Clothier said to work them out.  She also doesn't much mention the breeds of the dogs that she's dealing with, which would have helped me both visualize the situation and gather more details on various breeds.  That's something I really want when I'm reading non fiction; I want it to be narrative, not necessarily explanatory.  Reading it again, though, more than a year later, I feel I've gotten more out of it.

There are stories about dogs, and their problems and sometimes more correctly, their owner's problems.  They aren't resolved in a formulaic way, but it does tend to be similar.  Listen to your dog, Clothier says. Be fair and clear to your dog.  Be consistent when you're declaring and then enforcing what you want. I appreciate all of these things, and reading them, I try to see how they relate to myself, and to Elka, and how I can be a better dog owner for her. 


  1. I love this book and I used the words in the title a lot when explaining how I work on counter-conditioning my dog. There is something poetic but so canine about it. However, I would also have appreciated breed descriptions. But that's probably just my human need to visualize and categorize.

    When we were kids my sister would pretend to be a kitten and I would be a puppy. It was hours of fun!

  2. I loved this book. It was such a turning point to read something that finally talked about having a relationship with your dog instead of training it into obedience.

    I think Suzanne Clothier is one of those seminal dog trainers who is moving training past positive techniques to creating a two-way bond.

    It's hard to remember what an earth-shattering concept that is unless you look back as few as 10-20 years.

  3. @ Kristine: The title is definitely poetic, and fantastic (As is the whole phrase: "If a dog's prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky). Really, I just like learning about different breed's proclivities; yes, they're all dogs, but everybody has their quirks!

    @Pamela: It really is hard to think of the two-way bond as "new", with regards to dog ownership and training. I won't claim I arrived there on my own from the get-go, but it was something I was more or less open to, anyway. Non-coercive dog training isn't new, not really, but it has begun to come to the forefront more recently, and for that I'm glad. Too much Cesar Millan, not enough understanding and science.