I listen to audiobooks as I walk with my dogs. I put in one ear bud only, leaving my other ear available to catch any of the things I want to be sure to hear during a walk. Like the gleeful bark of a dog who has found a skunk, or the gleeful bark of a dog who has found a beaver, or the gleeful bark of a dog who has found...well, you get the picture. I walk my motley crew of dogs loose, generally out to the lake on the north end of our property for a nice exploration of the lake edge environs (this is a nice short walk for those lazy days), or in a loop around our farm, starting at the lake edge and continuing west on cattle trails ducking through the aspen and willow, up and over the small spruce-covered hillocks in the centre of our farm, then on to the slow, muddy, meandering creek that makes its way across the southern pasture. In the summer it’s a verdant rich parkland with lady slippers and towering aspens and secret tiny meadows. In the winter, it’s monochrome and quiet and due to my post-workday walk scheduling, perpetually twilight.
In other words, it’s a beautiful, enchanting place. But the soundscape? It’s pretty monotonous, if you encounter it day after day after day. And if you enjoy stories and learning (and who doesn’t?), then an audiobook adds oh-so-much joy to what might be a lovely, but in the way of things, eventually kinda boring, chore.
You might reasonably expect me to listen to dog training books. I am a dog trainer, and my life is pretty gloriously overrun with all things canine. But I’m going to let you in on a secret and I hope it doesn’t make you run from me screaming: I abhor many dog training books. Dog training books are typically so chockablock full of bad information that I can’t make myself stick around for the good tidbits and hidden jewels. I can’t help but imagine every other poor dog owner swimming through the terrible information page by page, struggling to understand and change their dog’s behaviour. I became a dog trainer as a second career after more than a decade as a (dog-owning, but not dog-training) anthropologist, so I actually know how it feels to read a million dog training books and still be bereft of good information to help my real actual dog.
(See a list of dog training books I do recommend below.)
I do like many of the popular science books about dogs…so much so that I seem to have listened to the audiobooks already, at least once. And although I’m absolutely risking further shock and dismay here, I don’t love most of the books about canine ‘cognition’. Sure, it’s fascinating and glorious stuff. But…those books, too, make me imagine every poor dog owner swimming in not terrible but terribly arcane information, struggling to understand and change their dog’s behaviour. Amygdalas and wolf/pointing studies won’t help anyone with their dog who pulls on leash or jumps up at the door. No, they won’t. Nope.
So what do I “read” as I walk with my dogs? I love both novels (murder mysteries and spy thrillers...please don’t judge), and non-fiction. I particularly love non-fiction books which give me insight into my world, filled with fascinating creatures of both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Since the readers of my blogs are also dog lovers, I have decided to start a new series of articles, to share my favourite non-fiction audiobooks to listen to whilst walking dogs, highlighting how they shed light on the four most important things, in my opinion, to understanding dogs: dogs, humans, learning, and science.
Here is my invitation: if it is safe for you to enjoy a story as you plod with your dogs, open your library’s app on your phone and get ready to join me! I’ll post my first book recommendation and review over next few weeks. The first book on the list is both clever and hilarious, because what is the point of having a dog if you can’t laugh with them as they frolic?
Dog training and popular science-type books I recommend include all the books written by Jean Donaldson and John Bradshaw. Watch Companion Animal Psychology’s page to pick up a copy of Zazie Todd’s new book when it is published, as well.
Photos: Cover—Tomasznajder | © Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images; Lower—Cynoclub | © Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images