The book, “Canine Behavior: A Photo Illustrated Handbook” by Barbara Handelman (copyright 2008, 347 pages, Woof and Word Press, Norwich VT, ISBN 978-0-9765118-2-3) is quite an impressive tome. The book cover says that the book has 1000 pictures, and although I did not count, I can well believe it. Each page has at least several black-and-white photos of dogs behaving. Measuring 8.5x11 inches (21.5x28 cm), the book is large, with an attractive color cover of dogs performing a variety of behaviors. It sells for $32.97 on www.Amazon.com at the present time, or it can be purchased at www.woofandwordpress.com.
The book is organized alphabetically, starting with “acquired bite inhibition” on page 1 and ending with “zoomorphism” on page 280. Each entry provides a brief definition or description of a particular behavior. In places where the definition is not always easy to understand (such as learning), the book usually also has an example that is much more concrete and more comprehensible than the official definition. For example, “Counter Conditioning” (p 140) has a definition that is standard to the psychological literature, and an example that can be understood by those who get lost in the psychological jargon.
Pages 283 to 294 have 24 photos of dogs either interacting or showing different facial expressions, and the reader is asked to identify as many behaviors as possible in each photo. Pages 295 to 312 have detailed answers to the behaviors in each of the previous photos, and the reader can easily flip back to the alphabetically-organized subjects to get a more detailed look at each behavior.
At the very back of the book is an extensive section of references, titled “Works Cited,” and a topical bibliography, again alphabetized, that lists the more important books and other resources, starting with “Aggression” and ending with “Websites.”
The photographs in the book are provided by 9 different photographers, including Barbara Handelman. Most photos are action shots, with the dogs caught in the middle of some behavior that is featured in the text. A number of photos are of wolves, but many different dog breeds are represented as well.
Clearly, everything in the book has been well-thought-out and well-presented. The book is useful to everyone who is interested in dog behavior, both the seasoned professionals with lots of experience and the novices just starting out.
The only criticism that I have of the book is that many of the photos (all of the photos except for the cover are in black-and-white) seem to be faded and washed-out. You can still see the behaviors clearly, but the photos lack crispness and fade somewhat into the pages. Perhaps this was an intentional design decision, so that the photos did not overwhelm the text. I must say that the more I used the book, the more I appreciated the faded nature of the photos. It gave the book a zen quality that would not be present with crisper photos.
All told, I think that this is a terrific book, and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in understanding the body language of dogs. Reading the definitions of various behaviors and seeing the pictures side-by-side with the definitions gives a very good introduction to the kinds of things that dogs do.