What our dogs need to live a good life, and why we must come through for them
Over the two decades she has spent raising and training service dogs for people with disabilities, Jennifer Arnold has come to a unique and profound understanding of the human-dog bond. Though it may seem simple and instinctive, the friendship and devotion we share with our pets is a wondrous evolutionary development. Our two species have come to rely on each other for protection, companionship, comfort, and happiness—needs and benefits that go both ways. Yet when we step outside our designated roles and take on practices that require us to display dominance over our canine charges, we misread cues and misinterpret behavior, sometimes with disastrous results. Conversely, when communication between dog and keeper is clear and based on kindness and a willingness to see things through a dog’s eyes, the payoff for both dog and owner is tremendous. When respect and care are brought together, we come to know the inalienable goodness in a dog’s soul.
As the founder of Canine Assistants, Arnold has implemented and advanced a methodology—Choice Teaching—that pairs scientific and behavioral knowledge about dogs with gentle incentive and encouragement to extraordinary effect. But she does not consider herself a dog trainer; rather, she sees herself as a relationship expert who improves the connection between humans and dogs and in the process betters the quality of life for both. In a Dog’s Heart offers Arnold’s offers her best practices and useful tips that range over a dog’s whole life, including:
• how to choose the puppy that’s destined for you from a bustling litter and what you need to have on hand before you bring that puppy home;
• what to stock in your doggie first-aid kit;
• how to keep your pet safe from dangers at home and in the outside world;
• the challenges and rewards of adopting an older dog;
• how to help your dog overcome anxious behavior, from separation anxiety to thunderstorm phobia;
• when to recognize that it’s time to let go.
As in her bestselling first book, Through a Dog’s Eyes, Arnold illustrates what she’s learned through captivating and moving stories drawn from her experience. We learn about Grace, a black Lab who was rescued after she was thrown from a truck and delivered to Canine Assistants emaciated, dehydrated, and with a broken pelvis. As Grace recovered she displayed an usual gift for scent detection and now spends her days sniffing out bombs on the Israeli border. We meet Casper, a Lab-golden mix who works full-time at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, a best friend to kids undergoing cancer treatment, and a buddy ready to offer comfort as needed to the doctors on staff. We also discover the myriad ways in which dogs improve our lives—and what they need and deserve from us in return.
Jennifer Arnold is the founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, a service-dog school based in Milton, Georgia. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Through a Dog’s Eyes, which was also the subject of a PBS documentary. She lives with her husband, veterinarian Kent Bruner, son Chase, three dogs, Bob the cat, eight horses, and a number of other animals.
Canine Assistants is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing service dogs for children and adults who have physical disabilities, epilepsy, or other special needs. Canine Assistants does not charge for the service it provides; rather, it relies on the generosity of those who recognize that helping one benefits us all.