Who's a Good Dog?: And How to Be a Better Human (Hardcover)
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A New Scientist Best Book of 2023
A guide to cultivating a shared life of joy and respect with our dogs.
Who’s a Good Dog? is an invitation to nurture more thoughtful and balanced relationships with our canine companions. By deepening our curiosity about what our dogs are experiencing, and by working together with them in a spirit of collaboration, we can become more effective and compassionate caregivers.
With sympathy for the challenges met by both dogs and their humans, bioethicist Jessica Pierce explores common practices of caring for dogs, including how we provide exercise, what we feed, how and why we socialize and train, and how we employ tools such as collars and leashes. She helps us both to identify potential sources of fear and anxiety in our dogs’ lives and to expand practices that provide physical and emotional nourishment. Who’s a Good Dog? also encourages us to think more critically about what we expect of our dogs and how these expectations can set everyone up for success or failure. Pierce offers resources to help us cultivate attentiveness and kindness, inspiring us to practice the art of noticing, of astonishment, of looking with fresh eyes at these beings we think we know so well. And more than this, she makes her findings relatable by examining facets of her relationship with Bella, the dog in her life. As Bella shows throughout, all dogs are good dogs, and we, as humans and dog guardians, could be doing a little bit better to get along with them and give them what they need.
About the Author
Jessica Pierce is an internationally acclaimed bioethicist. Her work spans from broad considerations of human responsibilities for nature to detailed explorations of human-animal relationships. She has published eleven books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics and, most recently, A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, and Scientific American. Pierce is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School. She lives in the Colorado Rockies.
"Bioethicist and author Jessica Pierce has penned a wonderful guide to living life with dogs and improving your bond through respectful and joyful canine-human relationships. Who’s a Good Dog? examines how we can nurture kindness, attentiveness, and empathy when working, living, and training with our dogs."
— Connie Wilson
"Pierce implores us to rethink our relationships with dogs, so that they become more a collaboration than a state of dominance. . . . This is far from being one of those ‘how to be a good parent’ books written by a perfect mother of a perfect child. Pierce admits that her own beloved rescue dog Bella is far from perfect when it comes to supposed ‘good’ behaviour. . . . One of the most delightful traits of dogs is . . . their sudden boundless joy, which can manifest itself by their zooming round and round in crazy circles for no reason, so it looks as if they’ve lost their mind. We should keep a list, Pierce advises, of what gives our dog pure, unbridled joy, and we should come back to it often. I’ll do just that. Dogs will be dogs."
— Ysenda Maxtone Graham
"Bioethicist Pierce wants us to make the most of our nonhuman relationships. In Who's a Good Dog?, she argues all dogs are good dogs, and shows how to better serve their innate dogginess."
— New Scientist, Best Non-fiction and Popular Science Books of 2023
"Thought-provoking. . . . A fresh and rigorous inquiry into how humans can best serve their canine companions. Dog lovers will want to take note."
— Publishers Weekly
"Deeply thought-provoking and frequently uncomfortable, this outstanding book asks readers to carefully consider not just the immediate physical needs of dogs but their emotional needs as canines and individuals. . . . This authoritative work asks how owners can provide their dogs with an environment to which comfortable, fulfilling adaptation is possible. Highly recommended."
— Library Journal (starred review)
“How can we help our dogs live their best lives? With enormous insight and empathy, Pierce explains that rather than aiming for obedience from our dogs, we can work collaboratively with them to discover new and joyful ways of being together. She is a staunch advocate for honoring dogs’ true natures. I loved her kind and often humorous stories about living with Bella, who is a very good dog.”
— Barbara J. King, author of "Animals’ Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild"
“Pierce is one of the leading canine bioethicists in the world. In Who’s a Good Dog? she carefully applies her deep and broad knowledge of ethics and dog behavior so that all canines—homed and free-ranging dog beings—can have the best lives possible, and so too can their human companions or the humans with whom they have contact. When dogs and humans form and maintain close, give-and-take relationships, it’s a win-win for all. In this landmark and readable book, Pierce tells us just how to do it.”
— Marc Bekoff, author of "Dogs Demystified" and "Canine Confidential"
“Who’s a Good Dog? is sorely needed to fill essentially a void in the public conversation about the human-dog relationship. Pierce bravely asks us to examine our assumptions about our dogs’ emotional landscapes, and to consider our own actions and choices within those relationships. Her book is a comprehensive, accessible manual for people who have never before considered the basic ethical implications of living with a dog.”
— Lisa Moses, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics
“An astonishing book. Reading Who’s a Good Dog? is akin to the project Pierce asks of us: to adopt a beginner’s mind in relation to understanding the dogs we live with. There’s a sense with many of the questions posed in the book that there is much more to say—but this is also its beauty, that with incredible restraint, Pierce has created opening after opening for us to do the work of reflection (and theorization) ourselves. Original, well-executed, and engaging.”
— Kathryn Gillespie, author of "The Cow with Ear Tag #1389"
“A book that all loving pet owners should read.”
— New Scientist, on "The Last Walk"
“There is of course so, so much more to enrichment for pets; I’d recommend starting with Pierce’s book if you want to know more.”
— New York Magazine, on "Run, Spot, Run"
"Pierce’s book digs into understanding dogs, urging empathy and connection. She explores canine behavior, urging guardians to walk at the dog’s pace and embrace their nature. Her work transforms research into actionable guidance for fostering fulfilling relationships with our furry friends."
— Longmont Leader