Book Review: Wag
I get excited by books. I have more books in my home than I’m ever likely to read. When my ‘to be read’ piles – they’re more like stacks – threaten to topple over, I force myself to stop buying more until at least one overladen stack shrinks. My feeble resolve falters as soon as I see a good review. So I start another stack.
At the time when Dr Zazie Todd’s book ‘Wag: the science of making your dog happy’ was due for release, I’d been working through the sprawl in a corner of my working area: the dog books. It’s not a stack, for a stack so plentiful would be impractical. It’s not strictly a to-be-read pile, rather a rich store of read and to-be-read books. Some I dip into from time to time; books on old dogs and memoirs are particular favourites and nestle beside others I intend to read properly one day.
‘Wag’ barely made it to the edge of the sprawl as it took centre stage when it arrived – just as Covid-19 screwed with the world. I couldn’t have had a better book delivery to keep my mind away from that.
This is a book written by someone skilled in using science to support what can be done by us, for our dogs. I like that premise. It is not what our dogs can do for us that’s important. The reverse view is what this book explores in detail.
It’s a book which revels in facts, all meticulously researched. One where science coalesces with anecdote into an accessible read for all, irrespective of whether approached from a lay person’s view – as I do – or professional. Anyone who lives with dogs, or is thinking about it, should read and absorb every drop of knowledge distilled here.
As an avid reader of Dr Todd’s blog Companion Animal Psychology I hoped her book would be written with a similarly clear, accessible style. My hopes were met; this book may be one that contains hundreds of citations but it’s eminently readable. The tone throughout is encouraging, one that artfully mixes science and sound sentiment. It’s a style that invites the reader to think a bit deeper whilst keeping the practical application in sight at all times. Dr Todd’s stories about her dogs are charming and relatable, helping to create a book that’s grounded in science, elevated by empathy.
There are sections which cover what we’d expect in a book like this, including getting a dog, their development, how dogs learn, diet, exercise, their relationships with us. There’s a whole chapter on sleep which I found fascinating. There’s a detailed one on senior dogs with enlightening information on how they change with age; and a section on end of life care, all sensitively covered. The book is immediately practical with each chapter ending with a ‘How To Apply The Science At Home’ list. The book concludes with an inspired checklist for a happy dog, a clever synthesis of the book’s contents.
There’s a large heartedness running throughout the book. It’s crafted with a clear empathy not only for dogs, but for the humans who can, and should always try their best. It invites us to keep learning how to make dogs happy and to do it. It’s an empowering read in its totality. It does complete justice to the complexity of the relationships we share with our dogs. It’s a book to revisit, often. One that will no doubt become dog eared with time, sitting contentedly amidst my growing sprawl of favourite books.