BOOK REVIEW - Beware the Straw Man: The Science Dog Explores Dog Training Fact & Fiction May 23 2015

Beware the Straw Man by Linda P. Case

In Beware the Straw Man: The Science Dog Explores Dog Training Fact & Fiction, Linda P. Case zones in on a number of popular beliefs about dogs and systematically debates the truth (or lack thereof) behind each one. Reviewed by Gail Radtke

Linda P. Case has brought us a nice-size read in her latest book, Beware the Straw Man: The Science Dog Explores Dog Training Fact & Fiction. The work contains 32 essays on different topics that each identify a common belief about dogs. The author then reviews the scientific evidence for and against that particular perception.

Case is a qualified canine nutritionist, dog trainer and science writer, holding a bachelor’s in animal science and a master’s in canine/ feline nutrition. She is also author of numerous articles and has written six other books. Her blog The Science Dog is full of useful information and is current and active.

The contents of Beware the Straw Man are what I find most interesting. The format allowed me to read the topics that interested me the most first and then go back and forth between the remaining topics as I pleased. Each topic is a story in itself and some are as short as nine pages, but don’t be fooled by the length of the essay. Each one is an intriguing and informative read with references of study listed at the end. Case is a writer who implements research thoroughly to back up her point of view.

I also enjoyed the fact that I was able to review certain topics that I often see in dog publications and social media posts which are regularly debated, e.g. Chapter Six Thyroid on Trial. The way the book is formatted, I am able to first read Case’s deliberations and then be further guided by the listed references for follow-up. Case also includes her personal opinions on various topics throughout with her Up on My Soapbox inserts. These allow us to see exactly what she thinks about each topic and what she feels the research lacks or supports.

In terms of structure, the book is broken down into four parts with the essays based on the individual themes. For example, Part 1, Science, includes essays on scientific methods and how canine behavior studies are carried out by researchers. Other sections are Behavior, Training and Dogs & Their People and it is easy for readers to flit back and forth between them. Given that the book is broken down into sections in this way, I can pick it up and read something new each time and, if my day is busy, I can still find a few minutes to read one of the essays without feeling like I missed something because I did not have time to read the whole section.

Beware the Straw Man has the allaround ability to satisfy the academic who likes to have research cited after every paper, the dog trainer who wants to fact find on trends featured in blogs and social media posts, and companion dog guardians who want to learn more about their dog(s) and the people who study them.

Specifically for dog owners, Case leaves a “take away” at the end of each essay summarizing the information included in the piece, minus the scientific language that may not be relevant for everyone. I found that to be an incredibly useful addition.

In Beware the Straw Man, Case has devised a book that both pet professionals and pet guardians can read and benefit from. It is full of valuable information and I would highly recommend it for new dog guardians, as well as dog trainers and those who study the science of canine behavior.

Read Gail's Review as published in the May 2015 Issue of BARKS from the Guild Magazine: