Dog Quirks And Behavior Solutions, published September, 2010. It’s a collection of case studies, information and proven strategies to help dogs adapt to living successfully with their humans. Families everywhere can learn how to manage and modify problem behaviors while increasing their understanding of dog’s unique emotional and relationship needs. The strategies are simple but innovative. The book is for anyone who wants to help a dog with issues, from hyperactivity to inappropriate elimination, separation anxiety, and aggression.
Tell us something about yourself.
I have expertise in dog behavior, family relationships, interviewing and systems consulting. In 2003 I founded the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and served as President and Chair of their Dog division for four years. I’m a long-time advocate for meaningful certification. I have a private behavior consulting practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the bulk of my referrals coming from veterinarians. I’m also a medical family therapist with long-standing eligibility for Clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. In addition to writing Dog Quirks and Behavior Solutions, I’m author of a 2006 text for behavior professionals, The Family in Dog Behavior Consulting.
What inspired you to write this book?
The driving forces behind my book are as follows:
1) Companion dogs are being inappropriately punished, discarded and euthanized—in droves!—for behavior problems that are resolvable. I wanted to take the issues to families with dogs and enlist their help in changing social norms that result in harm to dogs and the families that have embraced them.
2) Scientifically valid, reliable information isn’t getting to families that need it. A lot of junk information is getting through, however. I wanted to get solid, usable information out there that would empower people to help their dogs.
3) A related reason has to do with our down-turn economy. Many families are scraping by, having a tough time paying for routine veterinary care much less dog behavior services. I wanted to enable competent do-it-yourselfers to tackle their dog’s problems on their own if they had to. There’s also a shortage of qualified behavior help in the communities. At the least, after reading my book, dog’s families won’t need as much help from professionals because they’ll be able to go a distance on their own.
How did you choose the title?
From the outset I knew I wanted to frame dog behavior problems as Dog Quirks. It’s how I see things. Dogs have peculiarities, each one expressing the self in a unique way. I added Behavior Solutions to the title so families would know my book is not just entertaining; it’s meant to facilitate problem-solving. albeit in fun ways.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
When I first set out I was sure I’d go with a traditional publisher. I was disappointed to discover, today’s author earn very little from book sales, typically not more than 5% per book. I’d invested two years, endless hours, writing, editing and designing, and our children need money to pay for their graduate school educations. So, I decided to publish independently. I hired experienced graphics designers to help with the cover and interior design, and professional editors, but I ended up doing a lot of the work myself, to keep costs down and because I had more artistic control that way. For example, I chose all the pictures. In addition, I purchased the sophisticated software recommended by publishing experts, such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, so we could continue to modify and perfect our documents. Nobody would’ve cared as much as we do, or understood the books themes with as much depth.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve always liked to express myself in various ways through the arts—through acting, music, dance, writing. Organizational development actually lends itself to creative expression, as does animal behavior consulting. Writing is just one means to a creative end. I’ve always liked thinking about words and moving words around to express various ideas. I enjoy using words to illustrate truths, and elicit emotional and empathic responses. It’s just something I do, and with practice I’ve learned to do it better.
What kind of response are you getting to your book?
Review comments from colleagues who are known experts have been highly favorable to the book. They say the stories are interesting and moving, but most important, the information’s solid. Readers can read some of their comments on my web, http://www.dogquirks.com/book_reviews.htm.
What’s the most important message from your book?
That’s easy. Behavior problems have diverse causes and are held in place by multiple reinforcers. There’s a need for a coordinated plan to get at problems from different angles. The biggest mistake families make—and most families do this—is to run through interventions one by one until they’ve exhausted all the possibilities that might have worked if applied as part of an orchestrated plan.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Yep. I learned to detach from groups, to shake free of the influence of group- think. Groups typically pressure members to think about things in ways that protect the group. These ways can narrow perspectives, and draw us away from truths that matter. When I let go of my attachment to groups, that’s when I found my voice as a writer.
If you read memoirs and biographies about successful writers, you’ll see they seek solitude for this reason, so their thoughts and feelings and knowing will find expression, unhampered by other’s expectations and demands to narrow their perspectives so they’ll fit in with their groups. Freedom nourishes creativity.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
My interests are pretty far-reaching. I care about social justice issues and the American way at its best, as when protected by constitutional freedoms. I read biographies and memoirs about great artists, writers, dancers, singers and other musicians, and political and other public figures, particularly if they managed to live well. I like to see where they came from and how they got things to turn out, how they handled their creativity, how they view others in their sphere…and how they care for their animals. I’ve read some Holocaust survivor stories because they help me understand our possibilities and limitations, our ethical obligations as human beings, and how we can draw upon inner resources to survive and thrive in spite of circumstances outside our control. I’m also interested in the spiritual life, and the good and evil that typically emanates from religious belief. George Vaillant wrote an interesting book that I reference in Dog Quirks called Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope, and Love. I also read about animals in the wild, and companion animal stories and behavior books. Recent books I read and enjoyed are Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives about what goes on behind the scenes in a more progressive zoo, and Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo. I read Temple Grandin books because they help me view life from animal’s perspectives.
A novel I recently enjoyed reading is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I hope I’m not disappointed but I just ordered Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; it’s getting so much hype, hope it deserves the endless accolades. I’ve been re-reading the classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. My follow-up for novels is to read biographical information about the authors to help me understand how their worldview’s evolved. I’m searching for ways to identify contemporary novels that are excellent but haven’t been noticed by the mainstream press.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
No, I plan to stay with this book for a few years. I want people to understand what’s in it and if I can help them learn from it, I will. As such, I’ve signed up to help out on blogs, book club discussions, book signings, so I can see for myself what questions people have, and help them connect the dots.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Don’t expect to turn out your product quickly. Most authors will tell you, it takes time and many re-writes to get things right. I was astonished when I first learned that some of our best literature took five years or longer to write, but that’s the way it is, except for an occasional highly prolific writer like William F. Buckley Jr..
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
I’m a problem-solver and my book is for people like me. The good-fit reader wants to do right by their dogs, enjoys good stories, and appreciates simple, sensible solutions. The perfect reader will also have an appetite for simplicity that has it’s bedrock in complexity. If all dog families read my book and embraced its teachings, the world would be a better place for dogs and they’d live more peacefully with us.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Please let me know what you think of the book. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org