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.
Introduction: We Dog
Chapter 1. The Difficulty of Being a (Pet) Dog
Chapter 2. Human-Dog Relations
Chapter 3. Care and Constraint
Chapter 4. Landscapes of Fear, Landscapes of Pleasure
Chapter 5. Technologies of Control
Chapter 6. Training Dogs to Be Good
Chapter 7. Bad Dogs and Behavioral "Problems"
Chapter 8. Dwelling in Possibility
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 The Last Walk: Reflections On Our Pets At the End of Their Lives, and Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. 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.
"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