What inspired you to write your book?
You may have spent months or even years deciding what
breed or size of pet that’s right for you and your family. Yet
your ability to choose does not guarantee that your dog will
act in a predetermined manner or that you won’t be sued or
lose your homeowner’s insurance. The truth is that in the eyes
of the law, dogs are considered property. Property that can
cause damage and serious injury. Regardless of how much you
love and care for your dog, most communities hold dog owners
strictly liable for their pets’ actions. Simply teaching your dog
to sit, stay, down, come, and heel is not enough to protect
your liability. When today’s society reinforces misconceptions
about dogs then is unapologetic when there is an accident,
you can be left on your own and your dog can be punished.
How can you be prepared when most dog obedience classes
do not emphasize, or even include, information on community
safety and breeders are marketers for the breeds they love?
People Training for Good Dogs addresses just these issues then
teaches you how to easily protect your family and to navigate
safely through your life with your beloved dog.
As a former animal officer, I
witnessed every failure imaginable
among dogs, their owners, and her
community. Drawing from these experiences
and my knowledge of both human
and canine behaviors, I
created the People Training for Good
Dogs program to help owners incorporate
the canine point of view into dog
owners’ handling skills.
Genre and Targeted Age Group
About your Book:
Imagine your reaction if your child’s friend grabs the remote control
of the TV you are watching and changes the channel—and then later,
does it again. We instantly recognize this behavior as wrong and correct
it. When humans break dog rules and they correct us, we ignore our
insubordinate actions and default to “blaming the dog.”
Former animal officer Melissa Berryman has witnessed how
devastating the effects society’s entrenched beliefs regarding dog
behavior and temperament can be—that good behavior can be
purchased, that an owner’s handling ability doesn’t matter, that
human behavior and the situations in which the dog is placed are
insignificant. Berryman shows how analyzing situations and contexts
can stop the cycle of preventable incidents.
Written with humor and compassion, People Training for Good Dogs
offers insight into the impact that human behavior and understanding
have on our relationships with dogs. By working with core canine
social and behavioral drives, Berryman provides owners with sound
techniques that focus on safety and can help protect their liability in
A Reintroduction to Dogs
Now that you are beginning to realize just how much the current
beliefs about dogs leave you at a disadvantage and increase your
liability risk, it is important that all other misperceptions be
identifi ed and abandoned as well. Let’s start this process by examining where
our current conventional wisdom goes off -track in order to reorient and
reintroduce ourselves to our “best friends.” I call this reorientation Canine
University, as often it is the fi rst time that dog owners are asked to see their
dogs as canines and not as their children.
If you are like me, your views and feelings about your dog were shaped
by TV shows where the dog got the bad guys or signaled to the adults that a
child had “fallen into a well.” Th ese TV dogs were sometimes even portrayed
as smarter than their humans, often having enhanced human intuition that
was crucial to our survival. Unfortunately, dogs were never intended to act
like our own personal friends, assistants, or lifesavers.
Dogs, as part of the canine species, are actually domesticated from the
wolf. As they were once wild, they have their own nonhuman agendas. In
order to have a satisfying relationship and also protect your personal liability,
it is important that your view of dogs as a species does not come from a
fi ctitious television animal hero, but from a more accurate understanding of
dogs as domesticated predatory canines living in a human world. Many of
34 | People Training for Good Dogs
my students are shocked that their dogs were not created by humans with
uncanny abilities to act and react like humans do.
A skilled dog handler thinks about dogs from a domesticated predatory
canine point of view. Consider that dogs are group animals. Living in this
group has molded a lot of what they are. Group living has shaped their
temperament and all of their behaviors. So it is important to think of your
dog as one piece of an entire pie and not an island unto itself. Group living
is a commonality we share with the dog. On a basic level, there are lots of
similarities between us, and hence, the strong bond we share with what we
refer to as our “best friends.”
For both humans and canines, the benefi ts of living in a group include
added safety, ease in fi nding and securing food, help in raising young, and
sharing tasks. However, there are other predators, such as cougars, bobcats,
bears, sharks, eagles, snakes, and foxes, that survive quite nicely by not living
in groups. Th is indicates that those benefi ts are not the primary reasons why
canines are group animals.
Canines must actually live in groups to survive, and there are two main
reasons for this. One is due to their physiology, which has left them without
claws that can hold onto their prey like cats can. Th e way that canines kill
their prey is primarily by trauma through tearing at it or ripping it apart. Th is
forces canines to work in groups in order to successfully bring down and then
kill their primary target. Th e second reason why canines are group animals
comes down to what they eat. Th e main diet of the wolf is deer, elk, caribou,
or moose. Such prey are big and powerful animals that require a team eff ort
to catch and kill.
By comparison, foxes don’t live in groups and also do not have claws that
are designed to grip their prey so they can kill it. However, their diet consists
primarily of rodents, reptiles, and birds. Th ey don’t need fi ve foxes to kill
a mouse nor do they want to share a mouse with fi ve other foxes, and thus
they do not have to live in a group to survive. Th e popular belief is that dogs
are social animals and live in groups to fi ll that need. However, an animal’s
degree of sociability is actually dependent on whether or not it lives within a
group. If you must work together to survive, you also have to get along and
coordinate eff orts. Th at accounts for the reason why dogs and house cats are
Canine University | 35
so diff erent. Cats, like foxes, are able to fi nd food on their own, so there is no
need to live in a group. Th erefore, cats do not have to get along with other
cats or work intricately together in order to survive. Canines must get along
with their pack mates or in many cases die.
What formats are your books in
Both eBook and Print
How do you see writing a book in the Pet Genre as different from writing other genres of books?
There are a lot of subtleties that are difficult to convey with dog handling instruction. No matter how much you believe you are explaining it thoroughly people learn in different modalities.
In teaching this material for over 15 years it is definitely information that needs to be repeated. My students understand this and don’t have a problem reading it over again for reinforcement. My aim is for people to be able to use the information not lose it. A few reviewers did not like that I repeated myself in some places not realizing that without it I know through experience that the concepts would not become cemented if they had not been.
A major piece of my book needs to be seen so linking to a website, including a dvd or link to a youtube video is important.
Advice to someone that is thinking about or currently working on a pet book
The major headache is definitely the editing stage. Try not to have too many people edit because non-professionals can change your voice. Invest in editing services if you have organizational issues. Create small pieces of the book to tackle. It can become very overwhelming to edit off a small computer screen.
As for your theme. There are too many pet books on the market. Have something new to say or you can definitely drown. No one will market your book for you. Plan to put more time in getting your book out there than in writing it.
How did you decide how to publish your book and where is it published through:
I decided to self publish to have the book available ASAP to support students in my People Training for Good Dogs program. Having to query publishers and agents was another step and my students really needed to have the book in hand. Looking back I would investigate all routes thoroughly. It is a lot of time and work but worth it.
A Massachusetts animal control officer from 1993 to 1999, Melissa Berryman is a national dog bite consultant who works with rescue groups, dog owners and bite victims. She also designed and teaches a safety and liability class for dog owners, from which “People Training for Good Dogs” is derived. She has worked with more than 10,000 dogs. Berryman holds an undergraduate degree in Animal Science Pre-Veterinary Medicine, and a master’s in Public Administration.