New book review out: Feisty Fido

Book review: Patricia McConnell’s and Karen B. London Feisty Fido
By Laure-Anne Visele, written Dec 2012

This article is part of my collection of book reviews.

AUTHORS: Patricia McConnell and Karen B. London



SUMMARY: Pocket-sized booklet explaining the rehabilitation steps for dogs that are aggressive to other dogs when on-leash.

AUDIENCE If you’re an owner or trainer interested in on-leash reactivity, it’s definitely worth a read, and it will yield non-negligible results if you follow it to the letter. But please do not expect it to resolve the problem fully without further work and specialist help. I see this book as a valuable explanatory tool, rather than a self-sufficient treatment protocol.


Both authors have impressive credentials: they are both clinical behaviourist diplomates AND zoology doctorates. They bring together common-sense and academia, an extremely rare commodity in the world of dog publishing.

Feisty Fido talks of a problem with epidemic proportions: reactivity to other dogs when on the leash.

The authors go through each step of the counter-conditioning and desensitization technique, whereby you:

  • Gradually re-introduce your dog to the stimulus (another dog)
  • Distract your dog from the stimulus
  • Increase your voice control over your dog even in the presence of the stimulus
  • Associate the stimulus with a pleasant outcome, effectively ‘re-wiring’ the unpleasant feeling previously triggered the presence of another dog.

An important side note: The authors appear to be the first to recommend the “where’s the dog” technique: rewarding your dog for looking at the other dog, somewhat of a paradigm shift in the community where, hitherto, we would train the dog to look at the owner. This subtle change of approach makes their techniques that much powerful.

Given the authors’ credentials, it is little wonder that the book promotes non-invasive and evidence-based methods. Thus fear not: no paranoid, dogmatic, dominance-based advice from our two good ladies.

As ever with dog-dog reactivity, the demands of the programme are somewhat unrealistic, and the prognosis is often guarded. Still, reading the book will help you open the bonnet of a desensitization programme, and will deliver sizable improvements.

As often with these highly specialized booklets, I would sooner place it in the hands of a budding specialist trainer than those of a dog owner. My concern is that leash reactivity is best handled by a specialist, as a botched job might achieve the opposite effect.

Your comments

Did you read this book? What did you think? Would you recommend it? Have you read a similar one that you’d recommend to Canis bonus readers?

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  1. Posted 2 February 2013 at 22:28 | Permalink

    I would like to point out that McConnell and London were actually the first to train Look at That, only they called it “Where’s the Dog?” This can be found on page 50 of the Feisty Fido book, both the 2003 and 2009 printings. While I agree there are some fantastic recommendations in Control Unleashed, this book was not published until 2007.

    In reality, I have and still do recommend both books to clients and new trainers alike. They are easy to read and filled with useful skills that any anxious or reactive dog should learn. I just feel it is important to properly attribute the creation/initial application of a “game” or “protocol” and give credit where credit is due. This is especially true when reviewing a book containing the mentioned skill.

    • Posted 17 February 2013 at 08:06 | Permalink

      Thanks you very much, Shelly. That’s a very good point. I’ve made the correction now.

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