Brad Pattison, Unleashed: A Dog’s-Eye View of Life With Humans


After such a long hiatus publishing on this blog, the first post will not be about literature, no, no, no. I am reviewing a book about dogs I read recently. Dogs has been my obsession of the past few months. Somehow, I become obsessed with the idea of having a dog, so I began reading about dogs. I also offered to dog sit a friend’s goldendoodle for three weeks in the month of August. The reading about dogs was quite enlightening, especially combined with the experience of having one around the house (my four-legged shadow!).

Brad Pattison, the author, is a dog trainer and was at one time a dog-daycare operator. He developed a peculiar approach to training dogs that does not rely on treats and aims at having the dog be totally responsive to his or her master when off-leash, hence the title. His approach is based on ensuring that the dog’s psychological and social needs as a pack animal be met.

The most important thing is that the master must be considered the pack leader by the dog (yes, even of your pack of two!). Many dog behavior problems come from dogs not be sure who the pack leader is, which leads to confusion, anxiety, a lack of sense of safety.

Pattison’s method of dog training starts with what he calls “alpha umbilical training” or umbilical for short. Here is what he says about it:

I use the word umbilical because during training, your dog will be on a leash attached to your waist. And when you’ve finished the training, your dog will be so tuned into you and primed to follow your directions that it will be as if you’re joined to each other by an umbilical cord. Alpha umbilical training should happen during the first two weeks, and it should be combined with my no talking rule, which strengthens your ability to bond in your dog’s primary language: movement.

He then proceeds to explain in detail how to set up an umbilical session, and the rules to follow during the session. This book contains very practical information on how to implement elements of the approach. While I have not tested the approach, the principles and their application looked really straightforward. Each chapter ends with important points reiterated in a bulleted list.

The book is very readable with many anecdotes illustrating the approach that the author proposes. He tries to debunk some myths, explains why he disagrees with some approaches used by other trainers and explains the negative consequences of many behaviors of dog owners (such as baby-talking to dogs, carrying them, letting them sit on couches and sleep in their bed, etc.).

So overall, a very interesting book that I look forward to comparing with the other dog book on my pile: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Andrea Horowitz, a professor of animal behavior.

So the dog sitting was a lot of fun, little Mia was great to have around and the experience was a great reality check for whether I can live with a dog. And I think I can. However, the hubby strongly believes that we should wait until at least one of us retires before we get one, so that we don’t leave poor Fur-Ball alone in the house all day. He does have a point… but I still want a dog! It’s a long way to retirement.


Pattison, Brad. Unleashed: A Dog’s-Eye View of Life with Humans. Vintage Canada, Toronto, 2010.

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