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January 12, 2022

This book review of A Dog of Many Names by Douglas Green feels so long overdue it's comical. The book's publicist first contacted me a year ago. My review copy arrived in March 2021 in advance of a July release date. I didn't get around to reading the book until Clover had minor surgery in October 2021. After taking a walk on a local trail in town, I sat next to a creek to read until I got word I could pick her up. I nearly stopped reading the book several times for several reasons, but I did finish it in a single day. I tried contacting the publicist again in October with some questions / concerns, but I never heard back. Still, I think it's worth discussion, so let's get to it. 


A dog of many names book review - shows book propped up in front of white and metalic sprayed flowers, Book cover is mostly red with a german shepherd like dog in the lower righthand corner and some mountains

Book Review - A Dog of Many Names

I typically enjoy high-concept novellas about dogs. I reviewed an exceptional book in this genre years ago -- Angelo's Journey. 

A Dog of Many Names uses a similar story structure, with a dog entering the lives of many people, in many situations.

Parts of of the book really sing. No doubt. It's well written. 

Early on, I made the mistake thinking Green wrote A Dog of Many Names for grownups, but I clarified with the publicist that the book is indeed meant for young adults ... which may explain the dystopian feel of the narrative since that's so common in books for readers that age. 

The story is told in third-person omniscient point of view, occasionally shifting from the viewpoint of humans to the dog. Thankfully, it's' never told in the dog's own voice since I have an extreme aversion to that style of writing. 

Yet, I'm still giving you a trigger warning. This book is brutal and includes so few people with any redeeming qualities. Even some of the children in the book really suck. 

Maybe I'm extra raw these days or too much of an old lady for modern tolerances for craptastic people and violence. I own that. It's entirely possible I'm simply not a good match for this story.  

If you don't mind seeing the grittier side of life with dogs, then this book may be a better fit for you.

Here's why I nearly gave up on the book several times. 

OMG, Stop With the Alpha BS Already

It's entirely possible the Alpha dog reference on page 82 got removed before the final book got published, but maybe not. 

That's typically a deal-breaker for me as noted in my book review rules. You'll find more explanation there about my hatred of that term and the bogus dog behavior information behind it. Simply know, that, it's complete and utter baloney, and I wish people would stop using it in any context.

They think it makes them sound dog savvy. It does not. It's shorthand for not knowing crap about dog behavior science. And, any usage of it, especially in a dog book for young people, perpetuates that misinformation in dangerous ways that only prolong the abuse that often comes with dominance-based thinking about dogs. 

Inaccurate Clicker Usage for Dog Training?

Another passage that made me cranky appears to feature someone using a clicker -- which is designed for positive-reinforcement training -- completely wrong. It clicking sound appears to signal to the dog that punishment is coming instead. Gah!!!!!

EXCERPT - "Meanwhile, the man would take her on little leashed walks, working to teach her some words. But unlike at the last house, he didn't offer her any treats for getting orders right --- he just jerked on the choke collar or made an irritating clicking sound with a little device when she got them wrong."

The particular character in this scene also beats the dog with a belt (then lies to the veterinarian about it). He then starts trying to bait her into fights with his other dogs, so real scum.

Okay, fine, if you want to include awful people as characters, whatever, but please use accurate information about dog training like the use of clickers. 

Next Reader

I typically put the free review copies of books I get into the free little library at our shelter. 

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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