"The other end of the leash" is a book that could easily disappoint the purchaser if they did not know what they were buying. This is not a book on the practicalities of how to train your dog. Ms McConnell does not tell you how to make spot sit, down or fetch, or tell you how to teach him competition obedience. It is also not a book on the theory of teaching dogs, or on fixing behavioural problems. You will not hear about the benefits of positive reinforcement versus punishment in this book, or learn how to stop your dog from chasing the postman.
However, if you accept this book for what it is, it is truly wonderful and quite unique. "The Other End of the Leash" is simply a informal discussion on the similarities and differences between canine and human communication. McConnell has studied human behaviour as well as dog behaviour, and has come to the conclusion that many behaviours and verbal tones that seem friendly and natural to humans are aversive to our canine companions.
When used inappropriately, these human signals can trigger a fearful or aggressive reaction in dogs. Less seriously, using inappropriate body language or vocal tone can undermine our obedience work. When teaching a recall for example, signals that might seem appropriate to a human (leaning forward, looking directly at the dog and barking a loud cheerful "come!") can in fact inhibit the dog from approaching.
This book also contains one of the most sensible discussion of dominance that I have ever read. McConnell contends that dominance is a much misused but still useful concept. She discusses the way that we can mistakenly give up our "Alpha" status to our dogs by using the wrong body language, and explains the severe behavioural problems that can be caused when we do this. Most importantly, she tells us how we can earn back Alpha status without resorting to physical violence. However unlike some other dog trainers ("Dog Listener" Jan Fennell springs to mind!), McConnell does not try to ascribe every behavioural problem to a lack of human dominance or leadership. She is careful to include anecdotes about dogs that were misdiagnosed as having dominance issues when they were merely untrained, and explains how this misdiagnosis actually exacerbated their behavioural problems.
Her explanations of canine body language are excellent, and far superior to any other book of this type on the market. Unlike many other dog trainers - Turid Rugaas, for example - McConnell discusses the body language of aggression and fear as well the language of submission and "calming". This information is essential for anyone dealing with a potential aggressive dog.
The only complaint I have with this book is that McConnell appears to deal mainly with herding breeds, and although she briefly mentions a few other dogs in the book (mostly retrievers and a few smaller terriers), her anecdotes are mostly about border collies. This bias is relevant as border collies are a breed that was developed to work closely with humans, and specifically selected to be alert and sensitive to the nuances of human and animal body language. I know from experience that some of McConnell's conclusions aren't necessarily going to be quite so accurate with other types of dog - for example, dogs that are bred to guard, dogs that are bred to fight, and dogs that are bred to work independently of humans.