HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog (2007)

by Ted Kerasote

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1705213,847 (4.18)45
While on a camping trip, Ted Kerasote met a dog--a Labrador mix--who was living on his own in the wild. They became attached to each other, and Kerasote decided to name the dog Merle and bring him home. There, he realized that Merle's native intelligence would be diminished by living exclusively in the human world. He put a dog door in his house so Merle could live both outside and in. This portrait of a remarkable dog and his relationship with the author explores the issues that animals and their human companions face as their lives intertwine, bringing to bear the latest research into animal consciousness and behavior as well as insights into the origins and evolution of the human-dog partnership. Merle showed Kerasote how dogs might live if they were allowed to make more of their own decisions, and Kerasote suggests how these lessons can be applied universally.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 40
    Marley & Me by John Grogan (Talbin, dele2451)
  2. 41
    The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (kalpitad)
    kalpitad: Although The Art of Racing in the Rain is fiction and Merle's Door is non-fiction, both provide a narrative about the mind and heart of a dog.
  3. 00
    Horsepower: A Memoir by Annette Israel (nancenwv)
    nancenwv: Also about close communication, observation, love, and respect for an animal.
  4. 00
    I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson (mariah2)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 45 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
This is a fantastic book for dog lovers. The story of the author and Merle is intriguing and emotional. They are partners in every sense of the word.

In addition, the author provides a lot of information about theories and research in dog evolution and behavior. ( )
  grandpahobo | Jun 20, 2021 |
Seriously one of the best books I've read in 2012. Ok, it's still January, but this one was fantastic from start to finish. I hit the jackpot when I picked this up at the library. Having been to the area of Wyoming where the author lives and writes about, it was captivating. The revealing way Kerasote writes about the connections with animals which are so personal and real, his thoughts on paper truly resonated with me and I could appreciate that. It was a very entertaining book in which I laughed dozens of times and also cried for the last two chapters. Truly heartbreaking and my husband thought I was having a breakdown.
Back to the beginning, I love how the author said that the dog picked him and that was that. I get that. I remember when I picked our rescue out of a line-up, I sensed this dog was going to be great. He looked pathetic at the shelter, but he has blossomed into the best dog for our family and our lives are so much richer with him, not to mention hairier and smellier. But, it's worth it. ( )
  ABQcat | Jun 19, 2021 |
I didn't think I would particularly care for this book, but, of course, I loved it - it's lovingly written about a dog, after all. The author is a bit holier-than-thou, but he has a valid point about how we treat our dogs in the 21st century west. And he quoted this, which was one of those lovely moments that books can give you:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

~ Mary Oliver, Wild Geese ( )
  CatherineBurkeHines | Nov 28, 2018 |
Ted Kerasote and his friends found a dog on a river boating trip, and Ted, who'd been looking for the right new dog for a while, fell in love.

Merle was perhaps ten months old, a Labrador mix, perhaps born on an Indian reservation. Shy of people at first, he grew to trust Ted in the course of the river trip. He was wary of sticks, and wouldn't fetch. When Ted brought him home to Wyoming, both their lives change.

This is both a fascinating and a frustrating book. Ted and Merle have a wonderful, rich relationship, and most of us with much-loved dogs feel pretty confident we can interpret our dogs' side of our interactions, just as Ted does. We've experienced the joy of getting to know a new dog in our lives, and growing into a relationship.

But Merle was half-wild and had been surviving on his own for a while when Ted found him. He's got both survival skills and a committed habit of roaming his territory that a pup raised in a family would be far less likely to have. Full grown, he's seventy pounds. And Ted brings him home to Kelly, Wyoming, a tiny village inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, a village with little vehicular traffic and an established custom of free-roaming dogs.

Kerasote thinks that dogs who live inside full-time, walk on leashes, and are crate-trained only seem to be happy because they're suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. He goes on a long rant about how clicker training and positive reinforcement training reduce dogs to automata unable make their own decisions--and then, much later in the book, reveals that Karen Pryor, a major early proponent of clicker training, and a trainer of trainers in clicker training and positive reinforcement, is his favorite behaviorist.

He's got two examples from Merle's life that, in his mind, demonstrate the failure of positive reinforcement training and why punishment works better. One involves Merle chasing cattle, a behavior which he has to be cured of quickly, and Ted uses a choke collar and a long line to convince him it's a Really Bad Idea. (Why does Merle have to be cured of this quickly? Because he's a free-roaming dog, and ranchers and farmers shoot dogs who harass the livestock.)

The other instance is when Merle acquires the habit of making regular visits to a woman in the village who feeds him as much as he'll eat of extremely tasty foods, including meats prepared in extremely fatty ways. Attempts to talk to the woman about the harm to Merle's health that will result from the fact that the formerly lean and muscular dog is getting fat on this all-you-can-eat high-calorie diet are unproductive. So Ted finally resorts to using a shock collar to make visits to the woman's home seriously unpleasant.

What Ted misses in discussing both these incidents is that, far from showing that positive reinforcement doesn't work, these two problem behaviors were highly self-reinforcing. And while there are other things that could have been done about the woman feeding Merle excessively, the cattle-chasing had to end immediately, or Merle would have been killed.

Another amusing feature is that these appear to have been the only two occasions when he used anything that could be called punishment or correction on Merle, while he and Merle used positive reinforcement on each other for pretty much everything else. His admiration for Karen Pryor is more in accord with his real behavior than his contempt for all those other positive trainers.

That doesn't stop him from scolding about the misguided fools who look at misbehaving dogs and recommend exercise, mental stimulation, and crate training for them because they are bored and under-exercised. He says there's something perfectly natural going on; that dogs are supposed to roam freely, live like dogs, and make decisions!

He's right. There is something perfectly natural going on. And it's that dogs need exercise and mental stimulation, and if they don't get it, the excess energy and the mental boredom lead them to find something, anything, to do, and perfectly natural dog behavior, such as a love of chewing things, becomes destructive.

And we don't all have seventy-pound dogs with wilderness survival skills, and live in a tiny village in Yellowstone National Park. Putting in a dog door and letting them roam isn't a viable solution for everyone, or every dog.

But regular walks, visits to the dog park, involvement in dog activities, and provision of appropriate chew toys and food dispensing toys that let dogs use their brains to work out how to get their food provide the physical, mental, and social stimulation dogs need--the things Merle got by free roaming in a community where that was both safe and accepted. Correctly done, crate training makes the crate the dog's own space, a comfortable and secure space the dog can use when he needs a break from people and their antics. It also reduces a bit the inevitable stress when a dog has to be left at the vet's, if crating is already a known experience with some positive associations.

For all those criticisms, though, this is a fascinating and moving story of a man and a dog who were truly soul mates. It's a beautiful relationship and a wonderful story. You'll love Merle, and Ted's relationship with him. Interwoven with that story is the research on dogs that Ted read and absorbed, while working to deepen his understanding and appreciation of a remarkable dog.

Recommended.

I borrowed this book from the library. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
A great dog and outdoor living book. Ted finds Merle (dog) on a camping trip and Merle ends up adopting Ted! They seem to understand each other from the start. I love the way Ted talks for Merle- it's not baby talk, but it seems to really come from Merle. This is also a lot of asides that go into aspects of dogs; id; how they came from wolfs; how they were probably domesticated. Excellent! ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ted Kerasoteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lawlor, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
For Donald and Gladys Kent
First words
This is the story of one dog, my dog, Merle.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

While on a camping trip, Ted Kerasote met a dog--a Labrador mix--who was living on his own in the wild. They became attached to each other, and Kerasote decided to name the dog Merle and bring him home. There, he realized that Merle's native intelligence would be diminished by living exclusively in the human world. He put a dog door in his house so Merle could live both outside and in. This portrait of a remarkable dog and his relationship with the author explores the issues that animals and their human companions face as their lives intertwine, bringing to bear the latest research into animal consciousness and behavior as well as insights into the origins and evolution of the human-dog partnership. Merle showed Kerasote how dogs might live if they were allowed to make more of their own decisions, and Kerasote suggests how these lessons can be applied universally.--From publisher description.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.18)
0.5
1 3
1.5
2 9
2.5 4
3 31
3.5 13
4 88
4.5 13
5 115

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 173,587,142 books! | Top bar: Always visible