The Secret History of Kindness

  • by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  • Narrated by Ann Osmond
  • 10 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An intimate, surprising look at man's best friend and what the leading philosophies of dog training teach us about ourselves. Years back, Melissa Holbrook Pierson brought home a border collie named Mercy, without a clue of how to get her to behave. Stunned after hiring a trainer whose immediate rapport with Mercy seemed magical, Pierson began delving into the techniques of positive reinforcement. She made her way to B. F. Skinner, the behavioral psychologist who started it all, the man who could train a pigeon to dance in minutes and whose research on how behavior is acquired has ramifications for military dolphin trainers, athletes, dancers, and, as he originally conceived, society at large.
To learn more, Pierson met with a host of fascinating animal behaviorists, going behind the scenes to witness the relationships between trainers and animals at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, and to the in-depth seminars at a Clicker Expo where all the dogs but hers seemed to be learning new tricks. The often startling story of what became of a path breaking scientist's work is interwoven with a more personal tale of how to understand the foreign species with whom we are privileged to live. Pierson draws surprising connections in her exploration of how kindness works to motivate all animals, including the human one.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Warning: praises ABA done to autistic people

What would have made The Secret History of Kindness better?

This book would have been better if it hadn't been full of such effusive praise for ABA done to autistic people, a method of "training" wrongfully applied to "correct" autistic people into acting more as if they were typical people, often by holding any praise or affection hostage in return for total compliance. Most survivors of this method end up with severe PTSD as a result. Behavioral techniques that work on dogs are demeaning and abusive to apply to people when the goal is to make them behave as if they are not autistic- which they will always be- instilling a lifetime of self-hatred and inferiority, and usually Complex PTSD.

I am autistic. I could not finish this book or even read further than hearing this dog trainer pretend to know anything about autism or what's best for autistic people.
I wanted a book about Dogs. I GOT a book full of praise for an abusive behavioral practice based in coercion and total surrender of all free will "for the good of the child".
I need a shower. Ew. Ew. Ew.


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- Rosslyn

Slightly Disappointed

Although the content itself is amazing, i felt like this book is almost a review of many different books on dog training vs new content. It was enjoyable although slightly disappointing.
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- H. Robinson "Compassionate"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-31-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios