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Steve Dale's New Book Aims to Help Owners Understand Their Dogs

By Serena Dai | March 4, 2014 6:50am
 Lakeview resident Steve Dale has dedicated his life to helping people understand their pets. Now, he has a new book out with two behaviorial veterinarians in hopes of debunking myths about dog behavior.
Steve Dale and "Decoding Your Dog"
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LAKEVIEW — Sometimes all it takes to kick off a career is to fall in love, even if it's between a man and a dog.

For Lakeview's Steve Dale, it involved his dog Chaser, a rescued Brittany who ended up becoming so attached to his owner that he got anxious even when Dale went to the bathroom.

Dale's success in calming "the love of my life" has led him to edit a new book — by co-authors and behavioral veterinarians Debra F. Horwitz and John Ciribassi — called "Decoding Your Dog."

Dale, who hosts a radio show on WGN and also blogs about pets, said it's his goal to help others develop the same connection he had with Chaser with their own pets.

"I thought if I could help other people, as hokey as it is, and they could feel what I feel about this dog, then maybe there will be more smiles in the world," Dale said.

Dale's wife even tried to soothe Chaser by playing a recording of Dale's voice and keeping a blown-up photo of Dale in the apartment while he was gone. It didn't help.

"Every time we left the house, we'd come back to a puddle," Dale said.

Eventually, Dale and his wife built Chaser's confidence through training enough where they could leave the dog without worrying what would happen in their Lakeview apartment while they were gone.

The book also aims to debunk myths about pet behavior.

Dale, who can frequently be seen in Lakeview walking his two current dogs, Ethel and Hazel, is often stopped by dog owners and walkers who ask questions. He also constantly receives emails from pet owners across the country.

About 80 percent of all the questions are about behavior, Dale said. 

Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation exists on how to control dog behavior, he said. The book recounts veterinary conferences in the mid-2000s, when behavioral veterinarians told Dale they worried about the influence of people like Cesar Millan, host of the popular TV show "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan."

Millan has promoted the idea dogs needs to be dominated, Dale said, which the book, citing animal science and research, says is wrong.

"That's nonsense," he said. "You don't need to physically dominate your dog, ever. Why would you? They're supposed to be your best friends."

For Dale, helping dog owners understand their pets' behavior not only builds connections like the one he had with Chaser, it also could help prevent people from becoming frustrated with animals and giving up on them, he said, because there is nothing like the bond between owners and their pets. 

"There's no other relationship like it on the planet," Dale said.