Animals in Translation

Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
Narrated by: Andrea Gallo
Length: 14 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (221 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Temple Grandin’s professional training as an animal scientist and her history as a person with autism have given her a perspective like that of no other expert in the field. Grandin and coauthor Catherine Johnson present their powerful theory that autistic people can often think the way animals think—putting autistic people in the perfect position to translate “animal talk.” Exploring animal pain, fear, aggression, love, friendship, communication, learning, and, even animal genius, Grandin is a faithful guide into their world. Animals in Translation reveals that animals are much smarter than anyone ever imagined, and Grandin, standing at the intersection of autism and animals, offers unparalleled observations and extraordinary ideas about both.

©2005 Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson (P)2013 Recorded Books

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful, but I have a bone to pick...

I have no hesitation in recommending Animals in Translation to anyone looking for more insight into animal behavior or perhaps those interested in better understanding the thought processes of the autistic. However, I have to warn companion animal lovers that the author clearly does not have the same sense of sympatico with domesticated predators (cats and dogs) as she seems to have with domesticated prey animals (horses, cows, sheep, pigs, etc.). Although Grandin did provide me some interesting new ways of thinking about my dogs' and cats' reactions, virtually every example she uses for dogs and cats is stated, "my neighbor's cat" or "my good friend's dogs" and many of the conclusions she draws are worded with "so I think", "I am not sure, but", "pretty much" & "it seems to me". When Grandin is discussing horse and cow behavior, she is much more likely to cite scientific studies and personal, first-hand experiences and those sections of the book are much stronger as a result.

I don't have any special expertise with animals other than loving many dogs and cats and working as a volunteer in companion animal rescue for many years, but there were several incorrect statements made about dogs that made me question how closely Grandin has actually looked at dogs in particular. She states that you should avoid white haired dogs because they have white skin and that lack of melanin means they are albino or something close to that and genetically flawed. Well, I've had several white haired dogs and they had pink skin like almost all the dogs I've had of any hair color (and I have every hair color dog). I have had a few dogs with sort of brownish skin, but even the black dogs usually have pinkish skin. And, none of my white haired dogs has had any major genetic problem - white shepherd mix lived to be 12, white cocker mix lived to be 16, and white poodle mix still living at 14. Grandin also says, "A dog's mouth should be mostly black with some white." Hmm, 5 dogs right at hand (mine and a couple of fosters) all mutts but a variety of colors, sizes, breeding and every one of them has a mostly PINK mouth, with some brownish purple on the gums (could call it black), and NO white except for the teeth. Where did she come up with that? I have seen some chows and chow mixes that have a purplish or black mouth, but most dogs have a mostly pink mouth. These were not huge flaws, but it not only made me question the author's expertise, but also made me wonder about her editor. If Grandin hasn't really looked at a dog, I don't know if I can trust that she can "translate a dog" better than I can.

Owners/lovers of bullies and rotties should be particularly aware that Grandin goes on a bit of a rant about these two breeds of dogs. As someone who has worked with many breeds and mixes often coming from bad situations, I am totally convinced that, 1) Bad dogs are made not born, 2) Some breeds are more sensitive to bad handling than other breeds, 3) Some breeds are more likely to be the victims of bad handling than other breeds. Grandin cites some statistics that might make you believe that Rottweilers and Pit Bulls are more dangerous dogs than other breeds, but she does not acknowledge (maybe she doesn't know) that those protection breed dogs are MUCH more likely to be abused or subjected to bad training (and bad breeding) than other breeds. Ultimately, I thought that some of Grandin's discussions on dogs and cats were interesting, but highly opinionated without the data or experience to support her opinions. I certainly would not use her as a source for training guidance for dogs.

On the other hand, Grandin makes a nice transition from an interesting discussion about some weird problems in chickens that came from selective breeding to discussing similar temperament problems in some dog breeds arising from selective breeding for AKC standards. And, she gives a nod to the genetic benefits of mixed breed dogs and encourages people to look at mixes when adopting a dog. She also discusses some of the latest evolutionary theories that propose that people didn't tame wolves to create dogs, but people and wolves evolved in partnership creating not only dogs, but modern man - we changed wolves and they changed us too! It has even been postulated that this partnership with wolves gave us an edge over the Neanderthals.

When Grandin is discussing horses and cows she seems to be in her element. I haven't been around livestock since my long ago FFA days and I'm not likely to be in the future, but I loved these sections. They were totally fascinating and Temple Grandin does seem to have some special understanding of these animals that often seem so foreign and incomprehensible to me. I was not sure from her descriptions of autism and the way an autistic person experiences the world, if her insight truly does come from her autism (could other autistics commune with animals in the same way?) or if she is just especially insightful with livestock animals as some other people (non-autistic) seem to be with dogs and cats. Either way, I found the book to be both entertaining and educational. Grandin quotes some scientific studies, but the book is written in a very simplistic style so the information is accessible and not dry. Andrea Gallo does a nice job with the narration.

37 people found this helpful

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Disappointing Misinformation

Would you try another book from Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson and/or Andrea Gallo?

Yes

Any additional comments?

I first read Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin and I really love the book, especially it's fairly sensible take on canine behaviour. Animal's in Translation is written earlier though and Temple makes many very false statements about dogs, touting dominance and pack theory which was disappointing to hear coming from a scientist. I'm really glad she updated her understanding in later books so I recommend reading those and skipping this one.

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Disappointed...

I’ll begin by saying a admire Temple Grandin and appreciate many of the insights she offers. She is a genius in interpreting the experience and needs of people with autism and their families. I also value her explanations of neuro-physiology linking emotion and behavior. No doubt she had improved humane conditions for countless animals. However, by the middle of the book she has made so many outdated and potentially harmful/dangerous assertions about dominance hierarchy - particularly related to dogs - that I feel the book is likely to cause as many problems as it solves for dog owners- my main area of interest. A vast and growing body of scientific research agrees that dogs show almost no capacity for social hierarchy such that the concept is practically irrelevant for the relationship between dogs and their families; that dominance is almost entirely about access to resources and not social status; and that it is fluid among individuals and across situations. Those interested in well-informed neuroscience / evolutionary theory applied to canine ethology would be much better off reading the works of Patricia McConnell, Alexandra Horowitz, John Bradshaw, Pat Miller, and Karen Prior. I wish I could offer a better review - I admire much about Dr. Grandin and wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it’s glaring flaws detract too much from the rest of the work.

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Had to stop before halfway, so bad.

I cannot recommend this book to anyone. Bizarre hypothesis after bizarre hypothesis supported by cherry-picked research references or sample size N=1, I made it a bit more than 3 chapters in and gave up.

Lots of "Here's a wild unsubstantiated hypothesis…", with a late "… but I could be wrong." buried pages later.

Really too bad, I quite liked a number of Mme. Grandin's other works, and didn't have these sorts of qualms with them. :-(

Voice actor (Mme. Gallo) made a valiant effort to take the work seriously, so props to her.

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Outdated

This book has tremendous promise, but Grandin is somehow decades behind the times with her facts about dogs and their social structures..... dominance theory was disproved decades ago, and modern training studies show us shock cause a stress in dogs..... really disappointing.

the book's delivery was also awkward. long, random pauses completely threw off the book's rhythm.

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Great book, odd narration

Another fascinating book by Ms. Grandin! But the narration is not appropriate for the content. It sounds like the target audience is a kindergarten classroom. The pace is very slow (I listened at 1.25x) and she uses overly dramatic voicing for reading what are essentially research results. This isn’t a children’s book, but it sounds like one, as narrated. On a positive note, her voice is pleasing and she reads smoothly, so I still recommend this book highly.

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great read

a neighbours dog used to test fences and one day its collar was out of batteries and he crossed the boundary at a specific spot between a bush and a tree. now years later (the owner hasnt used the shock collar in some time) when the dog wants to escape to our yard it leaves their property through the same path between the bush and the tree and never dares leave by any other route, even if another way would be a more direct path. i guess to mix proverbs; if it aint broke, dont learn a new trick?

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#MyNonFictionAddiction

Absolutely fantastic! Temple once again provides a unique perspective on an all too seemingly common area that is anything but! 🤗🎧

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Thought provoking but outdated dog behavior

Really good book with a lot of good points. I don't agree with a lot of the dominance/submission talk and most of her discussions about dogs as a lot of that has been disproven. So, review the dog potions with a critical eye!

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will read in my classroom

I will be reading this book in my classroom through engage New York curriculum next year.