Bringing Light to Shadow – A Dog Trainer’s Diary


Join Pam and Shadow in laughter, tears and cheers, as they both take the most amazing journey of their lives. Although I wrote it in 2004, every so often I re-read it again and still laugh and cry and shrink in horror in the right places and remember each and every entry in vivid detail – the good, the bad and the ugly (thankfully not too much ugly). Learn how difficult it is, even for a professional dog trainer, to handle a dog with issues. From the diary of a trainer who refused to give up while using positive, no-force training methods. Every dog trainer and owner of a “problem” dog will enjoy reading this fascinating story.
This all just started within the last few days and I’m so sorry – it’s the other countries that are charging those fees, not the USA



Join Pam and Shadow in laughter and tears and cheers, as they both take the most amazing journey of their lives. Although I wrote it in 2004, every so often I re-read it again and still laugh and cry and shrink in horror in the right places. Learn how difficult it is, even for a professional dog trainer, to handle a dog with issues. From the diary of a trainer who refused to give up while using positive, no-force training methods. Every dog trainer and owner of a “problem” dog will enjoy reading this fascinating story.
Read the introduction on Shadow’s story!

Read the review from Captain Haggerty

Just a few little clips of Shadow! I don’t have many because we didn’t have easy-to-use video cameras back then. There are some more in my YouTube channel under the playlist for him

Reviewer: Christy Munden
Living with a dog with agression is tough. This book gave me alot of insight in what to watch for and gives me faith that with proper management it is survivable.

Reviewer: Nicoline Mann
This book surprised me as it is much more than just a book about working with an ‘aggressive’ dog. The amount of effort Pam put into working with Shadow is beyond impressive. More than that, was her honesty about the mistakes and setbacks she made. It gives hope to those of us who feel at times that we, and our dogs are beyond help. I have never known a dog as lost as Shadow was when Mrs. Dennison got him and she does have resources most of us don’t (regular access to a training field, myriads of helping friends & her own training center), however there is still very helpful information in this book that almost anyone could put to excellent use. It is also enthralling and captivating and reads like a novel.

Reviewer: Lindsay
This book is excellent – I love that the author details everything she did with Shadow, including the mistakes she made. Wonderful resource for anyone with a reactive dog.

Reviewer: Stacey Modica
This book is an absolute must read for anyone who has an aggressive or even mildly reactive dog. It is very well written from the owner’s perspective as well as comments and thoughts from the trainer’s perspective. Knowing Pam and Shadow personally, as I was reading I was so drawn into the story that I forgot that I know him. I was so moved by the events written in this book, that it brought tears to my eyes and parts made me so sad. Then I stopped and realized, hey I know how this ends! But I was still riveted until the absolute end of the book. Pam has to add another book telling us more of Shadow’s story after the CGC.

Reviewer: Erica
My first impression was how the book was written. I could not put it down. It was an easy read and it was beautifully written. The author’s humor keeps the book moving and the story keeps you interested to find out how the next day will be for this humbled trainer and fearful dog. You are drawn into their lives and with every sentence you hope they succeed. The author included valuable training tips that are useful for anyone with either an aggressive dog or not. Not only is this a wonderful story, but there are valuable lessons that any dog owner can take away from this book. I know I did!

Reviewer: Elise G.
I cried when I got the book in the mail… I have waited SO long for something that would relate to what I am going through with my dog and also give me help. And Pam’s book hits ALL the issues of working with a shy/reactive dog head on! For anyone that has an aggressive dog, this book should be with you at ALL times. It is a complete work – it will help you with facts and helpful info, inspire you when you feel hopeless about ever making progress, and entertain you when the work seems so tedious. It is intelligent, compassionate, and pragmatic. So, even with the numerous times it made me cry, it’s always been the good type of tears… and it still teaches me and helps me stay focused on my work with a reactive pup! I am SO thankful that Pam was willing to write about her experience with Shadow – it is a gift to all dog people who train or just live with (and love) dogs!

Reviewer: Eve Cutter
Pam Dennison’s book should be in every dog trainer’s library. These days, with the problem of agressive dogs growing by leaps and bounds, this story is an inspiration. With care and concern, Pam takes a dog who might otherwise be put to sleep, and turns him into a model K-9 citizen.

Unlike some training books which only mention methods that worked, Pam tells about the things that she did wrong, as well as what proved useful. The book is written in the form of a diary so that one can truly understand how much daily work this undertaking involved. Pam’s sense of humor and writing style make this an educational and awe inspiring read.

Reviewer: Katrina Pearthree
I was trying to think of the kind of person who buys this book – a person who wants a great relationship with their new dog and then comes to experience all the confusion, sadness, ambivalance, fear and sometimes anger, that they can’t understand their new companion who sees the world in a fearful way.

I cried all the way through Shadow’s book – because I finally learned what I could do with my own fearful dog and my fear too. I was able to learn how to ‘read,’ my dog’s level of stress by simply being aware of tension in his mouth. I learned about ‘protected contact,’ and how to use this technique to advance to ‘accepting a friendly stranger.’ And I love the ‘go visit command!’ The special notations on your own internal dialogue helped me reframe what I was feeling about our sometimes ‘slow progress,’ or even the ‘step backward.’

Until I read ‘Shadow,’ I never saw the gift and the wonder of how smart my special boy really is. Our walks together have become moments of enjoyment for us, using the lessons I have taken from your work with Shadow. It is a great big world out there – and after five fearful years, my dog Zorro is finally stepping into it – with me.

Reviewer: Bobby Joe Crayton
An extraordinary celebration of human potential, family ties, and personal excellence that not only reveals the philosophy behind her own personal success but the reasons why it can work for anyone. Pam conducts a clinic on communication, earning trust, dealing with adversity, and bringing out the best in her dogs, especially Shadow!

Her message is clear, strong, and useful … capturing the essence of building a dog’s ‘will to serve’ and decreasing a dog’s ‘will to power’ and relating it to some real-life concepts. An excellent book on teaching and leadership principles. Her breezy approach is direct and simple: What’s most important is working as a team toward a common goal — not necessarily to ‘win the prize’, but to play the best possible game in life.

Pam (like me) is a strong advocate for the use of non-confrontational ways of establishing and maintaining leadership and CONSISTENT teaching from the moment Shadow becomes a part of a family, and observing and assessing just what the problem is, how bad it is, what are possible causes, and then teach and monitor an appropriate intervention technique to handle the problem!

Now, in BRINGING LIGHT TO SHADOW, Pam talks about leadership — how you earn it, how you practice it, and how you use it to move from an aggressive rescue dog to CGC. From the importance of trust, communication, and pride, to the commitment a leader must make to his/her dog, this insiring book is a must-read for anyone who loves dogs — or who simply wants to win in any competitive environment today.

Reviewer: Nancy Freedman-Smith
Kudos to Pam for a writing a book about her experiences with rehabbing her aggressive dog Shadow. It is concise and easy to follow.

My favorite part was the hindsight section peppered throughout, where we learn along with her, from her mistakes. The mistake we all tend to make is moving too fast, and Pam’s book clearly shows the reader how to take your cues from your dog – learning when to move on and when to back off. I loved that about the book!
The reader gets a very good education on learning theory and behavior, while we see first hand that positive reinforcement training works!
For the dog owner and trainer alike, this book is a gem.

Shadow is one lucky dog!

Nancy Freedman-Smith
Gooddogz Training
New England Border Collie Rescue

Reviewer: Niki Lamproplos
Pam Dennison’s new book about the rehabilitation of an aggressive dog, ‘Bringing Light to Shadow: A Dog Trainer’s Diary,’ kept me reading long past my bedtime.

Each dog who enters our lives has something to teach us, if we are open to learning. Shadow taught Pam a great deal about the mechanics and art of training. Most important, he taught her to really see what was before her eyes with a minimum of the ego we all bring to the table when we negotiate for change with another being.

To paraphrase a gifted trainer who mentored Pam, if we want better dogs we must become better human beings. I deeply admire and value Pam’s ability to acknowledge her doubts, frustration, and mistakes. She is unflinchingly honest about her own journey to become a better human being.

Pam’s growing commitment to Shadow and her determination to modify his behavior using exclusively positive reinforcement is certainly laudable. I especially appreciate the diary format, which gives you a real-time picture of both the depth and breadth of the work involved in Shadow’s rehabilitation.

As a dog behavior consultant, I know that many families I work with do not have the time or the emotional resources to pursue this kind of rehabilitation program. Reading Pam’s diary, I myself am boggled that she managed to maintain a business, a marriage, and strong relationships with her other dogs while working intensively with Shadow. However, for those who do want to attempt this work, Pam’s book provides a window into the commitment that is involved, including the inevitable but disheartening regression that is part of the learning process, and the triumph that can be achieved.

Reviewer: Michele Yon
Bringing Light to Shadow: A Dog Trainer’s Diary is the story of Shadow, and his transformation from a seriously human-aggressive dog into a Canine Good Citizen. Pam brought Shadow home without fully understanding the extent of the problems he harbored, or the lengths to which she would need to go to fix this broken boy. Through tedious observations, conveyed to the reader in diary format, we learn both what worked for Shadow and aided in his rehab, and what failed. Yes, this dog trainer actually tells us about her failures and Shadow’s regressions! By sharing such information with her readers, she provides valuable lessons not often available in the pages of a training manual. Additionally, this book contains a few very useful features. When the author introduces new concepts, they are highlighted in a concept box, so that the reader may fully understand the passage. Similar technique is used for hindsights (remember, this book is a diary that Pam kept as life with Shadow was unfolding before her). It is tempting to the animal lover in some of us to fantasize of turning an aggressive dog into a happy family pet. If this describes you, this book will wake you up from your daydream, yet at the same time will help you understand that it is possible for an aggressive dog to become a good citizen. Before you think of saving the animal at the shelter that nobody wants, read this book. If you find yourself living with an aggressive dog, read this book. If you want to be inspired by the very very difficult work of others, or by one black and white dog’s resiliency and willingness to trust again, read this book!

Reviewer: Crysania
“You can’t rehabilitate an aggressive dog using positive training. You must show the dog who is the alpha in order to gain respect. And besides, positive-based trainers won’t even take on aggressive dogs.”

I cannot count the number of times I have heard a combination of these statements. Add to them the usual glorification of Cesar Millan, and you have the complete picture. According to these folks, he rehabilitates “red zone” dogs, the dogs others have given up on, the ones the positive trainers won’t work with because they don’t have the guts/know-how/calm assertive energy to rehabilitate them. According to these folks, positive, rewards-based trainers are handy for training tricks, but that’s it.

Except…that’s not quite true. Bringing Light to Shadow proves those statements wrong. Pamela Dennison, who already had a houseful of dogs (a border collie mix, a border collie, and a sheltie), decided in a moment of craziness to add a 4th dog to the mix: a rescued border collie named Shadow. She did not know, at the time she brought him home, that Shadow was human-aggressive. As with many aggressive dogs, most of his issues were based in fear. He was a dog who, under different circumstances would have been put down. He was a dog who, under the “rehabilitation” of someone like Millan, would have lashed out or shut down, leaving him living in a sort of hell.

Instead, Shadow ended up in the hands of positive trainer Pamela Dennison. At the time she had little experience working with aggressive dogs. She had been training dogs for agility, obedience, and herding work. But Shadow became a project of love and she stuck by him through thick and thin.

The book is written in journal format and are the actual entries Dennison made in her journal about Shadow’s progression (and sometimes regression) toward becoming a “normal” dog. Included within the pages not only are her moments of looking back and pointing out what she did right and what Shadow did right, but also those moments where she made a wrong move and caused Shadow to regress a bit.

This book is truly insightful and should be on every dog trainer’s bookshelf. If you have a dog with aggression issues, this book can make you feel hope. And mostly, it can make anyone realize that positive training can WORK with an aggressive dog. In 18 months she turns Shadow from a human-aggressive dog to one who passes his Canine Good Citizen test. 18 months may seem like a long time, but at the end of the book he was only 2 1/2, so there are many more years to come.

I really enjoyed this book and it’s one I’ll keep on my shelf and keep referring back to over and over again.

Reviewer: Genhund
“Bringing Light to Shadow” is the daily journal of a skillful dog trainer’s experiences as she gradually modified the behavior of a human-aggressive Border Collie. She succeeded with this difficult dog because of her understanding and perserverance, and with the help of a wise mentor and several patient and helpful friends. Shadow’s story is an inspiration to anyone who has a similar dog and is wrestling with the difficult choice between behavior modification and euthanasia.

Reviewer: E. Bunten
In my mind, this is the best, most comprehensive book on the market on the subject of rehabilitating a dog who has “baggage.”

Why? Because it explains in heartfelt detail everything that can go wrong or right in the process of retraining and does so through personal experience of an expert trainer. As Yogi Berra said: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

It also reveals how we humans we will ride the highs and lows of a journey that is at times filled with joy, hope, and exuberance, and at other times great disappointment and guilt.

In the end, it is also a “how-to” book for everyone who loves a scared dog, and who has the dedication and perseverence required to keep working.

Additional information

Weight 6 lbs