The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog Book Summary - The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog Book explained in key points
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The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog summary

Bruce D. Perry & Maia Szalavitz

And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook – What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing

4.4 (24 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry is a captivating book that explores the remarkable ways children can recover and heal from traumatic experiences through the power of compassionate care and understanding.

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    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog
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    Sandy’s recovery through control

    To those who have lived a safe and relatively stress-free life, the concept of intense trauma is difficult to imagine – even more so when it’s at a young age while the brain is just starting to develop.

    Take the story of Sandy. When she was only three years old, her mother was brutally murdered in front of her. Sandy herself had her throat slit twice, and was left for dead for eleven hours before being found. Shockingly – if the word still applies after a story like that – Sandy didn’t receive any sort of therapy for over nine months afterward.

    When psychologist Bruce Perry finally met her, Sandy was troubled to say the least. Her behavior would range from aggressive tantrums to a detached daydream-like state. She would also panic and hide at the sound of a doorbell – a reminder of the signal that brought the killer into her house – and was terrified of cutlery, particularly knives.

    To understand what’s going on in the mind of a traumatized child like Sandy, it’s useful to consider some of the basic functions of the human brain. You see, we’re constantly processing and categorizing sensory input. Familiar or safe patterns are ignored through habituation. But if something’s new or unpredictable, it creates a stress response that we pay more attention to. We prepare – on some level – to fight, flee, or freeze.

    If the stress is prolonged, it can oversensitize these responses – hence Sandy’s dissociation or hyperarousal. It can also stop a familiar or benign thing, like a doorbell or table cutlery, from being filed away as “safe.” In this way, the trauma stays long after the event has past.

    This is particularly interesting considering the way that Sandy would handle her trauma in Perry’s therapy sessions. Once the nearly four-year-old got comfortable, she started to “reenact” aspects of the traumatic event. For example, she made Perry pretend to be hog-tied like her mother had been, while she repeated phrases she’d heard from the attacker.

    The key aspect here is that Sandy dictated what happened during this reenactment “game” – she was in complete control. This was a crucial part of her healing process: Sandy could reprocess the events in small, manageable ways to regain power and start recategorizing the world as safe.

    After many of these sessions with Sandy tragically reenacting her mother’s murder, she stopped. One day, she walked into the office, sat on Perry’s lap, and wanted to read a book. She wasn’t healed – far from it – but she was on her way.

    Sometimes a child’s trauma needs to be addressed directly, in a controlled manner.

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    What is The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog about?

    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (2006) presents a series of case studies to explore the profound impacts of childhood trauma – and the resilience and adaptability of the human brain. Through the diverse experiences of young people who have faced unimaginable abuse and neglect, it illustrates how innovative therapeutic approaches can facilitate healing and recovery.

    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog Review

    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (2006) is a thought-provoking book that delves into the complex world of child trauma and the healing power of compassion. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It offers insightful case studies that shed light on the profound impact of early experiences on brain development, providing a deeper understanding of human resilience.
    • Combining scientific research with personal narratives, this book presents a compelling exploration of the human capacity for healing and growth, offering hope and inspiration.
    • The book's compelling storytelling captivates readers' attention, making it an engaging and enlightening read from start to finish.

    Who should read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog?

    • Mental health professionals interested in how trauma impacts child development – and effective therapeutic interventions
    • Social workers wishing to better understand child trauma and its repercussions to support at-risk children and families
    • Parents or caregivers who want to know the minds of their children (and people in general)

    About the Author

    Dr. Bruce D. Perry is a renowned child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. He’s recognized for his extensive work and research on child trauma as well as the development of innovative therapeutic approaches. He holds a position as a Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston and has contributed to science’s understanding of the effects of trauma on the developing brain. Perry has written several books, including What Happened to You? with Oprah Winfrey.

    Maia Szalavitz is a leading neuroscience and addiction journalist who brings a unique blend of personal experience and deep research to her work. She is best known for her book Unbroken Brain which challenges conventional beliefs about addiction and offers a fresh perspective on recovery.

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    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog?

    The main message of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog is the profound impact of early childhood experiences on brain development and mental health.

    How long does it take to read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog?

    The reading time for The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog is a compelling and eye-opening book. It offers valuable insights into the effects of trauma and the resilience of the human spirit.

    Who is the author of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog?

    The authors of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog are Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz.

    What to read after The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Humanocracy by Gary Hamel & Michele Zanini
    • What Happened to You? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn
    • Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess by Caroline Leaf
    • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
    • The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
    • Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick
    • Change Proof by Adam Markel
    • Filterworld by Kyle Chayka
    • The Power of Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong