Sometimes it can be really useful to have a handy point of reference from a respected source that you can use to help build up your dog training and behaviour knowledge, or it could be that you have a specific skill that you want to work on or a problem behaviour that you want to address.
If you go online to purchase a book it can be difficult to know what the best option is as there are so many choices.
This guide is designed to introduce you to some great books and very well respected authors in the field of dog training and behaviour. All of these authors are highly qualified and write from a scientific, proven, force-free training perspective but they also have an accessible style that makes their books easy to understand, even if you are a brand new dog owner.
Some Great General Dog Training Books
We will look at some books that will cover specific aspects of dog training in more detail but first, here are some books that give a wide-ranging introduction to the science behind dog training in general.
‘The Culture Clash’ by Jean Donaldson
Jean Donaldson is highly respected in the dog training and behaviour field. She has written a number of award-winning books. ‘The Culture Clash’ was first published over 20 years ago and part of the reason it is still in print today is that it’s a groundbreaking voice in terms of challenging the myths that are perpetuated relating to dominance based/ aversive training techniques. It really helps you understand things from the dog’s point of view and it is sure to make you think about your relationship with your dog and how you can help it to flourish. There are also, obviously, lots of practical training tips across a wide spectrum of scenarios.
Respected dog training expert Dr Ian Dunbar called it “the best book I have ever read”. If that is not a compelling recommendation, then I don’t know what is.
‘Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training’ by Karen Pryor
Karen Pryor is the number one most respected authority in Clicker Training techniques and a qualified Behavioral Biologist. Her positive reinforcement training principles were first applied when she was involved in working with dolphins. ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog!’ not only covers the principles of clicker training but it looks at the power of positive reinforcement across a number of practical dog behaviour scenarios and it also gives an insight into how this can be applied in our human interactions too.
The book is regarded as a seminal piece of work in the field of positive and science-based dog training and is a must read for anyone that is passionate about furthering their knowledge in the world of dog behaviour.
‘The Power of Positive Dog Training’ by Pat Miller
This is such a comprehensive, practical and readable little introductory dog training bible. Written by respected dog trainer Pat Miller it covers a lot of ground and provides lots of easy to apply training tips, great guidance on the importance of understanding dog body language and a motivational training diary for those that want to track their progress.
‘Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones’ by American College Of Veterinary Behaviorists
If you are looking for an in-depth, very scientific but accessible read about the world of dog behaviour then this may be the book for you. This dog behavior book has contributions from a number of members of the American College Of Veterinary Behaviorists so you know they have the behavioural chops to give this book great credence.
There are a number of very detailed sections for addressing certain problem behaviours, lots of really relatable case studies and it is written in a style that makes it easy to understand. If you are looking to just purchase one book, this could be the one for you.
Great Book for Dealing With Separation Anxiety
‘I’ll be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety’ by Patricia McConnell
Separation Anxiety is a common and often very tricky problem to resolve. It can leave many dogs and their owners very distressed. Whilst we would always recommend consulting with a qualified behaviourist for some one-to-one guidance if the problem is extreme, being able to have a book to refer to for some useful tips and to gain a better understanding of the issues can be extremely helpful too.
This is a short book but it has some really practical advice and it is also useful if you want to put measures in place to ensure that a problem with separation anxiety is not something you may end up having to deal with further down the road. You couldn’t get a better teacher than Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell. Her renowned book ‘The Other End of the Leash’ has won widespread critical acclaim.
Great Books for Dealing with Dog Reactivity/ Fearful Behaviour
If you have a dog that is reactive it can be a challenge and it can prove to be very stressful for both you and your dog and, if you are not able to give your dog appropriate guidance and support, problem behaviours can spiral out of control quickly.
For dogs that have severe fear reactivity, we would always recommend consulting with a qualified dog behaviourist to allow them to give you and your dog some practical guidance but it can also be very useful to broaden your knowledge and understanding through reading some well-respected books. Here are a couple of recommended options below for you to consider.
‘Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs’ by Grisha Stewart
For anyone with a stressy or fearful dog this book could become your new bible.
Written by Grisha Stewart, it provides guidance for following her BAT Techniques. There are lots of useful illustrations to help you visualise working examples more clearly and it talks you through the techniques that you can apply to help your dog become more relaxed, less fearful, less frustrated or aggressive in a number of different scenarios. It is all about giving you the tools to enable you to make your dog feel more in control and happy around things that normally trigger a negative reaction. It also goes into detail about understanding how to spot the signs that your dog is feeling stressed, allowing you to act more quickly and giving you a deeper understanding of your dog.
If you are looking for a book that can really help transform the relationship you have with your dog and provide you with the tools to enable them to feel more relaxed then this is a must-have addition to your library.
‘Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog’ by Leslie McDevitt
This dog training book was a bible for me when I was working with my first fear reactive adopted dog.
Fearful dogs often find it difficult to get into the training zone. They can be easily distracted by their reactivity towards other dogs or people or they can just completely shut down if they are super stressed out. It can make working on changing their behaviour even more of a challenge. Some dogs are not fearful but can get easily aroused and can’t concentrate because they are too worked up. This book has some really helpful tips and guidance that can enable you to support your dog in becoming more receptive to the training techniques you are trying to apply in a variety of situations. Some readers of this book have called it life changing for them and their dog.
Author Leslie McDevitt is a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant but she is also a dog sports expert and enthusiast and her practical experience really shines through in the book.
‘Help for Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears’ by Nicole Wilde
This is such a comprehensive and super useful little book for any owner that is trying to support a dog that is fearful. This book covers lots of practical, real-life scenarios from the big things like a fear of people or other dogs, to guidance on getting them more comfortable with nail clipping or riding in the car. It is written in a very accessible manner, with nice touches of humour from author Nicole Wilde which helps given it is a subject matter that can be causing a lot of stress. There are lots of great photos and illustrations too and this provides context and makes the book even more readable.
Great Books About Understanding Dog Body Language
People often underestimate the importance of being able to understand their dog’s body language. They can often be giving very subtle signals to us about how they are feeling that, if we don’t pick up on, can escalate to something more dramatic over time. By learning to understand what our dogs may be trying to tell us, or the other members of our family (two and four-legged) and those that we meet out on adventures, it can really transform our relationship and help to make our dog’s much more happy and relaxed.
There are a couple of really great books that are worth considering if you want to learn more about understanding what your dog may be trying to communicate to you.
‘On Talking Terms With Dogs Calming Signals’ by Turid Rugaas
Turid Rugaas s widely regarded as a world-leading expert in dog communication. Her book ‘On Talking Terms With Dogs Calming Signals’ is a little bible for anyone wanting to understand the subtle signals that a dog may be communicating when they want to calm a situation down. Did you even know that yawning and sneezing and sometimes even sniffing can often be a sign that your dog is trying to appease you?
Hugely respected and influential in the field of dog training this book is also very easy to understand and has lots of photographic illustrations to make it easier to visualise what Turid is explaining.
‘Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog’ by Brenda Aloff
Whilst the photos in this book may not always be the clearest, there are lots of very useful visual examples, very clear explanations and it makes a really great companion piece to Turid’s book, going beyond just the calming signals in great detail.
‘How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication’ by Stanley Coren
So this book doesn’t just focus on dog body language but it is a big part of the book. It also looks at how dogs vocalise, how we can communicate with verbal commands more effectively and provides lots of personal examples and anecdotes. It is not a training manual but a broader science-based guide to understanding what our dogs are trying to tell us.
Great Book to Help You Prepare For the Arrival of Your Puppy
Getting a new puppy can be daunting, especially if you are a first time owner. So many people are full of good intentions and want to give you advice but sometimes this can be misguided or even harmful. Enrolling in a reputable, force-free and accredited puppy training class and buying a good book for extra guidance can be invaluable.
‘Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right’ by Dr Sophia Yin
Vet Sophia Yin was a game changer in terms of understanding dog behaviour in the Veterinary World. Many vets still held fast to the old school, often harsh, methods of handling animals in their practices and this could result in an even more stressful situation for the animals, owners, vets and vet techs.
Her work in raising awareness of low-stress handling techniques and general behaviour understanding has paved the way for a much more aware generation of vets to come and a less stressful experience for our pets when visiting as a result.
Her general dog behaviour expertise was also immense and she has written a number of great books including ‘Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right’ which is a really comprehensive and easy to understand guide, a perfect introduction to the world of dog training for a new puppy owner.
Great Books to Read if You Want to Deepen Your Relationship with Your Dog
‘Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace’ by Kathy Sdao
In ‘Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace’, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Kathy Sdao has created a warm, captivating, very readable book that takes an in-depth look at training methodologies and how these can impact on our relationship with our dogs. It is written from a very personal viewpoint and is quite different from many books on dog training out there. I think it is a thought-provoking read and I highly recommend it for new dog owners and those that already have a good knowledge of dog training.
‘Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet’ by John Bradshaw
John Bradshaw is an Anthrozoologist that has been studying dog behaviour for decades. This book has received critical acclaim and provides a deep understanding of the origins of the species, lots of information on the development of breeds and on the development of understanding of dog behaviour. He dispels a lot of the long-held myths and writes in an engaging and very informative manner. This is another little bible for anyone wanting to scratch beneath the surface of the history of dogs in order to have a greater understanding of what makes dogs tick.
‘Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs’ by Suzanne Clothier
In her book, much like Kathy Sdao, Suzanne Clothier provides us with a deeply personal, sometimes controversial and always very thought-provoking read. It is not a how-to-guide with lots of training tips but it focuses more on understanding how to enrich and develop your relationship with your dog.
Her writing style may not be to everyone’s taste but there can be no arguing with the compelling and heartfelt messages behind it.
‘The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter’ By Marc Bekoff
So this book is not just about dog’s but we had to include this book written by renowned animal scientist Marc Bekoff. For anyone that argues that animals don’t feel a deep range of emotions, you should implore them to read this. The science behind the writing obviously adds gravitas but it is also written in a very engaging style and can be funny, heart-warming, upsetting and incredibly intriguing at times. It will make you look at your dog in a new light, even if you already love them deeply!
A Great Book for Understanding More About Canine Nutrition
‘Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices’ by Linda Case
Navigating the complicated and often divisive world of dog nutrition can be an overwhelming prospect. There are so many dog foods on the market and it can be difficult to know what the best option for your dog is. Knowing the difference between the science and the anecdotal evidence can get really confusing and big brand marketing is extremely savvy these days.
Written by qualified canine nutritionist and trainer Linda Case, this is a great starting point if you really want to be more informed on what you are feeding your dog.
Great Books for Dog Sports Enthusiasts
If you are looking to get into a dog sport with your dog or you just want to get some extra guidance on sharpening up your skills, then these books could prove to be a great investment.
Dog Sports Skills, Book 1: Developing Engagement and Relationship (Volume 1) by Denise Fenzi & Deborah Jones
The award-winning Dog Sports Skills books are extremely well regarded and there are actually four in the series so, if you like the first one, you may end up having all four in your book collection eventually.
There are a whole host of great tips on helping your dog to focus more, how to engage dogs with differing temperaments and characteristics and helping you to make sure your dog has fun and is not getting stressed out in a practice or competitive environment.
Both Denise and Deb have bags of experience in science-based dog training methods and they are also both avid dog sports enthusiasts and experts.
‘Shaping Success (The Education of an Unlikely Champion)’ by Susan Garrett
Inspirational, entertaining and full of practical training tips especially focussing on ‘shaping’ behaviours through positive reinforcement training methods, this is a must read for anyone that is passionate about dog agility.
Whilst it is full of really useful guides on how to teach certain behaviours it is often told through the examples of Susan’s work with her own dog Buzz, who was an agility champion. It is a lovely personal addition to the book and you can’t help but fall for the charms of Buzz along the way.
A Great Book to Help Deal with Resource Guarding
‘Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs’ by Jean Donaldson
Jean Donaldson has written a number of extremely useful books (including her seminal ‘The Culture Clash’ mentioned above) so she has great writing credentials and dog behaviour experience. This is a helpful little book for those that want to delve deeper into understanding how to handle resource guarding issues with their dog. Even if your dog is not displaying any problem behaviours it is useful for helping to avoid any issues cropping up in the future.
Resource guarding can be a serious problem if it has been left to get out of hand or if it is dealt with in an inappropriate manner.
It is a very technical book but the actual training techniques described are extremely useful when applied consistently and carefully and it has been described as a lifesaver by many readers.
If you are dealing with an extreme case of resource guarding, particularly if any aggression is directed towards children or other dogs in the household, we would always recommend seeking the help of a qualified dog behaviourist to help you with a more bespoke behaviour modification programme.