Books for Every Dog Owner

These aren’t necessarily training books- or not mostly training books- but are books that changed the way I think about dogs- and are books that make me appreciate my dogs and our relationships more.

  1. The Other End of the Leash – Patricia McConnell
    Patricia McConnell’s books are all good, but this was the first one I read, and to be honest, I can’t remember anything specific enough about it right now to tell you what exactly I loved. (It’s blended together in my head with “For the Love Of A Dog” and a variety of other books.) My copy has been out on permanant loan to various friends and relatives for about 18 months, so please pardon me for not doing a more detailed review.
  2. Bones Would Rain From The Sky – Suzanne Clothier
    Suzanne Clothier has said in an article that her #1 training tool- the one she could choose if she could have only one ‘thing’ to train her dogs with, is a good relationship with her dogs. This book talks almost not at all about training- but vrey much about how we relate to our dogs- and how they relate to us and the world.
  3. Lads Before The Wind – Karen Pryor
    This book isn’t about dogs at all- I think the only mention of dog training in it is that Karen Pryor had previously titled a Weim in obedience and that and her experience with horses was her only previous animal training experience. Lads Before the Wind is about dolphins (mostly, anyway), and how Karen and the other employees of Sea Life Park in Hawaii developed a practical usage of operant conditioning from technical recommendations given by academics in the early 1970s that they used with dolphins and other park animals.  I think this book is out of print- I borrowed it from a friend- but it’s worth a read if you can find it. The history is fascinating, largely because, from a perspective of 25 years on, we can see the foundations of a shift in thinking that really has revolutionized dog training. **EDIT*** There’s an updated edition available now, which I haven’t purchased yet.
  4. For the Love Of A Dog” – Patricia McConnell
    I put off reading this book for a long time – I wasn’t really interested in emotions in dogs, because behaviorism (as a training model) insists so completely that we must only look at the objective and never assign emotional motives to dogs. Yet every dog owner patently knows that their dog feels frustration, fear, and joy- it’s hard to ascribe the absolutely GLEEFUL zoomies that dogs get occasionally any other way, and hard, as somoene hwo loves my pets, to believe even for a second that apparent ‘emotions’ are sheerly randomly firing neurons and cunningly crafted imitations of something that is defined so strongly as being specific to humans- or at best, primates. This book talks about that dichotomy, the science behind emotions, and the emotions our dogs evoke in us. In a lot of ways, it’s a very similar book to “Bones” from a slightly different perspective.
  5. Remembering To Breathe (and sequel “OTCH Dreams”) – Willard Bailey
    As a novice in the dog world, I adored “Remembering to Breathe”. The ups and downs of Honeybear and Willard’s career in the world of competitive obedience is something that anyone who has ever participated in a team sport- with or without a canine partner- can appreciate. One review of this book that is quoted calls this “The love story between a man and his dog,” and it is- but even beyond that, this book is something special. “OTCH Dreams” is not quite as riveting (Kleenex alert for the first section, though, which is entitled “The Last Days of Honeybear”) but is still a great read.  Competition obedience is, at it’s heart, about having an incredible bond with your dog as teammates- and I think this book really excels at explaining that aspect of the sport. These are the books I loan out to people who want to know what this competitive obedience stuff is all about and why ANYONE would choose to spend hours every week practicing heeling with their dog.
  6. The Culture Clash – Jean Donaldson
    When I read this book, I was a volunteer working with Siberian Husky rescue, and I was POSITIVE that the yank-and-crank methods I’d seen people use to train dogs in the past just wouldn’t work for me. I wasn’t physically strong enough (at the time, I was on crutches with a broken femur from a car wreck!) and just plain didn’t WANT to spend my time with these beautiful animals intimidating them- something most Sibes tend to laugh at, anyway. This book is more of a training book than any other on the list- but it gave me hope that there WERE ways to work with dogs that traditional obedience trainers considered ‘difficult’. (I still consider Sibes a tough breed to work with, but it’s for an entirely different set of reasons now!)
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