As a dog nerd, I've always had books about our four-legged therapists on my shelf as it makes no sense to bring an alien species into your home without learning about their needs. You wouldn't have a baby without getting expert advice on how to bring them into the world. But it's not just training manuals or guides on behavior that can improve your relationship with your dog; there are books that delve into the canine mind and help us understand how they think; books on the history of domestication to help understand their evolution; or books on teaching tricks, agility and ways to play with our furry friends.
Here are some of my favorite books on dogs that offer a practical insight into your pup's mind, from deep dives into the science of canine behavior to light-hearted training and ownership tips.
IN DEFENCE OF DOGS by John Bradshaw
For a deeper insight into domesticated dogs
This is my favorite book about dogs. It's not a training manual, but the deeper understanding you gain about how a dog thinks and behaves will progress any training you do to far greater success. This is for commited readers and, although it isn't too technical, it goes deep into the history of dogs and the history of canine behavioral science, explaining how the flawed theory of dominance came about (by studying a 'pack' of wolves in a zoo that weren't really a pack) and why dog trainers and behaviorists have moved away from these methods to positive reinforcement techniques. I consider this my dog Bible and recommend it to anyone with a serious passion for dogs.
THE DOG GUARDIAN by Nigel Reed
A highly accessible training manual for all levels
Nigel Reed is a well-respected trainer from the UK and in this book he takes you by the hand and guides you towards being a calm, confident dog-owner - the eponymous 'guardian' your dog needs to also be calm and confident and well-behaved. He details the simple techniques in an easy to understand manner and his calmness is reflected in his well-structured explanations. The book will help you to understand your dog better to build a stronger companionship and then give you the techniques to tackle any behavioral problems. It's a great introduction to dog training with its easy to follow advice but not to be dismissed by more experienced dog owners due to Nigel's level of knowledge and excellent delivery. Check out his website or watch some of his YouTube videos to get a taste of his style.
HOW DOGS LOVE US by Gregory Berns
The story behind a groundbreaking canine neuroscience study
This is not a book that is really aimed to answer the question in the title, but rather tells the tale of how a unique scientific study came about, where renowned neuroscientist Berns trained dogs to sit still inside an MRI scanner and record their brain activity while they interacted with humans, with fascinating results. It details all the pitfalls and objections to getting the study underway, to the problems of training domesticated pets (not lab-trained dogs) to sit still in the scanner, to the compelling results. For a science book, it doesn't go too deep into the academia, but rathers narrates the story of the study in an easy and engaging tone. You might not learn how your dog loves, but you'll definitely learn that they really do love you. As if you didn't already know. Fascinating stuff.
FIELD GUIDE TO DOG FIRST AID by Randy Acker
Handy injury emergency tips for outdoor adventurers
This book could do with a republish to make it look better, being nearly 30 years-old, but the information is as relevant today as it was when first published. It's a handy emergency manual for tackling a variety of potential incidents and injuries your dog could encounter when out in the field. While it tends to deal with working dog scenarios the information is just as applicable to everyday walking and hiking situations you might find yourself in. It doesn't go too deep and only offers the kind of basic information a dog owner should need in an emergency situation, but it covers almost every conceivable potential injury. It's not a big book either, designed to be carried with you, so it's no in-depth veterinary medical manual but hopefully just enough to get your dog stabilized in the field before visiting a vet.
It was spiral-bound when first published, to make it easier to read from without holding it, but it seems to be a standard glue-bound paperback these days. Still a valid and valuable pocket guide to stuff in your backpack for peace of mind.
THE DOG OWNER'S MANUAL by Dr David Brummer
Fun, light-hearted 'operators instruction manual' on all things dog
This book is the perfect mix of fun and fact. It's written with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek to make it a joy to read while actually offering a wealth of information about all aspects of a dog's behavior, activities and needs. It is humorously written in the format of a user manual, such as the kind you get with a new washing machine, and covers everything from bringing a new pup home, to basic training, feeding, tackling problems and everything in between. The author is a veteran veterinarian of 25 years and manages to find the perfect balance between light-hearted engaging copy and genuinely useful advice. The illustrations bolster the delightful writing making this a great gift for a dog-loving friend. Ideal for new dog owners who might not get on with the heftier tomes mentioned above.