A good book changes your mind and your life. One of the critical factors in my deciding to make dog training my next career was reading The Other End of the Leash. This book (described a bit more below) taught me many things, while at the same time leaving a desire to learn more.
I decided to put together a list of five training books that all dog people should have. Please take a look.
This list is not exhaustive by any stretch. If you think I missed one (or if you want to help with the inevitable Ten Books Every Dog Owner Should Have, leave some recommendations in the comments.
Click on the cover to pick up a copy at Dogwise.com, my favorite online store for dog books.
In “The Other End of the Leash” Patricia McConnell takes you about as close as one can get to being inside a dog’s head, helping you understand why they do the sometimes strange and infuriating things they do. She also explains why we do some of the things we do when around dogs. Patricia is a wonderful writer and all of her books are a pleasure to read.
Is there anyone in the world that who hasn’t, just once, yelled at his dog to “Shut Up”? The irony of this ineffectual response usually escapes us during the heat of the moment. But think about it. Since the natural behavior of dogs is to join in the barking, they well might assume that we’re barking, too, when we call out “Quiet!” or “Shut up!” Ask owner of multiple dogs and the they’ll tell you that their dogs’ natural response to barking is not to get quiet; it’sto bark themselves. At my house one booming bark from Tulip can riase Luke out of a sound sleep. He’ll rise scrambling to his feet on the wood floor, barking and running pell-mell for the front door before he’s even awake. He looks foolish and I tell him so….He looks at me as though I’ve missed the point. - Patricia McConnell in “The Other End of the Leash”
“The Culture Clash” is sometimes called “Dr. Spock for Dogs,” but unlike that famous book, this book is still very up-to-date and scientifically accurate. Jean Donaldson, the director of the prestigious SF/SPCA academy for dog trainers, changed the dog training world, and many lives, for the better with this book.
A few behaviors are hardwired, requiring little or no learning to be carried out to their fullest: dogs chase and bite moving objects; distress vocalize when alone; go for any available food; compulsively greet all novel people and dogs; bury things; pee away from their sleeping area, etc. without conditioning histories. The rest of their behavior is the product of contingencies in the environment. Owners have nearly total control of their dog’s environments; where they live and sleep, if and when they may go outside and which limited pockets of the galaxy they may visit, when, where and what they may eat, if and when they will ever see a member of their own species, the nature of their toys and activities, and even whether they may live or die. Owners who feel like slaves to their dogs need to understand this…. - Jean Donaldson in “The Culture Clash”
“Don’t Shoot the Dog!” was another landmark book in the dog training world. This book introduces very important concepts that all trainers and dog owners should be familar with. While the book focuses on clicker training, it is applicable to all methods and all species – not just dogs. Written by Karen Pryor, another pioneer in bringing behavioral science into wider use in dog training.
The laws of reinforcement are simple; you can put the whole business on a blackboard in ten minutes and learn it in an hour. Applying these laws is more of a challenge; training by reinforcement is like a game, one dependent on quick learning. -Karen Pryor in “Don’t Shoot the Dog!”
In “Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution,” biologists, breeders, trainers, and champion sled dog racers, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have more than four decades of experience with literally thousands of dogs. Offering a scientifically informed perspective on canines and their relations with humans, the Coppingers take a close look at eight different types of dogs—household, village, livestock guarding, herding, sled-pulling, pointing, retrieving, and hound. They argue that dogs did not evolve directly from wolves, nor were they trained by early humans; instead they domesticated themselves to exploit a new ecological niche: Mesolithic village dumps. Tracing the evolution of today’s breeds from these village dogs, the Coppingers show how characteristic shapes and behaviors—from pointing and baying to the sleek shapes of running dogs—arise from both genetic heritage and the environments in which pups are raised. From the back cover. This book is very wide in scope and trying to summarize it in a few sentences seems futile. Get it. Read it.
In “How Dogs Learn” Mary Burch and Jon Bailey, pioneers in behavioral science, explain the science of training in a straightforward reference book that anyone lives with or works with dogs to do something can use. The book also opens with a very interesting history of dog training that may help put some things in perspective for newcomers and old-timers.
How Dogs Learn explains the fascinating science of operant conditioning. The authors, recognized experts in this field, are also experienced dog trainers, and they explain each operant conditioning principle using dog training examples. For the first time, behavioral procedures that are used with humans, such as Behavioral Diagnostics and Functional Analysis, have been translated for applications with dogs. How Dogs Learn will help all dog owners solve canine behavior problems and improve their proficiency as trainers. – from the book jacket.