My TOP TEN Reading List
(actually it's now Top Twelve)
This is my own personal opinion of the ten (twelve) books most important for every dog person to read. (I intend to have reviews of all of these books posted on this site.) I am also adding a few related books as supplementary (or in soe cases alternative) reading. So the total is a lot more than just a dozen books.
My TOP TEN (TWELVE) Reading List
by Pam Green, © 2003 , 2007
- DogSmart by Dr Myrna Milani, DVM . Walks you through all the issues you have to THINK through BEFORE taking a dog into your life. ESSENTIAL reading for everyone !!! Read it before you get your first dog and RE-READ it annually so you can revise your attitudes in view of greater experience and in view of changes in your life.
Related books : none, this one is unique.
(I could have put Responsible Dog Ownership as a related book, but I think it deserves its separate listing. Read both books before you get a dog ! See discussion below. )
- Responsible Dog Ownership by Kathy Diamond Davis . Essential responsibilities of dog guardianship. This book absolutely MUST be read BEFORE you get a dog !!!! Should be re-read every few years, because the issues in your life may change in ways you had not anticipated.
Related books : none, this one is unique.
There is some overlap of topics with "DogSmart", but I think everyone should read both books, so I am not listing either one as merely a "related book." Milani talks about what you could choose to do, while minimizing value judgement of the relative rightness of the choices and probably believing that if you think enough you will make a choice that takes into account what is right for the dog as well as for yourself. Davis is more forthright about saying what you should chose and in emphasizing that to be right a choice must adequately respect the dog's welfare. I'd better confess that I think the dog's welfare should predominate over the owner's welfare or desires, because the dog did not have any choice about getting into this relationship and is usally at the owner's mercy without any other defender.
- The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell, PhD. Superb book on how our natural human behaviors can help us to communicate or cause us to mis-communicate with our dogs : how the 2 species are alike and how they are different; how to more correctly read your dog's body language and behavior and how to use your own body language and behavior to send the message you want to send so your dog can understand it. The discussion of what Pack Leadership is and is not is of extreme value !! Absolutely ESSENTIAL reading for everyone !!! Read it BEFORE you get your first dog and RE-READ it annually. You will appreciate it more and more as you grow in experience.
Related books :
- "For the Love of a Dog", by Patricia McConnell, PhD. A book on dog emotions and the body language that goes with them. Consider it a sequel to "The Other End of the Leash." or "The Other End of the Leash, the Next Generation"
- Dog Language by Roger Abrantes, PhD, DHC, DF, MAPBC. A superbly illustrated encylopedia of canine body language. The author is an ethologist with a world reputation in his field and is a popular lecturer to the general public. Although the author is also an anthropologist, this book does not deal with human body language. However he lectures on both human and canine body language.
- How to Speak Dog Stanley Coren. Very good book on dog communication with good illustrations of canine body language. Writer is not an ethologist or trainer, but the information is good and well presented. Covers similar ground to Abrante's "Dog Language" but aimed at a wider layperson audience. (Do not confuse with the identically titled book by Flynn.) Does not cover human body language.
- "Canine Body Language, a Photographic Guide" by Brenda Aloff. This book is a collection of single photographs and photo sequences that illustrate the basic behaviors that every owner/handler needs to be able to recognize. For each photo, the author points out the details that matter. That would be a "left brain" approach, and you do need to know how to spot these details by what McConnell and others calls "thin slicing", ie tuning yourself to focus in on crucial details. However you also need the "right brain" approach of being able to see the "whole picture" at once and react correctly without having to first attach a verbal lable. I think the photos are great for educating your right brain as well as your left brain.
- How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks, Dr Ian Dunbar, PhD, MRCVS. Outstanding book on puppy rearing; a MUST read for everyone. This is a great book on how to raise a civilized dog who will be a joy to live with and, incidentally, on how to avoid the most common serious problem behaviors. Read it BEFORE you get a puppy. Even if your dog is no longer a puppy, you will benefit greatly. It is not too late to apply many (all?) of these methods to an older dog for improved behavior and relationship. (And somewhere in your future, another puppy awaits you.)
Related Books :
- Before You Get Your Puppy and After You Get Your Puppy, by Dr Ian Dunbar, PhD, MRCVS. These are published as separate texts and as the combined Before and After You Get Your Puppy. The Before text is available as a free download from Dr Dunbar's site <www.siriuspup.com> and from the Open Paw site <www.opepaw.org>. I tend to prefer the New Dog Old Tricks book because of its wonderful sense of humor and because of its more extensive coverage of training and use of "life rewards". But Before and After have the advantage of being very detailed "how to" books with a very clear time-table.
- Mother Knows Best Carol Lea Benjamin. Highly recommended to everyone !! A very dog-smart non-gimicky approach to training and living with dogs, beginning in puppyhood.. Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence Carol Lea Benjamin. The sequel to Mother Knows Best; could have been sub-titled "Mother STILL Knows Best, Even Though You are a Smart Ass Teenager Puppy." Benjamin writes with great common sense and a lot of humor.
- My Smart Puppy (book with DVD) by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.. This is a terrific book on puppy training (also applicable to an adult dog). At a later date I finally wrote the review. This is a MUST read book for everyone ! This book and Dunbar's complement one another : you MUST read both of them. I really could have given this one its own separate listing, but then that would have made the listing "Top Thirteen" and you know how superstitious people can be about anything thirteen ("triskadecaphobia").
- Perfect Puppy in 7 Days, by Dr Sophia Yin, DVM, MS. I have to write a review of this truely excellent book, a profusely illustrated step by step guide to all the things that a perfect owner (very skilled behaviorist trainer and able to be home much of the day) would teach an 8 week old puppy the first week in the new home.Realistically most people would do well to accomplish half as much in the first month. Also an excellent chapter on what the breeder should have accomplished during the 8 weeks since the puppy's birth.
- Excel-erated Learning by Pamela Reid, PhD. Excel-ent book on principles of training, with illustrations from various dog sports. These are the universal principles of conditioning and reinforcement that every trainer needs to understand. This book might well be considered to be "Don't Shoot the Dog : the Next Generation," as it covers the same concepts as that great classic, "Don't Shoot the Dog" but does so in a dog-specific manner. Read it BEFORE you read a bunch of dog-training books that are "how to do it" books; this book is about "why it works -- or fails to work" that underlie the "how to" methods. RE-READ if you are puzzled about why something is not working or if you would like to consider alternative methods -- or devise your own methods. Notice that at times Reid is using the dog's genetically hard-wired desires to provide an internal or intrinsic reward to the dog, as for example when she provides her Border Collie with a few minutes of duck herding as a reward for doing a good agility weave poles run.
Related books :
- Don't Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor. This is the seminal work on applying behaviorist principles of classical and operant conditioning to real world situations such as training your dog, your spouse, your children, and your parents. Pryor had not intended the book to be a dog book and indeed didn't like the title imposed on it by the publisher. It's first few years, it was sold in the human psychology section at bookstores, but dog trainers gradually discovered it. (I was an early discoverer, soon after paperback publication.) I was at a dog training seminar a few years ago and the instructor asked how many in audience had read this book ; absolutely every hand went up. Pryor has since written some books specifically applying these principles to dog training.
- The Culture Clash & Dogs Are From Neptune by Jean Donaldson . Togehter these two books could be called "Don't Shoot the Dog : Deep Space Nine". "Culture Clash" applies training principles to the rearing and management of a dog , with emphasis on preventing problems. "Neptune" provides detailed recipes for applying these principles to solving problems. Interesting note : although Donaldson greatly downplays the concept of "dominance" and is very concerned with the miss-use of the concept (which many trainers and behaviorists dislike because the concept prompts so many people to use physically forceful and/or frightening and/or outright abusive tactics in the belief that these are needed in order for the person to become dominant over the dog). However if you follow her advice on training and management, you will be controlling resources your dog wants and bestowing them according to the dog's behavior and responsiveness, thereby you most definitely will be acting as a very effective Alpha or Pack Leader !
- How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, Dr Sophia Yin DVM, Could be called "Don't Shoot the Dog : Voyager" . Actually it would be hard to choose between this book and Excel-erated Learning. This one is probably better for the beginner as it focuses on detailed recipes for teaching the basics to your dog. Excel-erated would be better for someone who already has some training experience as it goes beyond the basic pet dog requirements on into dog sports training. Dr Yin is a veterinary behaviorist and has invented some interesting somewhat "high tech" training tools or toys that could be very appealing and motivate owners who like techno-toys to spend a lot of effort on their dog that they otherwise would not.
- Speaking for Spot, by Dr Nancy Kay, DVM : A MUST READ book that teaches you to be an articulate medical advocate for your dog and a capable partner to your vet in caring for your dog. Many readers find that it will also help them to deal with their M.D., a task often more difficult than dealing with almost any D.V.M.. This book is so good and so essential that I just had to list it as one of the Top Ten, making that Top Twelve.
Related books :
- The Art of Veterinary Practice Myrna Milani, DVM. This is a MUST READ for vets; and very highly valuable for vet clients. The art of communication between vet and client and the philosophy of practice are the key topics. A great gift for anyone considering a career in veterinary medicine or in hairless primate medicine. Give a copy to your vet and to your MD . Also this book will teach you as the client to volunteer the information that your vet needs but might not ask for.
Speaking for Spot is addressed to the dog owner, the veterinary client ; The Art of Veterinary Practice is addressed to the veterinarian. Ideally every client and every vet would read both books, but it would be marvelous if each merely read the one addressed to her situation.
- Low Stress Handling , Restraint, and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats, by Dr Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, a book (with DVD) for veterinarians on methods of low stress handling of dogs and cats and teaching dogs and cats to be more trusting and relaxed during veterinary procedures. This includes explanations of principles and great detail as to their application to veterinary situations. There's quite a few "homework" exercises for the owners to do ; I've suggested to her that these be turned into a separate smaller and less costly book aimed at those owners. Dr Yin's Perfect Puppy in 7 Days book covers the most basic body handling and vet visit preparation exercises.
- The U.C. Davis Book of Dogs, by thefaculty and staff of the U.C. Davis Vet School. A good overview of canine health issues : symptoms, causes, and treatments. Since the book was written in 1995 some newer or better treatments and drugs have become available for a few of the conditions discussed, but that would be true of any vet book before it first appears in print and becomes increasingly so the longer since it was published. The causes and symptoms of the illnesses however have not changed, and you need to be familiar with these, especially those that require immediate emergency treatment. (Published in 1995, this book is out of date as to some diagnostics and treatments, but the general information on diseases and injuries is still good.)
Related books :
- Taking Care of Your Dog Gerstenfeld, VMD (note : VMD is same as DVM but is used by those who graduated from University of Pennsylvania) . Quite valuable. Although this book is somewhat older (1979) and out of date as to diagnostic technology and treatment modes, it is still very useful as it focuses on educating the owner in first aid and in assessing symptoms and situations to make good decisions as to whether this is a real Emergency (grab car keys and phone vet to let her know you are on the way), something that should be seen within 24 hours, somethng that should be seen within a few days, something to phone the vet about, or something that is likely to respond to home treatment. The flow charts for decision making are the core of the book. This book was revised and updated in 1989 and re-named "The Dog Care Book". The format has not changed. (I haven't checked to see if there have been any later editions). Still a good guide to deciding how urgently your dog needs to get to the vet. You won't go wrong if you choose to treat something as more urgent than the book suggests. Your own "gut instinct" that you are worried should not be ignored. I've saved dogs' lives a few times by obeying my own feeling that a dog should go to the ER right now, and I have the advantage of living only half an hour from one of the best ER/ICU facilities on the planet, the U C Davis VMTH.
- Beyond Obedience by April Frost. This is not a book for complete beginners. A sophisticated book, best appreciated after you have had some training expereince and living with dogs experience. It is about using your personal qualities of mind and body (plus only simple training tools) to affect your relationship with your dog and to train yourself to affect your dog's emotional and cognitive states as well as the dog's overt behavior. A though provoking and enlightening book. If the emphasis on the semi-psychic qualities seems too unlikely to you, then simply re-evaluate these ideas as to how they might affect the subtlties of your body language (posture, motion), of your demeanor, of your breathing , of your vocal inflection intonation and rhythm, and quite likely of your actual scent emissions; all of these are qualities to which dogs are exquisitely sensitive to an extent that gives an effect eerily close to telepathy.
Related Books :
- Bones Would Rain from the Sky Suzanne Clothier. A very thought provoking book, recommended to those with some experience. Largely about relationships between dog and person.
- Breed Rescue : how to start and run a successful program by Sheila Boneham, PhD . An excellent book giving practical strategies for running a rescue program. If you acknowledge that your own dogs have given so much to you, maybe you are ready to start giving something back to other more needy and less fortunate dogs by participating in Rescue. Includes a selection of useful forms and contracts.
Related Books :
- Sucessful Dog Adoption Sue Sternberg An exellent book by a somewhat controversial writer. Her goal is to teach prospective adopters how to evaluate dogs as they appear at the shelter in order to select a dog who is very friendly and has the least possible risk for biting. She is particularly focusing on the ordinary not-very-dog-experienced person, who wants to adopt as safe a dog as possible. Many of the dogs she would put in the "grey area" category, ie don't adopt without having a knowledgable dog person assess the dog, are dogs who will probably work out fine for an expereinced rescuer or an experienced dog person. (Unfortunately I have encountered some shelters who irrevocably lable such dogs as "not for adoption" and will KILL them unless a Rescue person can be gotten to take them.) The book also has a lot of suggestions towards improving shelters (and rescue organizations) to make them into the best place for adopters to seek a dog. She emphasizes that every encounter of shelter (or rescuer) with a surendering owner or a potential adopter should be viewed as an oppertunity to educate that person about dog issue. I completely agree !! This book won't teach you everything that you need to know to run a rescue program but it is a great supplement to Boneham's Breed Rescue.
- Four Level Training Program Gorman & Boyle, published by Open Paw This is a MUST READ for all shelter workers and for rescuers who need to maintian rrescued dogs in a kennel type of setting. Provides a simple program to increase adoptability and thus reduce shelter deaths. This program would also decrease the stress on the dogs of being in a kennel setting. Very good prices available for volumn purchases. See <www.openpaw.org> for more information on Open Paw and for some good downloads. the first two levels of this program can be done without ever entering the dog's run and thus can be done in absolute safety by anyone capable of following some simple instructions. The third and fourth level do require "up close and personal" contact with the dog and do require more skill from the handler.
- Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff Miller & Zawistowski professional text ; MUST READ for rescue & shelter workers and for anyone dealing with large numbers of animals in a common environment. This is the seminal book of a dawning new era in shelter medicine and management. It should also be a powerful motivator to those in the Rescue movement to continue their efforts and could give them an understanding of the difficulties shelter workers must struggle with. Further and frequently updated information on shelter medicine can be found on the UC Davis Vet School's Shelter Medicine site at http://www.sheltermedicine.com. The sequel Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters by Miller and Hurley is also a MUST READ for shelter workers and useful for anyone keeping large numbers of dogs or cats in proximity.
- The Petfinder Adopted Dog Bible, which I have not studied carefully, should be superb. Available from www.petfinder.com, which is the premiere site for adopters and rescue people to list and find adoptable dogs and cats (and a few other species)
- DOGS, A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, & Evolution by Ray & Lorna Coppinger. Probably not a book for complete beginners. A controversial and thought-provoking ( and arguement provoking ) book about canine behavior , physical qualities, and upbringing, especially as related to working dogs. Of high value to experienced trainers, but probably has much that will be over the heads of complete beginners. Also for best understanding , the reader should have some background in concepts of genetic selection and evolution. The emphasis on how changes in structure or physiology inevitably also affect behavior and vice versa is an essential concept. Likewise the emphasis on the interaction of the puppy's genetic endowment with its upbringing and environment : to have a great dog , you must start with a good puppy (ie predisposed to the behaviors you want) and then you must carefully create the experiences that will bring the qualities you want to fullest fruition.
Related books : none, this one is unique.
There are however quite a few good books on canine evolution , domestication, and behavior changes. Note : there is some alternative views of how dogs became domesticated, especially since there is good evidence that the process began long before the advent of agriculture and village living. At the moment (late 2011) the earliest archological find of dog skeletons that were clearly distinct from wolf and wolfish skeletons date to 37,000 years ago in Belgium. The mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests the changes began about 100,000 years before that. However the idea that the process began with wolves following human gatherer-hunter groups around to scavenge human's discarded food garbage , thus giving a genetic selection for lessened fear and lessened flight zone would still be viable and appealing.
- Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet, by Dr Myrna Milani DVM. No one really wants to think about a beloved dog inevitably dying (or being lost to you in other ways), but unfortunately refusing to think about it will not prevent it from happening (and may rob you of some oppertunities to postpone or prevent premature losses) and will put you at risk for making bad decisions (or indecisions) during a crisis. This book also includes losses from causes other than old age and disease and has some good advice for preventing preventable losses.The purpose of this book is to help you to THINK about the unthinkable long BEFORE the crisis occurs, so that you will be prepared to make decisions that will be right for yourself and your beloved pet. Thinking and planning ahead is a recurrent theme in Dr Milani's books, and it's one I find very congenial as well as valuable.
Related books : none, this one is unique.
There are however some excellent books on mourning for a pet. And there are quite a few telephone Pet Loss hotlines. But Milani's emphasis on thinking about the issues long before the events will occur is pretty much unique.
- Dogs Bite but Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous, by Janis Bradley. An outstanding ground-breaking MUST READ for ALL dog people book about the rarity of serious dog bite injuries and the media whipped social hysteria about the non-existant "dog bite crisis". This book will provide you with the statistical information and serious behavioral studies you need to combat anti-dog legislation , breed-discriminatory attitudes and legislation, and insurance limitations. Buy an extra copy to give or loan to local media persons, local legislators, and your insurance agent.
Related books : none, this one is unique.
However Janis Bradly has several related e-books available for download for free, and I'd certainly recommend these. Available as PDF files for your computer or in several e-reader formats (Kindle, Sony Bookready, iPad, Android) . Available at http://www.dogwise.com/free_ebooks.cfm.
- * Dog Bite Problems and Solutions by Janis Bradley.
- * The Relevance of Breed in Selecting a Companion Dog > by Janis Bradley.
- * The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression by Karen Delise.
- * The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters, the Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Department of Justice
Yes, I know that I have actually listed twelve books, not ten, due to the recent publication of the essential ground-breaking book Dogs Bite, but Balloons and Slippers are more Dangerous. and the essential owner-guide "Speaking for Spot"
Since then I have added some alternative and supplementary books to some of the books listed, though you can see from the Annotated Bibliography what other books exist on the topics and my ratings of them.
And I could so easily and justifiably have put Kilcommons and Wilson's wonderful My Smart Puppy into it's own category. But that would have made thirteen thus risking triskadecaphobia. I could also have put Sophia Yin's Perfect Puppy in 7 Days in it's own category, thus making 14 categories.
Related topics :
- Beginner's Basic Bibliography (books worth reading and my ratings of value, organized by category of topic)
- Annotated Bibliography of over 300 dog books (almost all of which I have read at least once, some many times. Updated Aug 1, adding a few more books and adding icons to mark the most recommended ones. Updated again Dec 3, 2005 to add more books, and again in April 2006