Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Favorite Dog Training Books

I love to read. I love dogs. So it should come as no surprise that I love reading books about dogs… and especially about dog training. So today, I want to tell you about five of my favorite dog training books.


The Thinking Dog, by Gail Fisher
I did not read this book for quite awhile because the subtitle references crossover trainers (those who move from more traditional, punishment based techniques to positive methods), which I am not. When I finally did get around to reading it, I was very impressed. It is a great introduction to positive methods in general, and clicker training in specific.

It covers a wide variety of topics, starting with the benefits of positive training. It discusses how to acquire behaviors- both in general, and for specific behaviors- as well as how and when to add the cue. In fact, I think this book has some of the best information on cuing and stimulus control I’ve ever seen. I also appreciated the frank discussion on the use of punishment, because let’s face it, punishment is impossible to avoid in real life. This book helps talk the reader through the options without advocating physical corrections.

Reaching the Animal Mind, by Karen Pryor
This book deftly mixes personal stories, anecdotes, and science to make for a highly enjoyable look at animal training. It isn’t a how-to manual, but rather discusses how and why we train animals- all animals. I especially enjoyed the information about how an animal's brain processes training, but there's also great information about animal creativity and TAGTeach- clicker training for humans. 

This book also has a special place in my heart as the book that turned my husband from mostly bored to fascinated by all that training stuff I kept babbling about. I think that speaks to the inspiring nature of this book. My husband had the same response I did: the only thing that could tear us away from reading it was the desire to go TRY THIS with our dog.


The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell
Another not-a-training-manual book, and yet so valuable for those of us who train. It’s a fascinating look at our canine friends that is heavy on science, but it is interwoven with case studies and a gentle humor in a way that makes it easy to read.

What I love about this book is that it looks at the behavior and social order of dogs, wolves, and humans, and then compares and contrasts them in a way that helps us understand how our behavior affects that of our dogs. Everything from the way we move to the pitch of our voice makes a difference, and this book helped me learn how to take advantage of that.

The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson
I hesitate to include this book, because while it is an excellent look at how dogs and people differ, the tone can be blunt. I worry that people who come from more traditional training approaches will feel insulted by some of the phrasing.

That said, this book is absolutely astounding. It covers everything from learning theory to punishment to anthropomorphism to dominance… and really gave me an appreciation of just how amazing dogs are to overcome the incredible difference between their culture and ours. It is primarily an informational tome, but does have some how-tos in the back.

Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt
This is the reactive dog bible, and if you have a dog who has trouble focusing, seems anxious, or is otherwise difficult, you need to read it. The book was written primarily for people competing in agility, but the techniques are useful for any dog in any situation.

The book is based on the classes Leslie was teaching, and as such, is laid out as a curriculum, going week by week. Leslie has also stated that she never uses every exercise in the book in every class or with every dog, so it’s definitely something you need to read critically with your own dog in mind. However, since it is written sequentially, many of the later activities build on the earlier ones, so you can't ignore the boring foundation stuff. As a result, this book can be tricky for a novice to get through. My advice is to read the whole thing all the way through before trying any of the activities.


These are just some of my favorite training-focused books. There are tons of great books out there (and that I had to regretfully leave out)… so you should comment and share what your favorite books are!

22 comments:

Katherine said...

Funny that you bring this up, because I just posted about one of my favorites on the APDT list: Shaping Success by Susan Garrett. I think it's overlooked because people think it's an "agility" book, but it's about so much more than that. In particular, she shares the counter-conditioning plan she used when her older dog was aggressing towards her new puppy. She's a really talented trainer and the book is wonderful.

Crystal Thompson said...

Ooh, thanks for the suggestion, Katherine. I haven't read it (don't do agility so I haven't much paid attention to Susan Garrett, although I do have her Crate Games DVD), but I'll have to put it on my list- especially to see the counter-conditioning plan!

Sara Reusche said...

Yes to all you mentioned, plus:
Don't Shoot the Dog
When Pigs Fly
Shaping Success
Ruff Love
Thinking in Pictures
For the Love of a Dog

I also highly recommend A Dog's Purpose. This isn't a training book, but is so worth the read.

Crystal Thompson said...

Sara, you should lend me them all. Or at least Pigs Fly. Tomorrow. So I can read it before the seminar.

Katie said...

I am so excited for the Control Unleashed puppy book coming out soon (the end of the month maybe?)!

I also really liked Suzanne Clothier's Bones Would Rain from the Sky. And Pamela Dennison's Bringing Light to Shadow.

Crystal Thompson said...

The new CU puppy book looks SO awesome. Cannot wait.

WonderPupsMom said...

I couldn't agree more about Control Unleashed... As a novice owner of a reactive dog, I found this book hard to follow. I keep it in the hopes that I'll be good enough to get it one day!
Click to Calm by Emma Parsons was a big help to me.

Crystal Thompson said...

I do like how straight-forward and easy-to-follow Click to Calm is.

Ninso said...

I will trade you Pigs Fly for Crate Games.

Crystal Thompson said...

I think Sara's bringing it tomorrow, but if she fails, I will take you up on that. Also, if you PROMISE to give it back, I'll lend it to you anyway. :)

Riley and Stella said...

All of yours are also on my favourites. I would add Shaping Success, For the Love of a Dog and Bones Would Rain from the Sky from Suzanne Clothier. I also think every dog owner should read On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals from Turid Rugass.

Joanna said...

I love CU, but I hate that book.

Tegan said...

Okay, I'll add "The Thinking Dog" on my wishlist then. I already have about a hundred books I haven't read, though... That's dog books alone. So it'll be on my long 'to do' list. But it's there. :)

Crysania said...

I'm glad someone else is a little put off by the bluntness (and even sarcasm) of Jean Donaldson's book. I like it and it has great stuff, but I wish another edition would come out with its being a little toned down. You get more flies with honey and all of that.

The Other End of the Leash is one of my absolute favourite books, along with her For the Love of a Dog.

Other favourites:

Brenda Aloff's Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide
Suzanne Clothier's Bones Would Rain from the Sky
Pamela Dennison's Bringing Light to Shadow
Victoria Schade: Bonding With Your Dog
Pat Miller's Play With Your Dog
Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training

I've done the Look At That exercise from Control Unleashed (as kindly outlined by someone for me) and always mean to buy the book. I keep waiting to see if they'll put it out in e-book format but so far that's been a no go!

Ninso said...

I will add Grisha Stewart's "Behavior Adjustment Training" as one of the best how-to b-mod books out there. I think the chapter on management might have been my favorite. So many really practical suggestions! In the category of how-to, I also really like "Fight" and "Mine" by Jean Donaldson. Really clearly laid out and step-by-step.

Kerry M. said...

Book recs. I love these!

I adore Patricia McConnell. Really it's almost a sickness - I adore her writing so much. I have a hard time finding dog training books that I love because the audience is usually intended for someone who may have never read a dog training book before. However, I think the anecdotes + advice in the Patricia McConnell books never bore me.

Other than that, here are books that I've read and will definitely reread. None of them are training books per se but they have definitely influenced my relationship with my dogs.

Stanley Coren - How Dogs Think. This actually covers much of the same material as John Bradshaw's new book. I didn't really like the tone of the Bradshaw book - kind of smug and superficial. I felt that Stanley Coren was more relatable and delved into more interesting aspects of the studies.

Alexandra Horowitz - Inside of a Dog.

Susannah Charleston - Scent of the Missing. I was fascinated and enchanted and after reading this, I learned I had absolutely no interest in ever doing S&R.

Martin Kihn - Bad Dog: A Love Story - The author draws parallels between his own descent into self destruction primarily through alcoholism with his dog's out of control behavior. This is more of a memoir of a person getting their life together than a dog training memoir, but it is an interesting look into the obscure world of training from the eyes of someone who feels overwhelmed by it all. Only downside is that his favorite trainer doesn't use modern positive techniques but if you go in with an open mind and accept that people do still use different training philosophies, this was a surprisingly gripping read.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Crystal. I personally find "The Thinking Dog" to be, hands-down, one of the best books out there. Even if you start as a clicker trainer, there's so much to learn from that book. I recommend it to pretty much everyone I know!

I'm currently re-reading "The Other End of the Leash" and loving it even more the second time around, now that Shanoa and I have been working together for 2 1/2 years. I'm getting more out of it this time, too, I think.

I also love "Pigs Fly." Great book, especially for those of us with dogs who are not so interested in pleasing us!

Thanks for this post. I just expanded my "need to get from the library" list.

Nicky

andrea said...

Shaping Success and Pat Miller's the Power of Positive Training are my two MUST adds

never read the Thinking Dog will look for it

totally agree with the other 4 choices :)

Crystal Thompson said...

So many good suggestions- some I've read, some I haven't. I tried to limit myself to five, and trust me, that wasn't easy. The one that was hardest for me to leave off was For the Love of a Dog. Can't wait to check out the ones I haven't read yet! :)

dawn said...

I love Reaching the Animal Mind. While it's not a dog training book, I found Lads Before the Wind to be the most helpful in understanding the concepts behind clicker training.

Robin Sallie said...

I can loan you all those that folks have suggested once you send back the ones that you already have...

Crystal Thompson said...

Robin, I keep waiting for Brian to finish Thinking Dog before sending them back, but he never does...