10 best books for dog owners

I have read a lot of books about dogs. I read about 60 books about dog behavior, training, and psychology before we adopted our first dog, Pyrrha, and I still love to read dog books today.

I get asked from time to time by new dog owners about what they should read. Following are the top 10 books I’d recommend to people with dogs, covering everything from training to behavior to history. I link to the reviews I’ve written of these books, and if not available, I provide a link to the book’s Goodreads page.

Dog lovers, read away!

  1. The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell
  2. The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller
  3. Bones Would Rain from the Sky, Suzanne Clothier
  4. For the Love of a Dog, Patricia McConnell
  5. Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz
  6. Dog Sense, John Bradshaw
  7. On Talking Terms with Dogs, Turid Rugaas
  8. Love Has No Age Limit, Patricia McConnell
  9. Control Unleashed, Leslie McDevitt
  10. The Adopted Dog Bible, Kim Saunders

(As you can see, my general opinions is that if you read anyone on dogs, start with Patricia McConnell. I think she’s the gold standard for modern writing on dogs. Her blog, The Other End of the Leash, is predictably fantastic as well.)

Honorable mentions

What are your favorite books about dogs? What would you add to these lists?

Review: What the Dog Knows

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working DogsAs soon as I heard about Cat Warren’s book, What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, I added it to my reading list. The book combines several of my favorite things: canine science + German shepherds + North Carolina.

And this book certainly did not disappoint! Part history, part scientific narrative, and part memoir, What the Dog Knows delivers a compelling account of working with cadaver dogs — dogs who are trained to work with law enforcement and their handlers to find bodies.

Warren, a German shepherd enthusiast, found a new working-line shepherd puppy after her previous dog passed away, but he came with some reservations. Solo, as he came to be named, was a singleton puppy (aka a solo puppy without any littermates). Warren was well aware of the warnings that come with singleton puppies, from Patricia McConnell and other dog experts, but she and her husband signed up for the challenge.

Solo turned out to be a very driven, stubborn, nose-oriented pup and caused Warren to cry to her husband on the first night that she didn’t like the puppy. But, as you can expect, their relationship grew and strengthened dramatically as Solo grew up and as Warren found the perfect profession for him: cadaver dog. Solo remained a headstrong, determined dog, but Warren quickly learned that he had the ideal personality for this work. As one of her trainers told her, the perfect working dog is one who is basically an asshole.

In cataloging her experiences of training and working with Solo, Warren also provides valuable research about working dogs and their history. Her anecdotes are also humorous, engaging, and thought-provoking. While reading, I was repeatedly recounting stories to Guion from this book, usually followed by the exclamations: Can you believe that?, that’s insane!, and dogs are SO cool!

As an aside, it’s also a pleasure to read a dog book that’s well written. Dog lovers abound, but not many of them are also great writers. Warren is a journalism professor at NC State University, so she certainly knows her way around a sentence. The book was a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed its language and narratives from start to finish.

Warren also maintains a great blog, with more working dog stories and photos of her beautiful shepherds, Solo and Coda.

If you’re interested in working dogs, or even if you just want to know more about how the dog’s nose and brain work, this book comes with our hearty recommendation.

Disclosure: I was kindly provided with a review copy of this book by the author, but she didn’t request a review. I just really liked it! All opinions are my own.