Puppy care shorts: Recommended reading

Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Oh Behave! by Jean Donaldson

Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor

After You Get Your Puppy by Ian Dunbar (free PDF)

When Pigs Fly by Jane Killion

On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas

Canine Body Language by Brenda Aloff

Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier

ALL the Clothier articles here – requires registration but totally worth it

Dogs Make Us Human by Temple Grandin


These are all positive-focused. They are the best books to start with as a beginner but they are not the whole story. If you want my honest advice on training, I’d say put away all the actual training books for a few months. Read Rugaas and Aloff’s books on body language and read everything you can get on dog behavior and pack techniques. Dunbar, Donaldson, Pryor are great at teaching about motivation. But if you only read them you will (I am convinced) only get part of the story. You should also read the Monks of New Skete and all the classic ones from trainers long since gone to their reward. Read Bones Would Rain From the Sky. Read Katz. Read books on border collies (not because you’d be teaching herding, but because the best herding training is all about shaping natural and joyful behaviors), and I would very highly recommend reading several books on Schutzhund. Even if you own a beagle or a maltese. Schutzhund researchers understand drive, and how handlers increase, decrease, mishandle, and screw up drive better than anyone else.

You need to read everyone because nobody has the whole story. The pure researchers who focus solely on motivation miss the boat because they are so careful to never attribute any behavior to anything but the self-interest of the animal. For a bonded dog-human pair, that’s like analyzing a marriage and ignoring anything that isn’t the result of self-interest. Dogs DO love, and they DO feel jealousy, and they DO object to inequity, and so on. The behaviorists who determine that no aversive signals can ever be given forget that dogs themselves communicate in aversives. The behaviorists who object to food rewards forget that candy tastes good, and so does liver. And if you want candy you do stuff, and dogs do the same thing.

If you read EVERYBODY, and watch your dog(s) for a long time, you’ll start to build an idea of what’s true. Then you’re ready to go back to actual trainers and throw out what you know is false and keep what you know is true. But above all else, the DOG MUST TEACH YOU. If you are doing anything without the dog “agreeing” with you–if the dog is showing confusion, anger, fear, anxiety, etc.–I don’t care how gold-certified the technique you’re using is; stop it. That’s why I think you must start with the body language books (and videos/dvds if you can get them); you have to know what your dog is communicating before you can continue with the training.


3 thoughts on “Puppy care shorts: Recommended reading

  1. Joanna, what do you think of The Dog Whisperer by Jan Fennell? I was at the bookstore the other day and there are so many to choose from!

  2. You originally posted this in reply to one of my comments and I have to say, it is excellent! I’m buying and reading all these books one by one and my understanding of my dog’s day-to-day actions is improving by leaps and bounds.

    I just read The Culture Clash and adored it! Actually, her style reminds me a lot of you. Straight to the point, full of facts, whip-smart and very funny.

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