The Best Dog Training Books in Honor of Take Your Dog to Work Day

Pinkerton the dog with dog training books
If my scrappy reservoir dog Mr. Pink can learn this stuff, your dog can too.

Happy Take Your Dog to Work Day!

Perhaps you took your dog to work today, and Sparky made such a scene that you were politely told not to invite her back. Or perhaps you know your pooch well enough to know he is not ready for prime time office politics. Either way, these are the best god training books to turn any Tramp into a Lady. Because we’ve been training dogs longer than we’ve had the concept of zero, you might think there is nothing new to be learned. On the contrary, research in the past twenty years has drastically improved our techniques and it’s all good news. In the old way of thinking, if Spot misbehaved, it was because it was in your failure to assert yourself as the pack leader. And dog owners who needed to prove they were the boss often resorted to some cruel techniques. But scientific research is showing over and over that punishment doesn’t work nearly as well as positive reinforcement. And it’s a lot easier to to learn these techniques they you would think. You may think your dog isn’t smart enough to learn even the most rudimentary tricks, but remember they use these same methods to train birds—is your dog at least as smart as a parakeet? My pooch Mr. Pink is no Einstein, but I find I usually only have to do two to three sessions before he starts to get the hang of a new trick. And remember this isn’t just about showing off; “tricks” like recall or “leave it/take it” can save your dog’s life some day. So get your hands on one of the books below. Not only will having a well-behaved dog make your life easier, it will build stronger bonds between friendbeasts. The first step in solidifying that friendship is learning what your dog has to say, so I begin with two books on this important topic. Did you know your dog can talk? She rarely speaks, but she is constantly communicating. It’s quite amazing, once you know what to look for, and a little sad too. It’s sad because so many of the signals dogs give to let people know they are uncomfortable, such as licking, yawning and scratching, are misinterpreted as cute, friendly gestures. Not only does this mean our dogs are shouting, “Hey, dude, please stop” as politely as they can, it means they are more likely to get pushed past their breaking point to a “DUDE NOW I’M GONNA HAVE TO BITE YOU” situation. That’s a serious bummer. You may be thinking, “but what if my dog is yawning because he’s tired? I don’t believe this noise” and that’s why you need these books.

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming SignalsOn Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals book cover

by Turid Rugaas

This is a slim book covering a single topic in detail: how to read the signals your dog is communicating. Though it’s small, it offers at least one full-color photo on every page. Photos are essential to understanding the slight differences in how dogs communicate. It explains various aspects of doggie communication, but calming signals are the most important. These are the things dogs do to let you know they are so-not-into-this. You’ll learn not just how dogs communicate with you, but with each other. Not sure if your dog is OK with the extreme butt-sniffing he’s getting from an enthusiastic terrier? Read this book, and you’ll know.

Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide: Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog

by Brenda Aloff

Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide: Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog book cover

This one covers the same topic so I’ll detail the differences. It’s double the trim size of the book above, and much thicker, also with photos on each page. However, the photos are black and white. Some of the images are pixelated, an effect that happens when an image is enlarged. (Most readers won’t even notice it but for anyone with design experience it’s an eyesore.) On Talking with Dogs is a good introductory primer, while Canine Body Language is more encyclopedic. Not that the chapters are alphabetic, but that there is some redundancy so that you can look up any signal and you will find it described. That is, the first is a book you’d read from cover to cover while Canine Body Language you could read or use as a reference book. It offers training tips associated with particular signals and a quiz at the end. Returning to our previous example, this book offers ten pages on butt sniffing, so you can learn the difference between a friendly butt-hello and an inappropriate doggie proctology exam. I also feel that Brenda Aloff has a sense of humor about topics like this, which enriches the reading.

The Other End of the Leash book coverThe Other End of the Leash

by Patricia B McConnell, PH.D.

The Other End of the Leash is more than just a dog training book. It is that, but it is also about understanding how your dog thinks so you can better train her, and better get along with her. Dr. McConnell knows her stuff, and along the way you’ll learn not just techniques but also about the research dog training is based upon. For example, she sites a study wherein one macaque learned to wash its food, and this practice spread as the other birds taught each other. She also shares examples from her own experience training her dogs to herd sheep, like the section on dog scent where she describes how her pooch’s powerful canine sniffer saved the life of an injured kitten. In this way, The Other End of the Leash is less like reading a training manual and more like sinking into a good book. It’s both enjoyable reading and one you’ll want to read with a highlighter for all its useful ideas. Highly recommended.

Brain Games for Dogs: Fun Ways to Build a Strong Bond with Your Dog and Provide it with Vital Mental Stimulation

by Claire Arrowsmith

When I first got my dog Pink, I enjoyed teaching him the basic commands. We were both so happy when he got a command, and it was great for us to have something to do together besides belly scratching and tug-of-war. But after I taught him the basics, I wasn’t sure what to do next so I got out of the habit of training him, which is a shame. Brain Games for Dogs to the rescue. Brain Games has nice production quality, so it would make the best gift book on this list. It’s full color, and not only does every page have an image, for most games there is an image for every bullet point. Each game has a small chart that covers where to play it, how difficult it is, and whether the game is suitable for groups. I was surprised by how much they fit into this small trim. I like the Boredom Busters—much like children, a bored dog is troublesome dog. I love the idea of playing Doorbell Dash, which trains your dog to run to his dog bed when the doorbell rings. There are games for small areas, water games, games for inactive dogs. You can teach your dog to jump rope, even teach her to play Limbo! Truly, any training work you do with your dog makes your dog smarter—learning to jump through a hoop is the equivalent of doggie calculus. So this book is good for your pup, and a good way to spend time with her too.

Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs book coverBehavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs

by Grisha Stewart

Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) is a technique used to turn around aggressive dogs. This large gold book is largely the gold standard when it comes to training dogs with serious behavioral problems. Which isn’t to say you can’t use it for an ordinary puppy. The techniques will work on any dog (or really, any pet, save your pet rock…rocks are so difficult to train). The difference is that if you have a dog who has ever attacked someone, you need this book. Does your dog ever growl at other dogs on walks? Does your dog get into fights with fenced in dogs? How about barking at every person who passes by the window? Behavior Adjustment Training will show you in detail how to fix problems like these. It’s not the first book on dog training I’d recommend, but it is so important if you need it. If your dog is the thug of your neighborhood and when he’s at the end of his leash you’re at the end of your rope, take heart in knowing there is hope! It springs from this book.

I hope this post has told you about some good books, but I also hope it has shown you that dog training is not a chore. It is a way to protect your dog from safety, increase her IQ and strengthen this important friendship. You take the time to scoop his poop and trim his toenails, so why not take the time to read one of these important books? By this time on next year’s Take Your Dog to Work Day, she’ll be the belle of the (office) ball.


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