I recently fixed my blog’s backlog of “Uncategorized” posts (why does the categories thing have to be so out of the way, wordpress?), and it reminded me that I used to review a lot of books.
Honestly, I haven’t read a dog book in a very long time.
I don’t like stories about dogs, because the dog usually dies in the end. It is the most concrete end to a dog tale, I guess. But I can’t handle it. I see a dog in a movie, and I’m immediately clicking over to http://doesthedogdie.com. Yeah, I’m that girl. I’m already predisposed to sob copiously over books. The last thing I need is a reason.
Dog training books fascinated me for a while. Then I learned what kinds of things worked for my own dog. The increasing gap between what I was seeing on the page (clickers, cookies, structured repetitions) and the things that worked for me (limited clicker, fewer cookies, less structure, more games) started to bother me. The truth is, after a while you learn what makes your own dog tick and you stop needing to have your hand held.
More importantly, I think that for people with fearful or anxious dogs the linear dog training narrative can be terribly pernicious. None of them matched my actual experience, which was–and is–something more like a roller coaster.
That said, there are dog books that I really do still trust and use a good bit and recommend to people. In no particular order:
—Everything by Patricia McConnell. If you can borrow a copy of her DVDs, they’re very useful, but I wouldn’t buy them unless you learn much better through visual presentations.
—Nicole Wilde, Help for Your Fearful Dog. This is an enormous book, filled with the basics of dog psychology and counterconditioning plans for basically everything ever. Most books about dog fear are really about dog-dog reactivity, which wasn’t our problem, so this book was a nice change. There’s also a useful section on psychiatric treatments, both conventional and alternative.
—Leslie McDevitt, Control Unleashed. This book is an organizational disaster, and a lot of the information is only good for a classroom. BUT, the stuff that is good is so, so good. If you have a “problem” dog, it’s worth it.
—Pat Miller, The Power of Positive Dog Training. This is the classic clicker+cookie book, but Miller is a genius at breaking behaviors down into teachable steps. If you’re new to dogs or to positive training, you should buy this book, especially if you want to teach tricks.
—Jane Killion, When Pigs Fly. Killion starts a step back from other training books. How do you teach a pig-headed dog to be teachable? So refreshing.
—Ian Dunbar, After You Get Your Puppy. I hate this book, I love this book. The best resource I’ve seen on puppy socialization, but I wish someone would write a less ornery version. Dunbar feels like he needs to be contrarian to get his point across, which sometimes frightens people away from taking his EXTREMELY IMPORTANT advice.
—Lew Olson, Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. If you look back at my review, you’ll see some caveats about this book, but it’s the best book-resource I found for dog nutrition.
—Susan Garrett’s Crate Games DVD is not a book, but it’s still a great resource. You’ll see some of her work+play methodology in action, which was a huge breakthrough for us. She has actual books, but I do not care for them and find them to be fairly non-representative of her teachings.
—Suzanne Clothier, Bones Would Rain From the Sky. Clothier’s wonderful heart taught me more than I could even recognize at the time. Don’t look for concrete training advice, but a really poignant discussion of the bond we have, should have, or could have with our dogs. If you like my sappy posts, you should read this book.
Honorable mention: Grisha Stewart, Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs. BAT is one of the few “new” things I’ve seen in the fearful dog repertoire, and I think it is great. I’m putting the book down here only because (ahem) I haven’t actually read it. I’ve just absorbed the tactic from videos and elsewhere. Grisha Stewart is, from what I’ve seen, one of the most thoughtful, compassionate people in dog training right now.
Do you read dog books? Have a favorite that didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments!