I get asked a lot which dog training books I recommend. Here’s the short (and long) of it: books I recommend, as well as books I do not recommend. I’ll be adding to this list periodically. If you find a book you love, feel free to send me the title so I can check it out and maybe add it to this list.
For anyone interested in becoming a better dog owner or potentially a dog trainer, good books are a great place to start. A huge part of training dogs involves the mindset behind your training, why you do what you do. A well-written book can help to develop your reasons why and foster a good training approach that will impact your methods and ultimately, your results.
In my recommendations, I tell you book basics to include a general overview and rating plus fun facts like number of pages and number of typos (uh-oh).
You can find most of the books online using my Amazon Associates Link below. Amazon sends me a small commission for each book sold using that link, so thank you in advance!
Books I Recommend
“How Dogs Learn” by Mary Burch & Jon Bailey
“How Dogs Learn” is hands-down my favorite book discussing the science behind training dogs. It breaks down important topics such as the history of animal training, basic principles of behavior, behavioral diagnostics, the four quadrants of training and more. There’s a lot of information in the book, so I recommended reading it once to get the gist of it and then a second time while taking notes to digest it fully. This is the first book our trainer course students read, and it is recommended for all shadow program attendees.
(168 pages, 0 typos, 5 stars)
“Cesar’s Way” by Cesar Millan
“Cesar’s Way” was one of the first dog training books I ever read, and to this day it’s still one of my favorites. Re-reading it now that I’m a dog trainer has brought a new perspective to its content and grounded, real-life philosophy. Although vilified by much of the dog training world, I have deep respect for Cesar Millan and appreciate his no-nonsense approach to training dogs without tricks and gimmicks. Cesar Millan knows dogs, he understands them, and he’s passionate about rehabilitating the dogs most trainers give up on.
(275 pages, 0 typos, 5 stars)
“Social, Civil and Savvy” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
This is a great book for puppy owners! It focuses specifically on socialization and exposure, which are crucial aspects of puppy development and growth. Too many puppy owners and even trainers focus solely on teaching obedience and forget the importance of raising confident and social puppies. The information in this book is basic and easy to understand. It includes great analogies and explanations for easy reading. The author is not a balanced trainer, so there is a slight political agenda, so take that with a grain of salt and read on!
(152 pages, 0 typos, 5 stars)
“Franklin” by Matthew Duffy
Hands-down, “Franklin” is the most inspirational working dog book I’ve ever read! It is a fascinating account of Jeffrey Scott Franklin, the man behind the United States Commando Dogs. I’m honored that author Matthew Duffy personally sent me a copy of this book to read and add to my collection. It’s wonderful. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down! Highly recommend for dog trainers and pet enthusiasts.
(323 pages, 12 typos, 5 stars)
“The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior” by Roger Abrantes
Abrantes wrote a small booklet with lots of good content – be prepared to use your highlighter! Genetically dogs are 98.8% wolves, and while I agree that domestication has changed things drastically, I think it’s important to study wolves in order to gain a better understanding of dogs. If you’re looking for a dog training book to help with your dog, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for a fascinating look at the inside life of wolves, you’ll thoroughly enjoy love this book!
(73 pages, 0 typos, 5 stars)
“Canine Nutrigenomics” by W. Jeans Dodds and Diana Laverdure
Fascinating inside look at health, nutrition and the best superfoods for Fido! This is a big book and will require lots of note-taking. Our trainees are required to read it as part of our trainer course, because we believe strongly that nutrition affects behavior. Highly recommend this book to anyone looking to feed a raw diet or improve their dog’s overall health and wellness.
(326 pages, 5 stars)
“Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz
Written by a cognitive scientist, “Inside of a Dog” takes you quite literally inside of a dog to explore what they see, smell and know. It gives you a better understanding of their life on a day-to-day basis and is a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about their dog’s abilities. It’s fascinating and could be read twice if you’re wanting to digest it all.
(353 pages, 5 stars)
“The Focused Puppy” by Deborah Jones and Judy Keller
Overall “The Focused Puppy” is a good book! I teach puppies using reward-based training and agree with most of what this book says. I like the overall book layout, and it has a lot of good content if you’re a new puppy owner looking for some tips. I don’t think including a puppy training chart was a good idea — too cookie-cutter for my liking. Keep in mind this book was written by a Positive Reinforcement-only trainer and geared towards competition dogs, so take everything you read with a grain of salt.
(205 pages, 0 typos, 4 stars)
“Team Dog” by Mike Ritland
Ritland’s book is good for beginners and new dog owners. It’s well-written and briefly touches on a variety of topics. There is a clear resemblance between Ritland’s training philosophy and ours especially when it comes to trust, respect and relationship between owner and dog.
(230 pages, 0 typos, 3 stars)
“What the Dog Knows” by Cat Warren
Warren’s book explores firsthand the extraordinary abilities of working dogs used to sniff out drugs, explosives and even the dead. It goes into detail on the importance of working with, not against, your dog for best results in the working world. Good book, but a bit slow at times.
(368 pages, 3 stars)
Books I Do Not Recommend
“Everything You Need to Know About E-Collar Training” by Larry Krohn
I’m giving this book 3 stars — not because the content isn’t good, but because the title is extremely misleading. I really liked almost everything Larry has to say about dogs and training, but this is a magazine-sized booklet about Larry, his training philosophy, his business, life and other random topics. There’s very little actual information on e-collar training. If you’re looking for a how-to book on e-collar training, someone needs to pony up and write one because to my knowledge no such book exists.
(62 pages, 5 typos, 3 stars
“The Good Dog Way” by Sean O’Shea
I started reading this book two years ago when it first came out, but I never finished it…because it gave me a headache. The irregular font sizes, low quality photos and entire pages of blank space combined with a scattered layout and extremely casual writing style will make you want to gauge your eyes out. It’s like he took a bunch of blog posts off his website, copied and pasted them into a Word document and hit Print. The book is 219 pages but could probably be condensed into a 50 page book/booklet if it were put together like a normal book. I was blown away by the number of typos and annoyed by how many times O’Shea used the word “stuff” to describe something. He also misquotes two people in the beginning testimonials pages which demonstrates a lack of attention to detail that’s carried out throughout the book. The content itself is good and much aligns with my approach to rehabilitating dogs as far as philosophy, but the methods O’Shea uses to get results couldn’t be more different from ours here at Valor K9 Academy. I do not recommend this book. You can read his blog and get pretty much the exact same information.
(219 pages, 42 typos, 93 stuff’s, 2 stars)
“The Cautious Canine” by Patricia McConnell
This booklet discusses what counter-conditioning is and how it can be used to help rehabilitate fearful dogs, specifically dogs afraid of people. The booklet itself is good, but some of the advice given is laughable. Save yourself the $4.46 and type “counter conditioning” into any search engine to get the same information free of charge.
(29 pages, 3 typos, 2 stars)
“Dog Sports Skills: Motivation” by Denise Fenzi and Deborah Jones
Instead of making me feel excited and ready to motivate my dog, Fenzi’s book was quite literally un-motivating and straight up boring. It’s very wordy, and the information is basic with terrible advice scattered throughout. For example, the authors recommend letting your dog chase squirrels as an alternative reward during training. Not only is that bad advice, but it could get a dog injured or killed. Throughout this very un-motivating book, I found lots of holes in the authors’ training philosophy when it comes to real world, practical application. The book is like a maze with a bunch of dead ends – problems without solutions. If you know nothing whatsoever about motivation, you might find some helpful information in this book, but overall it’s a waste of time to read it.
(152 pages, 1 typo, 2 stars)
“Ruff Love” by Susan Garrett
This book is very basic, boring and poorly organized with lots of confusing charts and training tables.
(95 pages, 0 typos but I did skim a lot, 1 star)
“Excel-Erated Learning” by Pamela Reid
This book is similar to “How Dogs Learn” in content, but it is not as well-written. I’d rather spend my time reading “How Dogs Learn” a second or third time instead of reading this book.
(172 pages, 3 stars)