The best books about building relationships with fearful dogs

The Books I Picked & Why

Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

By Suzanne Clothier

Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

Why this book?

This book touched me in new and unexpected ways. Renowned trainer Suzanne Clothier’s unparalleled insights into dog emotions combine with her compassionate awareness of how they perceive their own worlds. Written with knowing empathy, Suzanne discusses how to meet dogs’ needs for leadership without cruel coercion, and examines how canine culture clashes with human ignorance and insensitivity. Real dog stories show how respectful relationships can save dogs from tragedy and unnecessary destruction. I personally identified with Clothier’s emotions and learned more progressive ways to reach dogs in ways they understood.


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For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend

By Patricia McConnell

For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend

Why this book?

I am always intrigued when authors successfully combine science and emotion. Behaviorist and trainer Patricia McConnell skillfully blends cutting-edge scientific data with her personal experiences. She examines how the mind of a dog works, discusses the neurology of emotion, and yet examines the scientific limits of human vs. dog emotion. Humans and dogs need each other and the intense connection that is possible between our species. Fear and anxiety can be caused or ameliorated by human treatment--which should be based on partnership, not dominance. I have always espoused that respect is the key to communication and empathy between species. Dogs naturally respect people but do not often receive it from us. This book proves that mutual respect does work and adds depth and meaning to our mutual companionship.


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The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter

By Marc Bekoff

The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter

Why this book?

I feel that true understanding of animals comes from deep within the human psyche, if only we would allow ourselves to indulge in our own natural instincts and needs. Scientist Marc Becoff’s years of research show that animals have rich emotional lives, like humans, and are not as different as we are taught to believe. He has assisted in the successful social revolution combining science and ethics, resulting in a call for reassessing both how we view animals and how we treat them. Not only do animals feel joy, love, surprise, sadness, fear, anger, and empathy, but they are now known to adhere to rules of fair play, wild justice, and their own types of honor. He emphasizes that real richness in relationships grows out of respect, compassion, and patience, as well as scientific understanding. I feel humane arrogance blocks these virtues, much to our detriment.


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Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

By Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Why this book?

Animal scientist Temple Grandin encouraged me in my animal welfare work personally when I faced a traumatic brain injury. She draws on her own experiences with autism and explains that people with unique brain “dysfunctions” like autism, ADHD, brain injury, etc. can think like animals more effectively than “normal” people. I was honored to be included in her assessment and to have her tell me I had what it took to “naturally understand animals.” Crammed with facts and anecdotes, Temple explains animal senses, brains, and emotions through humorous stories and scientific study results. A deeply logical approach to compassion, she synthesizes scholarship and original applications of theory. Filled with wisdom and insight, emotional connection to all animals can result in rewarding relationships based on respect, not fear. Thanks to her, I went on in my work to help make the world a more compassionate place for all.


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Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

By Irene Pepperberg

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

Why this book?

Like most people, I did not think of birds the same way as I did furred companions. This story was enlightening. Irene Pepperberg’s unforgettable tale of intellectual adventure and emotional connection between herself and the world’s most famous African grey parrot shows how smart he was, and how deeply complex his emotions were. Over the thirty years they partnered in bird cognition research, they grew older together, fought the academic world’s political restraints, and established Alex as a mentor and coach to Irene’s other experimental birds. They shattered preconceived notions that birds can only mimic language and proved that they can also express wishes and categorize different items, comprehend numerical connections, and understand the concept of zero. Science and emotional attachment and trust dovetailed during Irene and Alex’s relationship. I went on to many years of compassionate rescue and care of my favorite bird, parakeets.


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