The best books about building relationships with fearful dogs

Who am I?

I have over 30 years in animal welfare advocacy and have rehabilitated then re-homed hundreds of dogs, cats and horses. As a professional humane educator, I consult with animal welfare professionals as well as adopters and have developed educational programs for all ages regarding the need for compassion and care of domestic and wild animals. I write books, blogs, and articles that fit into my missions of: 1) saving more animal lives by educating the people who care for them, and 2) humane education through storytelling. My children’s Pups & Purrs Series spotlights teaching compassion, respect, and tolerance. Each is narrated by its own dog protagonist.

I wrote...

Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

By Sunny Weber,

Book cover of Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

What is my book about?

Fearful dogs are the most commonly rejected and euthanized dog personality type. Many dogs have backgrounds of mistreatment, neglect, and outright cruelty. These dogs are afraid of noises, objects, and people. Saving the lives of timid dogs depends on helping them fit into the human world. Featuring unique stories of individual dogs and how I rehabilitated them, this book includes out-of-the-box problem-solving and quintessential tools for professional dog trainers, well-meaning foster families, and adopters who have taken a fearful dog into their homes and hearts.

Learn all aspects of dog fear, track progression, and discover how to live with a fearful dog. You can establish trust between your pup and yourself so you may find a fulfilling, deep, and meaningful relationship.

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The books I picked & why

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

Sunny Weber Why did I love 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.

By Suzanne Clothier,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Bones Would Rain from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Akin to Monty Roberts's The Man Who Listens to Horses and going light-years beyond The Hidden Life of Dogs, this extraordinary book takes a radical new direction in understanding our life with canines and offers us astonishing new lessons about our pets. From changing the misbehaviors and habits that upset us, to seeing the world from their unique and natural perspective, to finding a deep connection with another being, Bones Would Rain from the Sky will help you receive an incomparable gift: a profound, lifelong relationship with the dog you love.

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

Sunny Weber Why did I love 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.

By Patricia McConnell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked For the Love of a Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Yes, humans and canines are different species, but current research provides fascinating, irrefutable evidence that what we share with our dogs is greater than how we vary. As behaviorist and zoologist Dr. Patricia McConnell tells us in this remarkable new book about emotions in dogs and in people, more and more scientists accept the premise that dogs have rich emotional lives, exhibiting a wide range of feelings including fear, anger, surprise, sadness, and love.

In For the Love of a Dog, McConnell suggests that one of the reasons we love dogs so much is that they express emotions in ways…

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

Sunny Weber Why did I love 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.

By Marc Bekoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emotional Lives of Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on award-winning scientist Marc Bekoff’s years studying social communication in a wide range of species, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Bekoff skillfully blends extraordinary stories of animal joy, empathy, grief, embarrassment, anger, and love with the latest scientific research confirming the existence of emotions that common sense and experience have long implied. Filled with Bekoff’s light humor and touching stories, The Emotional Lives of Animals is a clarion call for reassessing both how we view animals and how we treat them.

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

Sunny Weber Why did I love 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.

By Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Animals in Translation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?


“Inspiring…Crammed with facts and anecdotes about Temple Grandin’s favorite subject: the senses, brains, emotions, and amazing talents of animals.”—New York Times Book Review

A groundbreaking look at the emotional lives of animals, from beloved animal scientist Temple Grandin.

Why would a cow lick a tractor? Why are collies getting dumber? Why do dolphins sometimes kill for fun? How can a parrot learn to spell? How did wolves teach man to evolve? Temple Grandin draws upon a long, distinguished career as an animal scientist and her own experiences with autism to deliver an extraordinary message about how animals…

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

Sunny Weber Why did I love 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.

By Irene Pepperberg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Alex & Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

The remarkable true story of an extraordinary relationship between psychologist Irene M. Pepperberg and Alex, an African Grey parrot who proved scientists and accepted wisdom wrong by demonstrating an astonishing ability to communicate and understand complex ideas.

"You be good. I love you," were Alex's final words to his owner, research scientist Irene Pepperberg, before his premature death at age thirty-one on September 6, 2007. An African Grey parrot, Alex had a brain the size of a shelled walnut, yet he could add, sound out words, understand concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none, and…

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Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

Book cover of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

Sharman Apt Russell Author Of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

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Who am I?

Author Explorer Runner Mother

Sharman's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Citizen Scientist begins with this extraordinary statement by the Keeper of Entomology at the London Museum of Natural History, “Study any obscure insect for a week and you will then know more than anyone else on the planet.”

As the author chases the obscure Western red-bellied tiger beetle across New Mexico, where she lives, she explores a dozen other citizen science programs with lyrical prose, humor, and a profound sense of connection to place. Diary of a Citizen Scientist celebrates a renewed optimism in the mysteries of the world and a renewed faith in how ordinary people can contribute to science and environmental activism.

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

What is this book about?

A critically acclaimed nature writer explores the citizen scientist movement through the lens of entomological field research in the American Southwest.

Award-winning nature writer Sharman Apt Russell felt pressed by the current environmental crisis to pick up her pen yet again. Encouraged by the phenomenon of citizen science, she decided to turn her attention to the Western red-bellied tiger beetle, an insect found widely around the world and near her home in the Gila River Valley of New Mexico.

In a lyrical, often humorous voice, Russell shares her journey across a wild, rural landscape tracking this little-known species, an insect…

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