The best books about dogs who rescue us as much as we rescue them

Who am I?

I made so many mistakes with my first German shepherd, Isis, that I wrote a book about her in hopes of saving other people from the same heartbreak and frustration. Then I wound up living with two more German shepherds with similar challenges. Our current dog, Bailey, was undersocialized before we met her, but our past experience showed us how to help her live her best life anyway. My dogs have enriched my life so much that my favorite books are about the ways they save us as much as we save them. 


I wrote...

Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog from Training Mistakes

By Kari Neumeyer,

Book cover of Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog from Training Mistakes

What is my book about?

How do you make sure the dog you love never bites anyone (again)? Kari and Rob are as devoted to their German shepherd puppy, Isis, as two dog parents can be. Kari’s the disciplinarian, struggling to follow every instruction to the letter. Rob’s the laid-back dad, more of a littermate, happy as long as he can practice jiu-jitsu with the dog.

As she grows, Isis’s behavior escalates from frustrating to dangerous when she bites someone. Kari and Rob learn that some of the old-fashioned advice they followed may have contributed to Isis’s aggression. Eventually, they’re shown a better way to calm an anxious and fearful dog.

The books I picked & why

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The Dogs of Babel

By Carolyn Parkhurst,

Book cover of The Dogs of Babel

Why this book?

I think about this novel nearly every day when I refill my dog’s water dish. See, the main character, Paul, wants to teach his dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Lorelei, to talk so she can tell him how his wife, Lexy, died. He starts by trying to get Lorelei to say “water,” and in doing so, he takes a drink from her water dish and makes a note to use soap next time he cleans it.

That’s an extremely small part of what stuck with me. The novel depicts depression and grief, and the role a dog can play in a family. My heart broke for the dog when she searched the house for her dead owner. I finished the book with tears streaming down my face, which I promptly buried in my dog’s chest.


The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with Reactive and Aggressive Dogs

By Annie Phenix,

Book cover of The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with Reactive and Aggressive Dogs

Why this book?

This book also made me cry, because I related to it so much. When my dog’s behavior kept getting worse on a leash, and then when she bit someone, I felt very much alone. I felt like no one understood what I was going through, and I didn’t understand what was wrong with my dog. I wish this book existed then. It contains all the lessons it took me years to learn. Phenix explains what it means for a dog to be above the threshold and how to use counterconditioning to unring that bell. She also debunks the myth that walking a dog more will solve the problem. Not true when those uncontrollable triggers encountered on walks stack on top of one another, pushing the dog over the threshold and increasing their reactivity.


Part Wild: Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs

By Ceiridwen Terrill,

Book cover of Part Wild: Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs

Why this book?

Part wolf encyclopedia, part memoir about a woman raising a companion wolfdog. Terrill makes a lot of the same mistakes naive dog owners make, only the stakes are higher because Inyo is more volatile and more aggressive than your average canine. This is also the story of Terrill’s emotional health and interpersonal relationships. It’s a cautionary and heartbreaking tale about bringing a wild animal into your home and your heart.


Hit by a Flying Wolf: True Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Real Life with Dogs and Wolves

By Nicole Wilde,

Book cover of Hit by a Flying Wolf: True Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Real Life with Dogs and Wolves

Why this book?

Speaking of wolves, this book describes how wolves and wolfdogs can be safely contained and cared for. Author Nicole Wilde ran Villalobos Rescue Center back when it was a wolf rescue, and is also a specialist in domestic dog behavior. In this book, she opens up about the struggles she had with some of her own dogs. It’s very reassuring to read about experts having the same problems we do. Not only does Wilde describe the animals vividly in prose, but her photographs also are stunning. It bums me out when photos in dog books are grainy and black and white, or worse, when there are no photos at all. I want to see the dogs!


Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him

By Luis Carlos Montalván, Bret Witter,

Book cover of Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him

Why this book?

I debated whether to include this book because the author, Iraq war veteran Luis Carlos Montalván, apparently took his own life a few years after it was written, just before the sequel was published. Does that mean Tuesday didn’t “save” Montalván as the title says? I finished this book wishing that every returning service member could be given a service animal to help navigate their lives after experiencing psychological and often physical trauma. I didn’t warm up to the story right away, because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training before the author knew him. Tuesday comes alive as a character when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. Regardless of how the story ended, the healing power of their bond is miraculous and Tuesday did enrich Montalván’s life for the years they were together.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dogs, wolves, and Virginia?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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