The best books for teaching dog tricks

Who am I?

I’m a veterinarian, behaviorist, author, and dog trainer. I researched dog interactions for 10 years at UC Berkeley and in the early 80s, put theory to practice with SIRIUS® Puppy Training, introducing off-leash, puppy socialization and training classes, food lures and rewards, fun and games, and science-based, dog-friendly dog training to the doggy world. I spread the word by founding the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Cueing your dog to act friendly and playful helps it feel friendly and playful. Also, presenting a less threatening picture to other dogs and their owners, softens their feelings, attitudes, preconceptions, and demeanor, thereby making sidewalks, trails, and parks a happier and safer place for you and your dog.


I wrote...

Before and After Getting Your Puppy

By Dr. Ian Dunbar,

Book cover of Before and After Getting Your Puppy

What is my book about?

Nearly all my books and DVDs were whelped and raised by my own Publishing/Production Company and are currently online along with hundreds of hours of other dog behavior and training videos, seminars, webinars, podcasts, and articles. My favorite, Before and After Getting Your Puppy comprises nitty-gritty, common-sense advice, letting you know up-front, what to expect, what’s important, and what’s urgent (start now!). The publishers, New World Library, are wonderful people with big hearts. Or, you may download (for free), the original two eBooks Before You Get Your Puppy and After You Get Your Puppy, from DunbarAcademy.com and email them to all your doggy friends and neighbors, encouraging them to likewise share the books with others, so that all prospective puppy owners receive this critical, time-sensitive information at the optimal time.

The books I picked & why

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101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog

By Kyra Sundance, Chalcy, Nick Saglimbeni (photographer)

Book cover of 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog

Why this book?

I have always thought that teaching Tricks is the easiest, quickest, and most enjoyable way to train a dog and 101 Dog Tricks is a great place to start. As soon as you teach High-Five, Back-up, Bow, and ‘dance’ with your dog, all the basics, keeping close, Come, Sit, Down, Stay and Walk-by-my-Side appear as if by magic. Then it’s time to teach Bring Me a Beer, and Cover Your Eyes… so impossibly cute it makes me smile every time.

Kyra is the ultimate, born performer. (I bet she had a puppy and wore dayglo-Lycra outfits as a little girl.) I just love this book since I first read it nearly 20 years ago: Beautifully laid with loads of stunning, sequential photographs and easy-to-understand instructions for all sorts of tricks and a myriad of fun games. When I first saw Kyra perform, she and Chalcy Weimaraner were nothing less than dazzling. However, you needn’t wear Lycra for your dog’s skills to sparkle and shine like a Star.


Real Dog Yoga

By Jo-Rosie Haffenden,

Book cover of Real Dog Yoga

Why this book?

Occasionally, a book comes along that completely changes the way you think about and relate to your dog. Jo-Rosie’s Real Dog Yoga is just that, especially if you try to mimic your dog’s performances like I did. (You would crack up if you saw me frozen on the floor in a butt-raised bow with Mister Peabody Labrador). Jo-Rosie explains 30 postures, 15 actions, and 10 expressions. My favorite section was learning how to cue facial expressions, such as Close Eyes, Ear-Pricks, and Nose Licks. 

Although not billed as a Dog Tricks book, RDY is the definitive ‘How & Why’ for teaching all tricks and basic manners, the only difference being: Dogs receive the calm attention and gentle praise they deserve when they bow, raise a paw, or ‘smile’ on cue, but are largely ignored when they Down-Stay, stop barking, or walk calmly. RDY will surprise you. The text is erudite and thought-provoking. You’ll learn how to change your dog’s feelings and at the same time, change your own. You’ll feel focused, calm, and happy, and have a lingering sense of well-being. I strongly recommend that everyone embrace their inner puppy and practice daily with their dog. Happy Hormones Rock! And Jo-Rosie Rocks!


Super Dog Tricks: Make Your Dog a Super Dog with Step by Step Tricks and Training Tips

By Sara Carson,

Book cover of Super Dog Tricks: Make Your Dog a Super Dog with Step by Step Tricks and Training Tips

Why this book?

Most of you know Sara from America’s Got Talent? Originally from Canada, Sara and her dogs are peripatetic performers; she, living her childhood her dream, and her pups realizing theirs, all living in her car, traveling the States, and performing for enthusiastic crowds. I first met Sara when she was conducting an on-stage workshop at the APDT Annual Conference: Backward Leg Weaves, balancing on the souls of her feet, and even a Faux Pee. It was stunning. 

Sara just loves trick training and dancing with her dogs because it fosters better communication, closeness, and attention. Her dogs get the opportunity to regularly ‘let off steam’ and wag with glee, but then they walk off stage, calmly by her side, because they want to walk by her side—the veritable tango of dog training. There’s more to ‘rhythm and tricks’ than meets the eye, much more: flexibility, balance, core-strengthening, building confidence, improving impulse control, and especially, increasing focus and engagement.


101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition: Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts

By Kyra Sundance,

Book cover of 101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition: Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts

Why this book?

Yup, another book by Kyra—completely different but equally as enjoyable and with many more wonderful photographs (starring Jadie the Weim). I’m sure that all the children have read and mastered everything in 101 Dog Tricks and wanted something more. Well, they got it. I wanted to make this the first choice on my list, but didn’t, because not everyone has children and I didn’t want them to feel left out. Nonetheless, I implore you all to be a child for a day and enjoy the book, and your dog.

The Kids Edition is a marvelous collection of 101 games, activities, brain games, and magic tricks, for children to teach and engage with their dogs. What makes the Kids Edition truly special, most tricks involve projects, showing children how to make stuff, such as doggy doorbells, fleece leashes, personalized dog bowls, teeter-totters, and artworks. Messenger Dog is my all-time favorite and most useful ‘trick’—finding the recipient to deliver a note, Dog Bowling is a hoot, and Dig in a Sand Pit—a delightfully messy (lawn) activity, especially since, in the photo, the ‘sand’ pit appeared to be filled with potting soil before the dog spread it all over the virgin white, infinity background.


The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Ever: A Step-By-Step Guide to 118 Amazing Tricks and Stunts

By Larry Kay, Chris Perondi,

Book cover of The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Ever: A Step-By-Step Guide to 118 Amazing Tricks and Stunts

Why this book?

The Big Book of Tricks is big, with 116 tricks and activities in all. (Eat your heart out Kyra!) Oodles of gorgeous, sequential photographs and very clear, straightforward, step-by-step instructions. The canine models include Larry’s Spider and Flashy Ferrari’s (Perondi) Stunt Dogs and the range of tricks is indeed eclectic, but well organized, comprising beginner, intermediate, movie, performance, dancing, stunts, and sports, including Head Balance and Butt Balance (brilliant for building rock-solid Stays), Hop Up and Hugs of various sorts, Crawl Weave, which looks easy for dogs but a challenging workout for the trainer, and Wipe Your Paws, a must-teach for muddy Labradors.

I’ve known Larry since he wrote his first dog book and we’ve shared a few bottles of Côtes du Rhône, and I know Chris by reputation… and my word what a truly amazing reputation… the Stunt Dogs perform over 1,000 shows a year. All his dogs and many trainers are nothing less than brilliant. (Sara did a three-year spell on the road with the Stunt dogs.) All in all, I feel ashamed to call myself a dog trainer. I think the best way to sum up The Big Book are words that Larry used in his Introduction: “When we do what we love”—“joy,” “connection,” and “miracles”


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