The best books on how dogs love people

Clive D.L. Wynne Author Of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You
By Clive D.L. Wynne

Who am I?

I have loved dogs since I was a kid and have been fascinated by a scientific approach to animal behavior since I was in college. About fifteen years ago I found a way to meld my love of dogs with my scientific expertise in animal behavior by studying how and why dogs love people. My quest to understand the human-dog relationship has taken me around the world: from hunting with native people in Nicaragua to examining the remains of a woman buried with a dog 12,000 years ago in Israel. And yes, I really do get to cuddle puppies for a living!

I wrote...

Book cover of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You

What is my book about?

Every dog lover knows the feeling. The nuzzle of a dog’s nose, the warmth of them lying at our feet, even their whining when they want to get up on the bed. It really seems like our dogs love us. But for years, scientists have resisted that conclusion, warning against anthropomorphizing our pets.

Enter Clive Wynne, a pioneering canine behaviorist whose research is helping to usher in a new era: one in which love is at the heart of the human-canine relationship. Drawing on cutting-edge studies from his lab and others around the world, Wynne shows that affection is the very essence of dogs, from their faces and tails to their brains, hormones, even DNA. This scientific revolution is revealing more about dogs’ unique origins, behavior, needs, and hidden depths than we ever imagined possible.

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The books I picked & why

My Dog Tulip

By J.R. Ackerley,

Book cover of My Dog Tulip

Why did I love this book?

There are many books about the love between dog and man – but this classic is surely one of the richest, warmest, and yet most clear-eyed. The author, Joe Ackerley, was a gay man in London in the mid-twentieth century at a time when his predilections could get him arrested and imprisoned. It is perhaps because he couldn’t easily be open about the love he felt for other people that he is so well able to capture and express the love that exists between man and dog. “Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” he wrote.

By J.R. Ackerley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Dog Tulip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Heartwarming and profound, this account of one writer’s relationship with his beloved German Shepherd is “one of the bonafide dog-lit classics” (New Yorker)

The distinguished British man of letters J. R. Ackerley hardly thought of himself as a dog lover when, well into middle age, he came into possession of a German Shepherd. To his surprise, she turned out to be the love of his life, the “ideal friend” he had been searching for in vain for years. My Dog Tulip is a bittersweet retrospective account of their sixteen-year companionship, as well as a profound and subtle meditation on the…

Book cover of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon

Why did I love this book?

Bronwen Dickey is like a dog with a bone as she sticks her snout deep into the mysteries and contradictions in our modern lives with dogs. Her focus in this book is the pit bull – the dog that surely wins the prize for the most misunderstood in the whole of dogdom. Dickey is a great writer and a sure-pawed guide as she takes the reader from the dogfighting pits of the nineteenth century to the sweet pitty pup she brought into her own home. Her passion – and her compassion – are totally infectious!

By Bronwen Dickey,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Pit Bull as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The controversial story of one infamous breed of dog--a New York Times Bestseller ("Animals" list).

When Bronwen Dickey brought her new dog home, she saw no traces of the infamous viciousness in her affectionate pit bull. Which made her wonder: How had the breed—beloved by Teddy Roosevelt and Helen Keller—come to be known as a brutal fighter? Dickey’s search for answers takes her from nineteenth-century New York dogfighting pits to early twentieth‑century movie sets, from the battlefields of Gettysburg to struggling urban neighborhoods. In this illuminating story of how a popular breed became demonized--and what role humans have played in…

Book cover of Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution

Why did I love this book?

So (so) much has been written about Charles Darwin but this short book captures a side of the great man’s life that had been hiding in plain sight: his love of dogs. When Darwin was a youngster his father complained he “care[d] for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching.” There was only one period of Darwin’s adulthood when he was not living with dogs and that was the five years he spent going 'round the world on a boat named – ironically enough – the Beagle. A love of dogs informed Darwin’s thinking on everything from marriage to his epochal theory of evolution by natural selection.

By Emma Townshend,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin's Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anyone who has ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human in its sad expression can take comfort in knowing that Charles Darwin did exactly the same thing. But Darwin didn't just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. A great naturalist, pioneer of the theory of evolution, and incurable dog-lover, Darwin used his much-loved dogs as evidence in his continuing argument that all animals, including human beings, descended from one common ancestor. Emma Townshend looks at Darwin's life through a uniquely canine…

The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Call of the Wild

Why did I love this book?

I hesitated before recommending this book because London’s depictions of dog behavior don’t line up entirely with a modern scientific understanding of dogs. But that really isn’t the point here – what makes this book an easy pick is London’s wonderfully passionate depiction of the range of relationships that man and dog can share, from the most venal to the most beautiful. I recently re-read it and was struck by the compelling pace of the story and the way the author captures the possibilities for love between (some) people and (some) dogs.

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Call of the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics bring together the best-loved stories to a new generation.

In The Call of the Wild life is good for Buck in Santa Clara Valley, where he spends his days eating and sleeping in the golden sunshine. But one day a treacherous act of betrayal leads to his kidnap, and he is forced into a life of toil and danger. Dragged away to be a sledge dog in the harsh and freezing cold Yukon, Buck must fight for his survivial. Can he rise above his enemies and become the master of his realm once again?

Jack London (1876-1916) was…

Book cover of Fishing Dogs: A Guide to the History, Talents, and Training of the Baildale, the Flounderhounder, the Angler Dog, and Sundry Other Breeds of Aquatic Dogs

Why did I love this book?

My good friend Ray Coppinger, who died in 2017 at age 80, was known as the world’s leading scientific expert on the behavior of dogs. As well as writing some of the most important scholarly works on dog behavior, he also penned this slim volume - the hands-down funniest book about the dog-human relationship. Ray could act impatient when people got mushy about their dogs, but in this small gem he reveals that he understood the emotional bond between people and dogs at a very deep level. 

By Raymond Coppinger, Peter Pinardi (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fishing Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you're familiar with the world of hunting, you know how important dogs are in the field. Less known, however, is how vital these canines are to fishermen. For many anglers, packing your tackle and wading through the river without a trusted fishing dog is a recipe for disaster.

In Fishing Dogs, Raymond Coppinger sheds light on the true value of fishing dogs of every size, shape, and color. Monsoon dogs, for example, lay in the bilge of boats until they are disturbed by the shipping of water. At that point, they rise up out of the bilge and unleash…

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