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...

Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You

By Clive D.L. Wynne,

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.

The books I picked & why

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My Dog Tulip

By J.R. Ackerley,

Book cover of My Dog Tulip

Why 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.


Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon

By Bronwen Dickey,

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

Why 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!


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

By Emma Townshend,

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

Why 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.


The Call of the Wild

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Call of the Wild

Why 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.


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

By Raymond Coppinger, Peter Pinardi (illustrator),

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 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. 


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