The best books to help you understand your dog

Who am I?

At least one dog has accompanied me almost my entire life. Much of that time has revolved around working Border Collies, training them, and working sheep together. One particular young dog turned my perceptions upside down when he arrived, proving to be like no other dog I had ever encountered. Through the learning about fearful and anxious dogs I needed to understand him, I found myself developing a new passion – helping others to understand dogs. Since that dog entered my life, I have been on an intense educational journey and sharing my learning and experience with others, both on the topics of ‘reactive’ dogs and dogs in general.

I wrote...

Understanding Reactive Dogs: Why Dogs React and How to Help

By Jay Gurden,

Book cover of Understanding Reactive Dogs: Why Dogs React and How to Help

What is my book about?

Many dogs go through life confident and happy in the world. A significant number do not - scared or anxious dogs, terrified when approached by another dog, person, or a whole range of possible things. They react in different ways, all of which combine to make 'reactive dogs', those who cannot cope. They may be labelled 'bad’, ‘aggressive’, or 'vicious' when they are none of those things. They are scared, and it is up to us to learn and to help. 

Learn how stress affects dogs and potential causes. Learn how to help a puppy avoid reactivity as they grow and mature. Discover how to create a better relationship for them with the world. Finish reading this book to better understand reactive dogs.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog's Behavior

Why did I love this book?

This amazing book looks at what makes our dogs who they are. It details all the elements that go into making up an individual dog, including how the breed groups that exist in the dog species affect their behaviour. As someone who loves Border Collies, I am very aware they don’t suit every home, and this book explains the reasons why herding breeds (and the other groups) won’t suit every home perfectly. After reading this book, the differing needs of dog breeds are much clearer. Understanding the needs of dogs that come from their very genetics makes understanding the whole dog so much easier, and leads to a much happier life together.

By Kim Brophey, Jason Hewitt (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Every dog owner knows that along with the joy can come the stress and frustration of behavioral problems, which are expensive to diagnose and treat. Enter Kim Brophey, award-winning canine behavior consultant. Using cutting-edge research, Brophey has developed a groundbreaking system that allows owners to identify what their dog is struggling with, why, and how they can fix it. Brophey's approach is unlike anything that has been published before and will give dog owners a new understanding of what motivates and affects their dog's behavior. Brophey's innovative technique rethinks the way we categorize dogs, and distills information from over twenty…

Book cover of The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs

Why did I love this book?

Reading The Culture Clash for the first time was one of the most eye-opening moments of my learning journey with dogs. A particular section asks the reader to imagine their life with an alien species whose language we cannot understand and who have completely different customs but expect us to fit in with their society and expectation. Seeing that idea expressed for the first time explaining how different our lives are to a natural dog world was a watershed experience for me, and started me on my quest to help people better understand their dogs.

By Jean Donaldson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Culture Clash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book that has shaped modern dog training and ownership with its unique and scientifically sound recognition of the "cultural" differences between dogs and humans. Dogs can't read so you need to in order to really understand your dog.

Canine Communication: The Language of a Species

By Sally Gutteridge, Dayle Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of Canine Communication: The Language of a Species

Why did I love this book?

I am incredibly fortunate to count Sally as a mentor and friend. Her understanding of dogs and their needs is wonderful and this book is one of the easiest to read references on interpreting canine body language that I have ever seen. Our dogs cannot speak to us so it is up to us to learn how to understand the communication they do offer and, importantly, to respect and heed it. This process of reading their communication signals and really listening to the dog goes a long way towards understanding their needs and creating the best possible lives together.

By Sally Gutteridge, Dayle Smith (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why do you need this book?

Excellent communication is relevant to interaction between all individuals whether sharing information within or outside our own species. Communication is paramount to excellent relationships.

As humans, we already have an entire range of listening blocks with each other, so with dogs with a completely different language. So, how do we even manage to communicate at all?

Thankfully dogs know our limits, so have spent hundreds of years perfecting their own communication skills to cope with the self-imposed boundaries of ours. The dogs in our homes are signalling, passing messages and displaying obvious requests most…

Book cover of Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do

Why did I love this book?

Dogs do so many things that seem strange and even a little weird to us, but they are all perfectly natural and normal for the dog. This book explains the ‘why’ of many of the things our dogs do and contains lots of information to help us lead the best and most fulfilling lives with our dogs. What I really love about this book is the way it normalises the fact that dogs are emotional creatures – as is now scientifically proven – and helps us to understand what that means for our lives together.

By Marc Bekoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For all the love and attention we give dogs, much of what they do remains mysterious. Just think about different behaviors you see at a dog park: We have a good understanding of what it means when dogs wag their tails--but what about when they sniff and roll on a stinky spot? Why do they play tug-of-war with one dog, while showing their bellies to another? Why are some dogs shy, while others are bold? What goes on in dogs' heads and hearts--and how much can we know and understand? Canine Confidential has the answers. Written by award-winning scientist--and lifelong…

Book cover of The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs

Why did I love this book?

Patricia McConnell’s book looks at the effects we have on our dogs – we are literally the other end of the leash. How we behave around our dogs and interact with them can have massive repercussions if we make the wrong choices or previously received the wrong information. There is a lot of outdated information and advice still in circulation, unfortunately, much of it by people with large audiences, but people like Patricia McConnell do an excellent job of explaining why those methods are risky and potentially damaging to our bonds and relationships with our dogs.

By Patricia McConnell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Other End of the Leash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn to communicate with your dog—using their language
“Good reading for dog lovers and an immensely useful manual for dog owners.”—The Washington Post
An Applied Animal Behaviorist and dog trainer with more than twenty years’ experience, Dr. Patricia McConnell reveals a revolutionary new perspective on our relationship with dogs—sharing insights on how “man’s best friend” might interpret our behavior, as well as essential advice on how to interact with our four-legged friends in ways that bring out the best in them.
After all, humans and dogs are two entirely different species, each shaped by its individual evolutionary heritage. Quite simply,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dogs, dog training, and body language?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dogs, dog training, and body language.

Dogs Explore 352 books about dogs
Dog Training Explore 17 books about dog training
Body Language Explore 16 books about body language

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Art of Racing in the Rain, On Talking Terms with Dogs, and Bones Would Rain from the Sky if you like this list.