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.

The books I picked & why

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

By Kim Brophey, Jason Hewitt (photographer),

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

Why 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.


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

By Jean Donaldson,

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

Why 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.


Canine Communication: The Language of a Species

By Sally Gutteridge, Dayle Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of Canine Communication: The Language of a Species

Why 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.


Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do

By Marc Bekoff,

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

Why 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.


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

By Patricia McConnell,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dogs, dog training, and body language?

5,215 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 235 books about dogs
Dog Training Explore 14 books about dog training
Body Language Explore 6 books about body language

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training, Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs, and On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals if you like this list.