The best books for understanding what your dog is thinking

Who am I?

I'm a lifelong dog lover and the author of four nonfiction books. I currently live with two rescue dogs, Marlowe and Nuka (the unofficial co-authors of my book). I decided to write a self-help book after noticing two trends during the recent pandemic: people were struggling to feel happy and optimistic, and people were adding a dog to their household, many for the first time. We all marvel at how our dogs find it so easy to enjoy life, and I was determined to find out what we could learn from them! During my research, I learned so much about how dogs think and feel, and I love sharing this information with other dog lovers.


I wrote...

Be as Happy as Your Dog: 16 Dog-Tested Ways to Be Happier Using Pawsitive Psychology

By Michelle Waitzman,

Book cover of Be as Happy as Your Dog: 16 Dog-Tested Ways to Be Happier Using Pawsitive Psychology

What is my book about?

Be as Happy as Your Dog explains how you can learn to enjoy life like dogs do. After all, a dog's default position is to be happy—right here, right now. Bringing together the latest research from dog behavior experts and leaders in positive psychology, this book reveals easy changes you can make to level up your happiness today—and make it last.

Chapter by chapter, you'll get easy-to-use advice that doesn't require you to follow a complicated program or change your whole lifestyle. You’ll learn 16 dog-tested methods of finding pleasure in your everyday experiences, enjoying each moment as it happens, loving yourself as much as your dog loves you, and adding more happiness to your life every day.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Michelle Waitzman Why did I love this book?

Alexandra Horowitz is a rare person: a leading expert in her field who writes in a friendly and fascinating way. Her books are a mixture of personal insights and solid research that explores dog behavior and biology to help us understand what our dogs are thinking, feeling, and wanting.

Inside of a Dog will give you a new perspective on your furry friends and improve your dog parenting skills. You’ll also get to know Horowitz’s dog Pumpernickel (who has since passed away) in short blurbs about his daily life and little quirks.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I learned so much about how dogs experience the world. It should be required reading for anyone welcoming a dog into their home.

By Alexandra Horowitz,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Inside of a Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As an unabashed dog lover, Alexandra Horowitz is naturally curious about what her dog thinks and what she knows. As a cognitive scientist she is intent on understanding the minds of animals who cannot say what they know or feel.

This is a fresh look at the world of dogs -- from the dog's point of view. The book introduces the reader to the science of the dog -- their perceptual and cognitive abilities -- and uses that introduction to draw a picture of what it might be like to bea dog. It answers questions no other dog book can…


Book cover of The Genius of Dogs: Discovering the Unique Intelligence of Man's Best Friend

Michelle Waitzman Why did I love this book?

Dr. Brian Hare accidentally became a dog researcher when his research supervisor showed him an experiment with chimpanzees.

The chimps couldn’t understand what humans were trying to communicate when they pointed at something. Hare’s reaction: “My dog can do that!” His supervisor asked him to prove it, and a canine career was born!

The Genius of Dogs explains what dogs are good at, and what they’re not so good at. It’s absolutely fascinating, and you’ll be tempted to test out his findings on your own dog! He explains various experiments that he and other researchers have undertaken to test different abilities and types of intelligence.

As the founder of the Duke University Canine Cognition Center, Hare and his wife Woods are at the cutting edge of understanding dogs’ minds and behaviors. This was a great book that looks at what dogs really can do, rather than implying it from general observations.

By Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The journey began with a gut reaction. When award-winning scientist Dr Brian Hare watched a chimpanzee fail to read a simple human hand gesture in an intelligence test, he blurted out, 'My dog can do that!' The psychologist running the test challenged him to prove it, sending Hare on an odyssey to unlock the cognitive and evolutionary mysteries of our four-legged friends.

Hare's research over the past two decades has yielded startling discoveries about how dogs think. He has pioneered studies that have proven that dogs exhibit a brand of genius for getting along with people that is unique in…


Book cover of Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know

Michelle Waitzman Why did I love this book?

Dr. Stanley Coren has been studying dogs for decades, and he has written many books on the subject.

It was hard to choose just one for this list, but I really liked the format of Do Dogs Dream? It answers some of the most common questions about dog behavior and communication in short, simple chapters. If you’ve ever been curious about why your dog does what they do, you’ll be very likely to find the answer in this book.

This book is no doubt a response to the hundreds of questions people asked him over the years. Compiling a volume with the most popular topics, he has presented a primer on understanding your dog. 

By Stanley Coren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do dogs dream? Can they recognize themselves in the mirror or understand what they're seeing on television? Are they more intelligent than cats? People have a great curiosity-and many misunderstandings-about how dogs think, act, and perceive the world. They also wonder about the social and emotional lives of dogs. Stanley Coren brings decades of scientific research on dogs to bear in his unprecedented foray into the inner lives of our canine companions, dispelling many common myths in the process. In a conversational Q&A format with illustrations, Coren answers approximately 75 questions often asked of him during his nearly fifty-year career…


Book cover of Dogs Demystified: An A-Z Guide to All Things Canine

Michelle Waitzman Why did I love this book?

“A dog’s feelings matter to them, and they should also matter to us.” This quote from Dr. Marc Bekoff’s new book, Dogs Demystified, sums up his longtime advocacy for dogs and other animals.

He respects them as thoughtful beings with full emotional lives, and strongly believes that every individual animal matters, whether a household pet or a wild predator. 

Bekoff has been writing about animals for a long time, and this book on dogs is an effort to whittle down his vast knowledge into a manageable read. If you feel a lot of empathy toward dogs and other animals, you will definitely enjoy reading Marc Bekoff’s books, including Dogs Demystified.

The book also features a foreword from the incredible Jane Goodall and illustrations by 1960s folk music icon Joan Baez.

By Marc Bekoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An all-encompassing and fun reference from an award-winning scientist and dog lover

Dr. Marc Bekoff is an expert at turning cutting-edge science into practical, reader-friendly information. The encyclopedic entries in this book cover everything related to dog care, dog-human relationships, and dog behavior, cognition, and emotions, making this the accessible book that every dog lover should have. In concise, readable A-through-Z entries, Bekoff covers it all, from aggression to pack formation to zoomies, and explores why dogs do what they do; exactly how to meet any dog eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose, and ear-to-ear to understand their world better; and how tuning in…


Book cover of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet

Michelle Waitzman Why did I love this book?

Dr. John Bradshaw is a (now retired) anthrozoologist. That means he spent his career studying animal-human interaction.

His bestselling book about dogs is a great overview of how dogs function. He delves into the ways in which dogs are like wolves, and the ways they are different. He talks about the unique ability of dogs to form strong bonds with both other dogs and humans—to essentially have two “packs” under the right circumstances.

I found his insights very helpful and his writing style easy to follow and engaging.

By John Bradshaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dogs have been mankind's faithful companions for tens of thousands of years, yet today they are regularly treated as either pack-following wolves or furry humans. The truth is, dogs are neither- and our misunderstanding has put them in serious crisis. What dogs really need is a spokesperson, someone who will assert their specific needs. Renowned anthrozoologist Dr. John Bradshaw has made a career of studying human-animal interactions, and in Dog Sense he uses the latest scientific research to show how humans can live in harmony with- not just dominion over- their four-legged friends. From explaining why positive reinforcement is a…


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Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

Book cover of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

Sharman Apt Russell Author Of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Explorer Runner Mother

Sharman's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Citizen Scientist begins with this extraordinary statement by the Keeper of Entomology at the London Museum of Natural History, “Study any obscure insect for a week and you will then know more than anyone else on the planet.”

As the author chases the obscure Western red-bellied tiger beetle across New Mexico, where she lives, she explores a dozen other citizen science programs with lyrical prose, humor, and a profound sense of connection to place. Diary of a Citizen Scientist celebrates a renewed optimism in the mysteries of the world and a renewed faith in how ordinary people can contribute to science and environmental activism.

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

What is this book about?

A critically acclaimed nature writer explores the citizen scientist movement through the lens of entomological field research in the American Southwest.

Award-winning nature writer Sharman Apt Russell felt pressed by the current environmental crisis to pick up her pen yet again. Encouraged by the phenomenon of citizen science, she decided to turn her attention to the Western red-bellied tiger beetle, an insect found widely around the world and near her home in the Gila River Valley of New Mexico.

In a lyrical, often humorous voice, Russell shares her journey across a wild, rural landscape tracking this little-known species, an insect…


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