Recommending Dog Books for the Season


“Outside of a dog,” said Groucho Marx, “a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

If you’re looking for best friends of the book variety, here are five that belong on your gift list and on your own bookshelf.  

Best known for her academic success despite autism and for unique insights into animal behavior, Temple Grandin considers the emotions of wild and domestic animals the key to their well-being. In her latest book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), Grandin concludes that all animals deserve to live free from rage, fear, and panic in surroundings that stimulate seeking and play behaviors. In chapters devoted to dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, wildlife, and zoo animals, she demonstrates how simple, inexpensive changes in their environment can significantly improve the health and happiness of all creatures.

In Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us about All Animals (Scribner, 2009) positive-reinforcement training guru Karen Pryor describes force-free methods so that everyone – even readers who don’t have dogs – can appreciate them. A compelling story teller, she combines simple how-to instructions with stories and explanations that combine scientific research, a variety of animals (including humans), and the many benefits of positive reinforcement.

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) carries readers straight into the world the author and her Golden Retriever occupy as they search for missing teens, Alzheimer’s patients, space shuttle debris, and other challenges, all the while improving their communication and efficiency. This book will fascinate anyone interested in the new sport of Nose Work, the old sport of Tracking, the fields of specialized scent detection, and all aspects of Search and Rescue work. But you don’t need a dog to enjoy Scent of the Missing. It’s a great adventure story for all.

In Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know (Scribner 2009), cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz explores the many ways in which dogs perceive their world and relationships, both with other animals and with humans. Like Grandin, Pryor, and Charleson, Horowitz describes dogs in detail without anthropomorphizing them. Until recently any theory that ascribed emotions and intelligence to dogs and other animals was considered unscientific, but these four authors put that obsolete notion to rest while remaining objective. Despite our familiarity with dogs, few of us truly understand our canine companions. Consider Inside of a Dog an eye-opening owner’s manual that reveals previously unknown or under-appreciated aspects of our pets’ minds and bodies.

Paws and Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs by journalist Sharon Sakson (Spiegel & Grau, 2009) is as moving as any book about service dogs, medical detection dogs, military dogs, and therapy dogs can be. Sakson recounts dozens of true stories about these special creatures and she includes practical information that enhances any canine/human connection along with helpful resources.  

All of these books are available in paperback and make great stocking-stuffers. Enjoy!

CJ Puotinen is a long-time WDJ contributor, and author of many books on human and canine health. She lives in Montana. 


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