Top Trainer-Recommended Books for Dog Caregivers (January is Train Your Dog Month)

It’s not a surprise that many dog caregivers are confused about how to best train a dog. The dog training industry is without regulations guiding education or professional standards of practice, so it can be a challenge for dog caregivers to find reputable dog training information and instruction. For example, typical online lists of “best dog training books” provide a wide range of titles that vary in approach and content — from positive and empowering to coercive and inhumane, and from science-supported to fabricated.

What would a “Recommended Dog Training Book” list look like if it were created by a group of dog trainers?

I asked several reputable, experienced dog trainers educated in positive reinforcement dog training — professionals whose methods are supported by current, peer-reviewed science — to name one dog training book they would recommend for dog caregivers that would be helpful for a wide audience. (It was difficult for them to choose because there are so many great titles to choose from and because their choice would depend upon what sort of help the dog caregiver was looking for. To be clear: this is just a sample of the quality dog training books out there; if a title is not listed, it does not mean it is lesser than those on the list.)

This post is a revised excerpt of an article that was previously published in the Winter 2021 issue of APDT Chronicle of the Dog (page 52)

Socialization — Puppy, Adolescent, or Adult (January is Train Your Dog Month)

Socialization: what does it involve? What are some BIG mistakes people make? What if your puppy or adolescent dog wasn’t well-socialized? Can an adult dog be socialized? One of the latest and best resources on this topic is this book that contains links to video examples and other resources. Here is a fun and informative podcast about it.

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Leash Etiquette (January is Train Your Dog Month)

Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

Letting dogs meet on leash is a tricky thing — it is usually very stressful for dogs because the leashes interfere with polite dog-dog communication and because the people holding the leashes don’t understand how to adapt things to make it less stressful for dogs. On-leash greetings, even the very friendly ones, can lead to behavioural problems, including over-reactivity and aggression. Here is a quick article explaining some of the issues with on-leash greetings. For times when dogs need to be on leashes to meet, here are some good resources to help you learn how to do it safely and as “dog friendly” as possible.

The Art of Introducing Dogs by Louise Ginman

An article in the Whole Dog Journal with some tips

Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

Learn to Read Your dog (January is Train Your Dog Month)

Is this dog comfortable? Would you put your dog and a child in this situation? Many people do, thinking to get a nice picture, but look closely at what the dog is saying with its body. Do you see how the dog is leaning away slightly? That is a big clue that this dog is not comfortable in this situation and is likely wanting distance from the baby. What signal will the dog give next if this one is ignored? That’s where it gets scary.

Learn to read your dog’s subtle body language so you can ensure your dog is comfortable and is not at risk of escalating signals of distress — leading to growling, air snaps, and a bite. Below are some resources to help you learn to “Speak Dog.”

Some simple illustrations of common canine stress signals Click Here

Lili Chin’s book Doggie Language

A video by Fear Free Vets

Silent Conversations is excellent, too, with illustrations and text to explain the very subtle communication of dogs

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January is Train Your Dog Month

Does your dog like being on the couch? If you are okay with it and your dog will easily get off the couch when you ask, then there isn’t really a problem (NOTE: it’s a myth that letting your dog be on the couch will make your dog dominant. Dominance is a very misunderstood concept in dog training, so you’ll want to educate yourself about it.) If you prefer that your dog is not on the couch, here is a short article with some humane training tips for keeping dogs off couches.

photo credit Sophie Elvis on UnSplash

January is Train Your Dog Month

Educating yourself about science-based, force-free, positive reinforcement-based dog training and behaviour modification can be a challenge these days. The dog training industry is unregulated and anyone can make up anything and call it dog training, and even if the trainer is experienced and has taken courses, read books, watched videos, apprenticed, etc. it doesn’t mean that their education is based on current science or reputable methods.

This can be daunting for dog owners, but there is a positive note to this: never before has it been this easy to gain access to reputable information. Here are three of my favourite resources for quality, science-based information about dog behaviour and training. Feel free to contact me if you don’t find what you’re looking for.

  • For reputable information that is easily accessible to a wide range of readers I like The Whole Dog Journal There is a lot of free information online, but a subscription is very inexpensive, there are no advertisements, and you get access to the archives.
  • For readers who are interested in learning a bit more The IAABC Journal
  • For dog industry professionals, especially dog trainers, I recommend the member newsletters or the online conferences of the highly regarded professional organizations, such as (but not limited to) the APDT, CAPDT, IAABC, and Pet Professional Guild.

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January is “Train Your Dog” Month

A muzzle is an important piece of safety equipment that all dogs should be conditioned to enjoy wearing — just in case. A muzzle is not a licence to put your dog into a situation that is too much for your dog. The muzzle is a piece of safety equipment just in case things go wrong. Like a seatbelt– wearing one doesn’t mean you should drive recklessly. A muzzle is but is NOT a substitute for science-based, force-free behaviour modification. For example, if your dog bites other dogs at the dog park, slapping a muzzle on your dog and tossing him in the dog park group is NOT going to help your dog’s mental and emotional health and it will have extreme fallout. Your dog should NOT be at the dog park. But that’s another post…..

There are many reasons why your dog might have to wear a muzzle — your dog is injured and needs to be handled, the vet clinic or groomer requires all dogs be muzzled, your dog is rescued from a natural disaster and is being cared for by strangers who may put a muzzle on your dog. If your dog already knows how to wear a muzzle and has developed a strong positive emotional response to wearing it, then that can help reduce the anxiety your dog might feel in the situation your dog is in.

Here is one of my favourite videos showing how to teach a dog to LOVE wearing a muzzle.

FYI: a muzzle should NEVER EVER be used as a punishment to try to stop a behaviour. It is an important safety tool and if you use to punish a dog, then you will create a negative emotional response to the muzzle and your dog will become stressed/anxious/fearful when your dog sees it or has to wear it.

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January is “Train Your Dog” Month

How can you keep your dog’s brain stimulated when the temperatures outside are too cold for longer walks? Games that engage your dog’s mind! Free-shaping is a excellent “game” that both gives your dog a mental workout and improves your skill at training your dog (specifically, your observation skills and timing). Free-shaping can build confidence (when done correctly to avoid too much frustration) and improve your relationship with your dog. Here is a very good video that explains free-shaping and how to use it to play a game called “101 Things To Do with a Box.” The first half explains the concept and the second half demonstrates it.

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