Learning anything in life, we need a mix of theory and practice. When it comes to training dogs, the best approach is to arm yourself with as much information as you possibly can, and then with that knowledge react to the individual animal and situation you have in front of you. If you’re new to dog ownership, like bringing a newborn baby home, you’ll want to ensure you are ready to bring up this tiny creature to the best of your ability. Unfortunately they don’t come with a manual. However, the best dog training books will give you ideas on training systems and approaches, as well as tackling problems and tricky behaviours.
While the internet is great for a quick scan on doggy advice, the effort that has gone into writing and publishing a book, rather than a simple blog, means they are inevitably well-researched and the author has considerable authority in their field to merit publication. And it’s handy to be able to dog-ear (pun acknowledged) a physical page that is particularly useful or has exercises you want to practise.
Depending on the issue you’re dealing with, whether it’s welcoming a new puppy into the home, separation anxiety, or trying to train a working dog, there are thoroughly researched books written by experts to tackle every doggy scenario. Here are six of the best.
Best dog training books
The Puppy Primer by Patricia McConnell and Brenda Scidmore
Training focus: Puppy behaviour | Length: 117 pages | Publication date: 2010 | RRP: £13.72 |
The author Patricia McConnell has written 11 books on training and behavioural problems, including The Other End of the Leash, which has been translated into 14 languages. She is an ethologist (someone who studies the behaviour of animals in their natural habitat) and a certified applied animal behaviourist who has spent two decades helping dog owners with serious behavioural problems, specialising in canine aggression. If this all sounds a bit over-the-top for someone looking for advice on caring for a dear little puppy, bear in mind that giving your dog the best possible start as a happy well-trained dog is the antidote to aggression problems later down the line.
The book gives advice on positive reinforcement to train your puppy, and covers socialising, crate-training, house-training and general good behaviour, aiming to have a polite and happy dog who loves to do what you ask.
Dog Training and Behaviour Solutions edited by Jo Maisey and Anna Bentz
Training focus: General behaviour | Length: 188 pages | Published: 2022 | RRP: £9.92 |
Rather than a single voice, this book is a collection of articles written by a group of like-minded professional dog trainers. They have collaborated with each other to compile this book on “The Stress-Free Way to Live in Harmony with Your Dog”. This means their “force-free, fear-free” training philosophy is the same, but each one focuses on a different aspect of training or behavioural problems.
It stemmed from a Facebook group, Dog Training Advice and Support (DTAS), which was set up to give safe, practical advice, based in modern science, for people wanting help with their pups. The group is now widely recommended by vets, breeders and other professional trainers and behaviourists. It’s much easier to read in a book than on your phone off Facebook!
What’s quite handy about the different voices is that there is bound to be one in there that suits your style and you find easy to follow. Some write quite brief articles, others are longer. And while the overall tone is professional and authoritative, it’s friendly and digestible and sometimes quite funny with some illustrations of dog scenarios.
It’s laid out in a really readable fashion, with bullet points, italics and bold typeface that help engage the reader.
Be Right Back! by Julie Naismith
Training focus: Separation anxiety | Length: 270 pages | Published: 2019 | RRP: £11.95 |
This book focuses specifically on “how to overcome your dog’s separation anxiety and regain your freedom”.
Our H&H reviewer who has a dog with separation anxiety, described the advice as “very good – it is a slightly different approach to the norm and it has helped Bertie.”
The writer is a certified dog trainer who has helped thousands of stressed owners get their dogs over this hurdle. It uses a proven, evidence-based approach, with a step-by-step programme to help improve your dog’s confidence to stay at home alone. There is a wealth of coping strategies and methods to practise, as well debunking common training myths that may actually exacerbate your dog’s fears.
Training Spaniels by Joe Irving
Training focus: Working dogs | Length: 176 pages | Published: 1993 | RRP: £18.95 |
This one is admittedly a bit niche – but given that cocker and springer spaniels are the third most popular breed in the UK (after the Labrador retriever and French bulldog), this should appeal to a large proportion of dog owners. In fact, the training approach could apply to all working dogs.
This book was recommended to me by the breeder – a leading field trial trainer – who sold me my springer spaniel, even though I wasn’t planning to compete in working trials. It is written by a leading gundog trainer, the late Joe Irving, as a step-by-step guide for the novice trainer, as well as remedies for when the training doesn’t go to plan. It goes through the general care of spaniels from infancy to maturity as well as advice on breeding, and field trial techniques. It is described as the classic in spaniel training books.
This might be an old book, but the training techniques are still relevant today, with the foundations of making slow, steady progress with a dog according to its temperament. It is possibly wasted on those of us whose spaniels are simply companions rather than competitive field triallers, but for those owners who do want to go down that route, I’d say it’s essential reading. And there’s no such thing as being too well-trained!
101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy
Training focus: Tricks | Length: 208 pages | Published: 2007 | RRP: £8.49 |
Kyra Sundance is a world-renowned dog trainer, lecturer and best-selling author, who aims to inspire dog owners to have fun and rewarding relationships with their pups. The delightful and brilliant Chalcy was her own Weimaraner, a world-class performer who has starred in circuses, shows and even with Angelina Jolie and for the King of Morocco.
This is the largest trick book on the market, giving full-colour photos of each trick and step-by-step instructions on how to teach it. Relief for some owners: you don’t need special tools such as clickers, or particular training methods. It’s just a great way to develop a bond with your dog, challenge him mentally and physically and build your communication skills. Fun for all the family!
The Midnight Dog Walkers by Annie Phenix
Training focus: Aggression | Length: 224 pages | Published: 2016 | RRP: £31.65 |
The title of this book will immediately appeal to anyone who has a “reactive” or aggressive dog (the author explains the difference), whom they struggle to walk during the daytime with the hazards of encountering other dog-walkers.
The writer, who has fostered more than 400 dogs, is a professional force-free dog trainer who specialises in canine behaviour, as well as an award-winning journalist. This makes her an excellent story-teller as well as imparting solid expert advice that works.
The advice is compassionate and empathetic as well as being constructive and practical. You can feel that the writer has experienced the issues the reader is now struggling with. There are plenty of stories and examples of how to stimulate reactive dogs with puzzles and so on, rather than domination or heightening their fear by forcing them face their triggers. It’s full of photos and anecdotes, which makes it enjoyable to read. It’s also encouraging to owners who find themselves with an aggressive dog, that they are far from being alone – and that there is a way forward, even if it may be a long and tricky road ahead.
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