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My Favourite Dog Training Books – Karen Phillips

As a dog lover and someone who gets great enjoyment from training my dogs, I get really excited when someone releases a new book or article on dog behaviour.  To get the very best out of my dogs requires me to have as great an insight as possible into how they think and to understand why they behave the way they do. Then I can make much better decisions on what will work the best for both my dogs and I.

There are a lot of dog training books and information on the internet these days.  It’s certainly become a massive industry over the last few years.  One of the biggest challenges is getting the correct information and knowing that what you are reading is actually taking you down the right path.  For this reason I tend to go with books based on scientific research rather than what someone “thinks” works.  Often people use unsavoury methods to control dogs which work in the short term but only manifest in negative behaviour later on because they don’t understand fundamental dog behavioural principles.  When I’m reading an article or book I’m only interested in those that work with positive reinforcement methods.  The moment I read anything where punishment methods are used, I stop reading!  Punishment has no place in dog training.

Two of my favourite books are by the same author, Patricia B. McConnell PH.D.  One is called “The Other End of the Leash, Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs” and “For The Love Of A Dog, Understanding Emotion In You And Your Best Friend”.  One of the most challenging aspects of sharing your life with a dog is making incorrect assumptions about why our dogs are doing what they are doing.  Often we have no real idea why our dogs are behaving in a certain way and our incorrect choices can lead to worse behaviour simply because we have misunderstood them.  Patricia provides an easy to understand and humorous insight into dogs which, once understood, makes it a great deal easier to live in a happy and harmonious household.

Do you have a dog that constantly lunges on the end of a lead or a dog that is easily excited and often out of control?  If so, then I can recommend a book by Leslie McDevitt called “Control Unleashed”.  This book gives some fantastic strategies for dealing with dogs that are always over excited and spend most of their time out of control.  I have referred to this book many times, not only for my own dogs but to help others, particularly dogs that come to my agility classes.  Leslie incorporates lots of examples from dogs she has worked with which allows owners to identify their own experiences with their dog and then come up with some training plans to work through the issues.  It also teaches owners to be more observant about what their dog’s body language is telling them.

My number one favourite of late is a book by John Bradshaw called “In Defence of Dogs”.  The book starts out with a history of how the domestic dog evolved and how they have developed from working dogs, as they were originally, to family pets.  He then discusses the subsequent challenges dogs have faced as they have been forced to adapt to constantly changing expectations from humans.  The book goes into the different theories of training dogs based on the “wolf pack” mentality that we so often hear about and goes on to dispel the idea that in order for our dogs to “respect” us we must always dominate them.  It was a massive relief to read that research showed that dogs do not spend their existence trying to dominate us.  In fact quite the opposite was found to be the case.  I’m sure for many people who read the book and want only to love their dog and not feel pressured to stand over them all the time, that news will be a massive relief!


Karen Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful border collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot.  Karen has had immense experience and success with her border collies as well as little Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA.  Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page every Monday night.

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