Hello dog lover.

Does it seem like this is all you're hearing this time of year as holiday marketers try and outfit you — and your fellow dog lovers — with the *perfect* holiday gift?

Well I’m here to do the same, that is, provide you and any dog lovers on your list with dog science books that would make any dog jump for joy. Heck, a dog might even curl up next to you as you read one of these titles.

Since there is not one way to be a dog lover, I’ve created sections with different types of books: there are the academic heavy hitters (books for anyone wanting a textbook degree in all things dog), and the crowdpleasers (for those wanting a reader-friendly adventure into the growing field of dog behavior and cognition). Since living with a dog is not always smooth sailing, another set of books is for those wanting their dog to stop doing, well, you name it. The list finishes with a miscellaneous section characterized by beauty, variety, and utility. Take your pick, and enjoy!


These academic-minded texts are for those wanting to get as close to primary research as possible.

The Encyclopedia of Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Daniel Mills, Editor-in-chief
Weighing in at 6.5 pounds, this is the heaviest of all the hitters. It is also one of my favorite go-to resources when I want to look up anything in the field of applied animal behavior, from "agonism" to "istwert." Well-written passages summarize complex concepts. Enjoy!

Animal Behaviour for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff, ASPCA
Emily Weiss, Heather Mohan-Gibbons and Stephen Zawistowski, Eds.
Published earlier this year, this book explores the behavior side of animal sheltering and rescue. It is a great resource for anyone in the field, whether a volunteer or a professional. Alexandra Horowitz and I wrote the first chapter, Introduction to Dog Behavior, and the ASPCA made our chapter freely available! Click here to access the PDF.

Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition
Ádám Miklósi
Have you ever seen a dog textbook? Now you have. Welcome to the second edition of Miklósi’s text introducing readers to the hows and whys of studying dog behavior, cognition and the dog-human relationship. Filled to the brim with primary research.

The Social Dog: Behavior and Cognition
Juliane Kaminski and Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Eds.
"This edited volume includes chapters from leading researchers in the fields of social cognition and behavior, vocalization, evolution, and more, focusing on topics including dog-dog and dog-human interaction, bonding with humans, social behavior and learning, and more. As the number of published studies increases, this book aims to give the reader an overview of the state of the art on dog research, with an emphasis on social behavior and socio-cognitive skills.”

Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior: The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris
Alexandra Horowitz, Ed.
"This book highlights the state of the field in the new, provocative line of research into the cognition and behavior of the domestic dog. Eleven chapters from leading researchers describe innovative methods from comparative psychology, ethology and behavioral biology, which are combined to create a more comprehensive picture of the behavior of Canis familiaris than ever before. This volume reflects a modern shift in science toward considering and studying domestic dogs for their own sake, not only insofar as they reflect back on human beings.”

Companion Animal Ethics
Peter Sandøe, Sandra Corr, Clare Palmer
What happens when we open our homes to other species? Sandøe and colleagues explore the ethical questions and challenges that arise as a result of humans keeping animals as companions. Topics include obesity, behavior issues, selective breeding, over-treatment, abandonment, euthanasia, environmental impacts, neutering, and more.


There’s a lot of cruddy information out there about dogs. There, I said it. While these aren’t the only books to highlight the growing field of what we know (and don’t know) about dogs, they’re at the top of my list. And I slipped one in about cats.

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs
Patricia McConnell
Meet the book that got me into the field of applied ethology, for which I am forever grateful. “Although humans and dogs share a remarkable relationship that is unique in the animal world, we are still two entirely different species, each shaped by our individual evolutionary heritage. Since we each speak a different native tongue, a lot gets lost in the translation.” This book will help you get lost in translation less.

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
Alexandra Horowitz
“This book is as close as you can get to knowing about dogs without being a dog yourself.“ This highly acclaimed book invites readers into the sensory and cognitive world of the dog. A book that deeply affects its readers — myself included.

Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet
John Bradshaw
It’s easy to say that dogs are man’s best friend, but living up to it is the hard part. Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw helps us get there.

Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
John Bradshaw
Like Dog Sense, but with cats! Bradshaw has pioneered reams of research on cat behavior and cognition and produced a must-read for cat lovers. No, your cat does not want to kill you.


For all the talk of love and friendship, dogs and humans are not always on the same page. Understanding where dogs are coming from is the first step to decreasing unwanted behavior, and these books can help you get there. And you'll find many of the same techniques used to train dogs to drive cars!

Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones
Debra Horwitz, Ed., and contributors John Ciribassi, Steve Dale, and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are given up to shelters, and guess what? We can very often decrease unwanted behavior! In this book, board-certified specialists of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists combine cutting-edge science with accessible real-life examples to help dogs and owners get on the same page.

12 Terrible Dog Training Mistakes Owners Make That Ruin Their Dog's Behavior...And How To Avoid Them
Suzanne Hetts
"Learn to avoid the harmful mistakes that make your dog's behavior worse and keep you and your family annoyed and frustrated." A great book from Hetts, a respected leader in the field of applied animal behavior.

Beware the Straw Man: The Science Dog Explores Dog Training Fact & Fiction
Linda Case
Welcome to a skeptic's look at commonly held beliefs about dog behavior and training. In 32 essays, Case discusses new studies of dog behavior, cognition and training and provides thought-provoking analysis of the findings.


Find beauty, mystery, and utility below.

Beloved Dog
Maira Kalman
A beautiful and touching read, Kalman shares her personal story from dog-phobic youngster to rampant appreciator. Check out the book trailer where Kalman connects with her subjects -- my favorite part starts at 1:26 where the little black dog seems to cry out, “HANDS! Your hands must have food in them!”

The Dogs of Littlefield
Suzanne Berne
Not about dogs, instead, a mystery featuring dogs. I was sent an advanced copy and, while I’m just getting started, I’m enjoying how Berne — an Orange Prize winner — captures the many faces of dog people. The book takes place in a seemingly charmed town now overrun by mysterious dog poisonings. That there is the twist. I’m hooked.

AND THERE'S MORE! Wondering how to decide what to feed your dog? New dog in the home? Want to know how Chaser the Border Collie came to learn upwards of 1,000 words? How do dogs detect different scents, from cancer to cadavers? See the following reviews I've published here and at Do You Believe in Dog? a pen-pal style canine science blog with my colleague, Mia Cobb:

Would Your Dog Make a Good Cadaver Detection Dog? A review of What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World by Cat Warren @Cat_Warren

How to Teach Language to Dogs. A review of Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John Pilley and Hilary Hinzmann @ChasertheBC

What Should You Feed Your Dog? Get to know Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices by Linda Case @ScienceDogBlog

Books for Before & After You Get a Puppy/Dog. A list of highly-regarded books. @DoUBelieveInDog

Dog-Eared Books. More highly-regarded canine science books. @DoUBelieveInDog


Image: TheGiantVermin, Flickr creative commons license.