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25 Best Dog Books for Pet Parents

These books can help you get into your dog’s brain and figure out what they’re really thinking.

by Chloe Conrad
August 24, 2016
Woman reading book about dogs with dog on lap

It’s time to kick back, chill out, and dive into the printed — or digital — page. Here are a few of the best dog books for pet parents that will help you understand what your dog is thinking about and what makes them such derps.

Whether you’re a seasoned pup parent or a newbie, these books — the classics and the current crop — are a must-read. Not only do these books contribute to our understanding of dogs and educate us as to what we can and can’t expect from them, but they also can potentially improve the welfare of dogs by exposing us to the ups and downs of shelters and rescues. From literature to science, these books about dogs enhance our understanding of both ourselves and our relationships with dogs, probing just what makes the connection we have with our BFFs so special. Here are candidates for your reading list, books offering intriguing perspectives and telling good tales.

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Recent Books About Dogs

Btw, our editors picked out these books. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

What it Takes to Save a Life

What it Takes to Save a Life: A Veterinarian’s Quest for Healing and Hope by Dr. Kwane, aka “The Street Vet,” focuses on his inspiring work with Project Street Vet and the positive transformations in the lives of unhoused pet parents and their pets. Kwanes shares the story of transitioning from a veterinary profession to becoming a full-time street outreach worker after having a crisis with his mental health. Along his personal journey, he also highlights the stories of several people and their pets that he has encountered along the way.

Pup Culture: Stories, Tips, and the Importance of Adopting A Dog

Victoria Lily Shaffer spent her childhood visiting the set of the Late Show with David Letterman, where her father, Paul Shaffer, was the musical director. Given her innate talent for entertainment and her affection for dogs, it was only fitting that she eventually melded the two passions. In her book, Pup Culture: Stories, Tips, and the Importance of Adopting A Dog, she offers a wide variety of stories, tips, checklists, and heartwarming tales about dog adoption and fostering. It includes contributions from celebrities such as Dan Levy, Glenn Close, and David Letterman, as well as from other pet parents.

The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves

Alexandra Horowitz, PhD has written yet another exceptional book, The Year of the Puppy. It’s a combination of memoir and scientific report that offers a compassionate and informative insight into the early development of our little pals. The book reminds us that “Puppyhood” isn’t just one stage and that it takes a while for dogs to understand how to live in a human household. Sometimes we think they should just “be trained” and instantly “get it” — this book helps us understand why that’s not how it works.

Best Dog Books for Pet Parents

Here we’ve compiled a list of classic favorites. From fiction to non-fiction to memoir, all these dog books share a common thread — exploring the life-changing effect dogs can have on us.

Science

  • Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Another amazing dog book by Alexandra Horowitz,   Inside of a Dog, is a fascinating journey into the dog’s rich sensory world, providing valuable insights into what it’s like to be a dog. If you think you know your dog, think again. Horowitz peels away layers of preconceived notions and gets to the core of canine-ness to reveal that Canis familiaris  is anything but familiar.  Find on Amazon

  • Dog Sense by John Bradshaw

In  Dog Sense , animal behaviorist John Bradshaw outlines what we can expect from our dogs as well as what they need to live harmoniously with us. Ultimately, this is what makes the book so appealing. He does more than simply lay out interesting theories; he uses science to advocate for a better life for dogs.  Find on Amazon

  • The Animal Attraction by Dr. Jonica Newby

Somewhere along the path of evolution, two distinct animal species made the choice “to cooperate, not to compete.” In  The Animal Attraction , Dr. Jonica Newby, an Australian veterinarian, poses the fascinating question: “If we didn’t link up with dogs, where would we be today?” Her answers about our co-evolution are both surprising and wildly entertaining.  Find on Amazon

  • What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren

In  What the Dog Knows , Cat Warren explores the science and wonder of working dogs, guided by Solo, her German Shepherd. To harness his energies, she tried him at scent work — specifically, cadaver scenting. This book offers new ways to learn about the cognitive and emotional lives of one’s own dogs, and is highly recommended.  Find on Amazon

Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist who uses functional MRIs to measure activity in the human brain, had long been a dog-lover, so when his family adopted a dog, he naturally wondered what she might be thinking. In  How Dogs Love Us , he recounts the methods his team used to make some groundbreaking studies. There’s much to learn in this engrossing, must-read book.  Find on Amazon

  • Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey

Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon  by Bronwen Dickey is a thoughtfully-researched book examining the history, stereotypes, and fictional and societal worries surrounding a breed that was once considered an American icon.  Find on Amazon

Bonding

  • Pack of Two by Carolyn Knapp

Pack of Two  by Carolyn Knapp is a seminal book about the human-canine bond, one that affirms that we aren’t alone in our dog-centricity. Knapp explores why dogs matter to us by talking to both experts and pet parents whose dogs — like her own Lucille — deeply affected their lives, and concludes that we love them for themselves: for their very otherness.  Find on Amazon

  • Dog’s Best Friend by Mark Derr

Mark Derr writes about the “culture of the dog” like no one else. In  Dog’s Best Friend , he examines all aspects of what makes our friendship with dogs tick. Passionate about his subject and intent on sharing his zeal, Derr’s wit and flare come through in this quirky, informative, and fitting tribute to our love affair with dogs big and small.  Find on Amazon

  • The Animal’s Companion by Jacky Colliss Harvey

A well-researched, deeply crafted, wry, and witty compendium on the importance of pets in our lives,  The Animal’s Companion  by Jacky Colliss Harvey is both erudite and accessible. She successfully melds examples from a variety of fields — art, literature, history, biology — with personal reflections. There’s plenty of dog in it, enough to satisfy the most canine-centric reader.  Find on Amazon

  • The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

The Hidden Life of Dogs  by anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas became famous partly for the number of miles the author clocked while tracking a Husky named Misha on his daily forays in her quest to answer the question, “What do dogs really want?” This account reveals the nature of pack dynamics and insights into dogs’ personalities and desires.  Find on Amazon

Rescue

  • The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers by Kim Kavin

The Dog Merchants is a compelling investigation of the many ways that dogs come into our lives — keeping in mind how the financial transactions involved affect all dogs. Find on Amazon

  • The Doggie in the Window by Rory Kress

In her meticulously researched, unbiased book,  The Doggie in the Window , Rory Kress exposes the two main problems with commercial dog-breeding in our country: the utter inadequacy of federal laws and regulations related to this activity and their equally inadequate enforcement. If Kress’s mission was to inform, educate and inspire us, she most definitely achieved her goal.  Find on Amazon

  • Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin

Have you ever wondered about the great migration of southern dogs to new homes in the north? Or who’s behind the long-distance transports, how they’re orchestrated, or why they’re needed? Peter Zheutlin’s inspiring and riveting book,  Rescue Road , has the answers. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the front lines of animal rescue.  Find on Amazon

  • Rescuing Penny Jane by Amy Sutherland

In Amy Sutherland’s thoroughly researched and engaging Rescuing Penny Jane , she delves into what life is like for dogs and the people who care for and try to save them in shelters throughout the country. She does an excellent job covering myriad aspects of this topical and critical subject, guiding the reader on an unforgettable and inspiring trip.  Find on Amazon

  • A Small Furry Prayer by Steven Kotler

This book by Steven Kotler examines the “cult and culture” of dog rescue. He and his girlfriend run a sanctuary in New Mexico with few resources aside from an intense drive to save dogs. Among other things, the narrative explores the meaning of “dog” in our lives. It’s a mind-expanding trip.  Find on Amazon

Training

  • The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, PhD

In The Other End of the Leash , Patricia McConnell, PhD, reveals a revolutionary new perspective on our relationship with dogs, sharing insights on how they might interpret our behavior as well as essential advice on how to interact with them in ways that bring out their best. No one does a better job of explaining this dynamic. Find on Amazon

  • Dog Smart by Linda Case

Linda Case, who is both a nutrition and training expert, will definitely make all of us — newbies to pros — smarter about dogs with this book. In a style combining Bill Nye: Science Guy and a bit of cheeky humor, she puts together the latest from the world of evidence- and behavioral science-based training in a conversational and approachable manner. Find on Amazon

Literature

  • Dog Years by Mark Doty

In  Dog Years , poet Mark Doty recounts the ways dogs rescued and supported him during a time of deep grief, and how, with their poignantly shorter lives, they function as placeholders for our own reflections. A buoyant celebration of life and a heartbreaking meditation on mortality, it is a tender and insightful look at the bond we have with our animal companions. Find on Amazon

  • Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Pulitzer prize–winning poet Mary Oliver brings dogs to life with tender, touching imagery in Dog Songs . Among their other delights, the poems and short prose collected in this book remind the reader of how much there is to love in this world, in particular, the relationship we have with our dogs and its meaning for our own lives. Find on Amazon

  • The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

The Friend is a poignant story of loss and grief as well as a meditation on the relationship between a woman and the Great Dane she inherits. A masterful celebration of our relationship with dogs, it is also a uniquely told story about that relationship’s redemptive and healing powers. An elegant, erudite and fully charming, life-affirming book. Find on Amazon

  • Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson

Susannah Charleson takes readers for a ride-along with her canine search-and-rescue partner-in-training, Puzzle, a rambunctious, delightful Golden Retriever, from the moment the pup enters her life through the dog’s long training. With wit, charm and a deep understanding of dogs, Charleson’s story of this fully collaborative partnership is unforgettable. Find on Amazon

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Chloe Conrad

Chloe Conrad is a freelance writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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