Today, skilled humane trainers, training every animal from mouse to killer whale, use positive reinforcement as their main teaching tool and many of these trainers have generously shared their techniques with the public.
Since it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the book choices out there, I’ve narrowed the field down to a few of my favorite books. I’ve chosen those that provide valuable information and can help you get you started training effectively and humanely. Some of the resources and references I’ve listed are designed for the layman. They offer simplified explanations, helpful instructions, and useful information for those wanting to know enough to train a well-behaved pet. Great! Be aware that these sources may not be exactly accurate when it comes to the science of behavior, but for most pet owners that won’t matter much. For those of you who are very interested in the science underlying the behavioral technology, the real behavior geek stuff, I’ve included some textbook quality sources and references for you to turn to for a little dose of behavior analysis. Best of luck and enjoy!
A Layman’s Look at Pet Dog Training
by Mary R. Burch and Jon S. Bailey
For those who want a basic understanding of how learning occurs but don’t want to read anything too in depth, this is a good place to start. It provides clear, easy to follow information on the laws of learning and how they work. It is a basic introduction to Behavior Science and how to apply it. Read this and you will start on the road to clearer communication with your animal friends.
The Other End of the Leash and
For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotions in You and Your Dog
both by Patricia McConnell
Patricia not only knows her stuff but also has a great writing style. Both of these books will explain much about how you and your pet communicate. Her insights will help you enjoy and appreciate your best friend. The best part is that her information comes from education and experience. If you’re wondering which of the many things you read is the real scoop, you can find out here.
by Karen Pryor
This book is easy to read and describes in a sort of novel form the philosophy of positive reinforcement and its basic ideas. It not only tells you how to use positive reinforcement to communicate better with your dog, but also gives you ideas about how to get your spouse to pick up the dirty laundry and your kids to do their homework, all without raising your voice.
Specifically for Teaching Behaviors
The Power of Positive Dog Training
by Pat Miller
This book tells you how to build a solid relationship with your dog through Positive Reinforcement training. Pat covers all the basics with step-by-step instruction that include pictures and details.
The Culture Clash
by Jean Donaldson
This book sets the record straight about the difference between what you think your dog is thinking, and what he’s really doing! A hard look at how dogs have been misunderstood for years. You won’t look at your dog the same again, and you’ll be glad for it.
Parenting Your Dog:
Develop Dog-Rearing Skills for a Well Trained Companion
by Trish King
This book manages to cover what all the other books don’t. Trish shows you how to guide your dog by translating into dog terms your own successful parenting skills. Trish is very insightful and the most practical dog trainer there is. A great book to answer all the questions that come up in the real world.
Out and About with Your Dog – Dog to Dog Interactions on the Street, on the Trails, and in the Dog Park
by Sue Sternberg
Today, knowing how to manage your dog in busy people-and-dog-filled environments is an essential part of basic training. This little book is a wonderful, honest look at how to be proactive when enjoying the outside world with your dog. With good humor and simple steps, you can be smart, keep your dog safe, and still have great fun. This is a must-have book for anyone who goes “out and about” with a canine companion, or two, or three or four…!
Learning About Dogs
Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution
by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger
Ray might be best described as an evolutionary biologist and ethologist. This book is filled with mind-expanding, fact-based information about the history of dog domestication and how dogs live, work, and survive. It is written with a sense of humor and takes you around the world to discover dogs as they live. Dogs’ lives may not always be pretty, but this book reveals dogs as they are, in all their magnificent diversity, which makes this book a must-read for the serious student of dog behavior. If you have a scientific bent and are interested in the many facets of the complex interactions between dog and man, this book will have you riveted.
How Dogs Work
by Ray Coppinger and Mark Feinstein
If you want to know about the biology and behavior of dogs, Coppinger is the go-to guy. This book will have you thinking in new ways about familiar topics. Spoiler alert: you won’t be able to look at “play behavior” or “hunting” quite the same again. This book is for those who want to think outside the box and open their minds to new ways of looking at our old friend the domestic dog.
What is a Dog?
by Ray Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger
The Coppinger team has done it again! This book is already in its second printing less than a year after publication. The book brings together the Coppingers’ lifelong experience in research, observation, and interaction with dogs to provide a vivid picture of the life of dogs, not as man’s best friend, but as survivors in the animal kingdom. It is a compelling, scientific look at the evolution of dogs, and how dogs across the globe adapt to ever changing environments.
The Domestic Dog its Evolution,
Behaviour and Interactions with People
edited by James Serpell
A wonderful collection of science-based paper on dogs. This book is a more academic read but the information is well worth the effort to those with more than a passing interest in the subject. A new addition is coming out soon, or is out already, so enjoy both. You may want to take notes. Your head will be filled with useful information that will inform the work you do with your own dog, or if you are a dog professional, all the work you do.
Dog Health and Nutrition for Dummies
by M. Christine Zink, DVM
Dr. Zink is more than a vet, she’s a professor, a scientific researcher, a respected competitor in practically every dog sport there is, and a well-respected name in canine sports medicine. Dr. Zink knows her subject and she shares it all in this terrific “all around” volume. This book covers a vast amount of information to help you take the very best care of your canine companion.
Whether you want to know how to clean a dog’s ears, understand basic canine anatomy, perform first aid to an injured dog, or just want know the best way to remove a tick – this book is a must-have reference. There is also an extensive amount of information on feeding your dog; what to feed, how to feed, and even how to prepare food.
Even a very experienced dog owner can find great tips in this well put together book.
Training For Humans
The Power of Positive Parenting
by Dr. Glenn I. Latham
This is a big (but inexpensive!) book that covers everything in a step-by-step and easy to read style: basic principles, toilet training, appropriate language use, helping with homework, multiple children issues, talking to teenagers and more! This book will teach you how to use Behavior Analysis to help you understand, and even enjoy, the many stages of child development. It is a great general resource. Give it a try and let it give you the tools to interact with children in ways that will make you both feel wonderful.
Organizational Behavior Management
Changing Behavior that Drives Organizational Effectiveness
by Aubrey C. Daniels
For several decades, Daniels has been a leader in Applied Behavior Analysis in the field of organizational behavior management. This book is designed for any team leader, manager, supervisor, or any other person responsible for the performance of workers. In simple language, this book helps anyone in business learn to use the power of Behavior Science to improve the performance of individual workers and the company’s bottom line! Check out the Aubrey Daniels International website, for more resources to improve your business through the science of behavior.
Behavior Analysis Textbooks
Learning and Behavior
by Paul Chance
If you are interested in a college level textbook, you might want to start here. I often use this text when teaching an undergraduate class. It is easy to read, has modern examples, and covers the basic principles of Behavior Analysis and its application. Questions are provided following each chapter and at the back of the book. Like most ABA texts, it is geared toward human behavior, but since learning principles are universal, what you learn will be relevant to any species.
Learning and Behavior
by James L. Mazur
This is also a nice textbook (yes, with the same name). It covers more experimental research along with applied. This is especially useful if you are interested in more comprehensive coverage of the basic research that has been conducted with non-humans. The reading is a bit more graduate school level and is aimed more for those serious students of behavior who want to get deep into the science of learning. It has plenty of graphs and a nice glossary too.
Parrots and Small Mammals
When it comes to parrots, do yourself and your parrot a great favor and visit Barbara Heidenreich’s website, GoodBirdInc.com. Barbara is a clearinghouse of information on training and behavior. You will find all sorts of resources on her website, not only for parrots but for other small animals like bunnies, guinea pigs, rats and more. Enjoy!
One other resource that must be mentioned is The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. It’s full of fascinating information about the very latest in Behavior Science. There is information about all areas of teaching for humans and non-humans. There are sections on parenting, autism, special needs, safety, animal behavior, and more. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about behavior and the field of Behavior Analysis.