Many books have been published on the art of training dogs for obedience and communication. What books have you read that, given your experience in the field, you believe explain the art most comprehensively, describing methods that use positive reinforcement only? I am looking for books that express the knowledge that most highly experienced trainers will agree about, even if their angles on it differ, and that may or may not also describe approaches or theoretical understandings at length that are specific to the author.

(Note: I phrased this question after reading the help file. I mean it to be "constructive subjective", "[inviting the] sharing [of] experiences over opinions" and soliciting only "opinion [that is] backed up with facts and references".)


Jan Fennell's "The Dog Listener" Published by: HarperResource, An Imprint ofHarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2000.

It is not a how to book on training a dog, but the history of Ms. Fennell's life with dogs and how she came to discover the work of Monty Roberts and through his efforts with horses, how she devised her system of behavior modification with dogs. It is a personal book and written in a style that is conversational and not technical.

Her method is called "Amichien Bonding" is basically four steps. Very simple things we can do to change the relationship we have with our dogs and establishing ourselves as Pack Leaders, thus relieving the dogs of such a massive responsibility. As a result of the dogs learning to follow a "true" pack leader (the human), their behavior changes dramatically and training then becomes not a struggle, but quite an easy task as the dogs understand their correct place in the pack.

My main reason for recommending it is how well I was able to use it with dogs who had never met me before, including a very territorial, large dog I suspected to be a Maremma or Great Pyrenees. I believe any training book written by Ms Fennell would be an asset.

  • Thank you for this. I wasn't really asking for one person's method, but since her insights accord with your experiences can you say more about her four-step method? Jan 4 '18 at 10:50

Many books have been written for this subject but the one that stands out for me is:

The dog whisperer by Paul Owens

The dog whisperer

This book not only gives you a general approach to the training, but it also gives you details on specific commands including understanding the dog psychology behind it. As well as all of that, it also explains the general relationship that humans can have with their best friends.

I knew some of this knowledge from living on a farm as a child but bought this book a long time ago after rescuing a particularly difficult dog. I have used these methods ever since with problem dogs and I haven’t failed yet!

  • Thanks for this. I learnt today that there are two well-known trainers calling themselves "Dog Whisperer", and they seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Whereas Paul Owens uses positive reinforcement only and I am grateful for this answer recommending his work, Cesar Millan advocates negative reinforcement and therefore his writings are certainly not what I am looking for. Jan 5 '18 at 0:13
  • Actually Cesar uses similar techniques. Paul Owens does mention there is a place for negative training as well. However, you need to remember that Cedar deals with extreme cases, hence the emphasis on the negative we see in his books or tv shows. A dog needs to be balanced
    – user33232
    Jan 5 '18 at 8:36
  • 1
    Many say they are at opposite ends and that Millan uses numerous negative, cruel techniques and that Paul Owens uses positive reinforcement only. However my question is only about training that uses positive reinforcement only. Jan 5 '18 at 10:26

Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals

This is our go to for animal behavior, Karen Overall is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior and a Board Certified Animal Behaviorist.

This book is our go to for all of our client education material, she has a ton of exercises to shape any problem a dog may have. It has a veterinary medicine approach and not a dog training book that someone whipped up from their personal experiences. If you're looking for a book that goes very deep into a dogs psyche, based on research and not hearsay, this is your book.

  • Many thanks for this. Is this the book that most of those who are highly knowledgeable about canine psychology will refer to, saying "if you too want to become highly knowledgeable and there's one book you should read, it's this"? For comparison, people in advertising will recommend David Ogilvy's Ogilvy on Advertising in this way, and backgammon players will recommend Paul Magriel's Backgammon. I was hoping there was a book in this category covering positive reinforcement-only dog obedience and communication. I will check Overall's book out. Jan 7 '18 at 16:16
  • I like the look of Karen Overall's book. How would you compare it with Adam Miklosi's Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition? Jan 11 '18 at 19:44
  • @DavidSmith sorry for delayed response, I had seen your message but got distracted!! So neither myself or the vets have read that book so we cannot say. The book I recommended vs a dog trainers book would be comparable to psychiatrist vs psychologist. Behavioral medicine for small animals incorporates medications along with the psychological aspects, regular dog trainers wouldn't use this book but veterinarians would. Jan 11 '18 at 23:37

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