Raising a puppy to be a well-behaved adventure partner is no easy task. The amount of information and books available on training your dog is overwhelming, so overwhelming it can be difficult to know where to start. There are so many trains of thought when it comes to training your dog, too. Do you only use positive reinforcement? Does your dog need aversive stimuli? To help you out, we are going to break down some of the basic principles of dog training as well as list a few dog training books you may find useful.

Why Do We Train Our Dogs?

While it may be obvious that training our dogs behaviors such as going to the bathroom outside and not jumping on people are important, there are less obvious reasons too. It’s not just about teaching your dog fun tricks like shaking hands or playing dead, either. Training our dogs is a bonding experience. It allows us to get to know our canine companions better: how they learn, how they respond, and how we can best communicate with one another. Learning new behaviors is mentally and physically stimulating for our pooches. It gets their brains working and is just plain fun!

Read about puppy training tips here.

Read about common dog training tools here.

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A Few Basic Dog Training Terms

Before we recommend our favorite dog training books, let’s go over a few training terms that are bound to come up in your readings.

Positive Reinforcement and Operant Conditioning

You’ve probably heard the term “positive reinforcement” before, but did you know that it’s just one part of a training system known as operant conditioning? Operant conditioning is creating an association between behaviors and consequences. It includes positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punihsment, and negative reinforcement. 

The first, and arguably most important, thing you need to know about operant conditioning is that in this contect “positive” does not mean good and “negative” does not mean bad. Confused? Let’s discuss further.

I know what you’re thinking: how can punishment be positive? Think of these terms like this: 

Positive: You’re adding something to the training situation.

Negative: You’re taking something away from the training situation.

Reinforcement: You want to increase the likelihood that a behavior reoccurs. 

Punishment: You want to decrease the likelihood that a behavior reoccurs.

Operant conditioning techniques:

Positive Reinforcement: Adding something to a training set to increase the chance that a behavior reoccurs. 

Example: Giving your dog a treat, physical affection, or verbal praise.

Negative Reinforcement: Subtracting something from a training set to increase the chance that a behavior reoccurs. 

Example: Pushing your dog’s butt down into a sit, then removing your hand once they are sitting.

Positive Punishment: Adding something to a training set to decrease the chance that a behavior reoccurs. 

Example: Using a shock collar to shock your dog when they do something undesirable.

Negative Punishment: Subtracting something from a training set to decrease the chance that a behavior reoccurs. 

Example: Your dog offers an undesirable behavior so you take your attention away for 15 seconds.

Now that we have some of the basic terms down, let’s look at a few dog training books that can help you on your dog training journey.

Dog Training Books Every Dog Owner Should Read

The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete

The Art of Raising a Puppy is a great go-to for your brand new four-legged friend. It covers a wide variety of puppy-related topics such as crate-training, potty training, and how to walk on a leash. It’s written by a collective of dog trainers, who also happen to be monks, so you aren’t getting just one opinion on each topic. There is plenty of information included about the developmental stages your puppy will go through and how to navigate them. This dog training book is a great handbook for a new dog owner to follow along.

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Decoding Your Dog by The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

This dog training book is written by actual veterinary behaviorists. It helps to break down the scientific reasons your dog behaves the way he or she does. The more we understand our dog’s motivations, the better suited we are to altering these behaviors successfully. This book enables us to communicate with our canine companions in ways they understand instead of just trying to force them to do what we want. Even professional dog trainers can learn from a science-backed book like Decoding Your Dog. If you are working with a dog with an unknown history, such as a rescue, the information in this dog training book can help you learn more about what the dog may have been through in their past.

Dog Training Diaries by Tom Shelby

Dog Training Diaries is a great dog training book to help you problem-solve your dog’s undesirable behaviors. This book doens’t only focus on the behavioral problems of the dog, but of the owner too! A great aspect of this book is that it offers multiple solutions for each problem depending on what kind of personality your dog has. Tom Shelby has an engaging, friendly way of writing that resembles a memoir of his experiences training dogs.

101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance

If you’ve gotten through the tough behavioral training with your dog and just want to have some fun, try 101 Dog Tricks. This international bestseller has fun tricks you can teach your dog, complete with instructions on how to train them. In addition to training instructions, there are also troubleshooting sections if you run into a mental roadblock with your pooch. Training fun tricks is not only entertaining for you, it engages your dog physically and mentally, providing them with enrichment necessary for their well-being.

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Dog Training Books For Every Dog Owner

While only a few dog training books are listed here, there are countless resources for managing your dog’s behavior available. If you still feel lost, you can always consult a veterinarian or local dog trainer for advice on how to assess your current canine situation. No matter what route you take, training a well-rounded, behaved, happy adventure dog is well within your grasp. Have patience, be consistent, and most importantly, have fun.

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