To really become a good dog trainer, you have to educate yourself first. I have learned my trade by training with other professional dog trainers, reading books and watching videos. Every now and then, someone will ask me to recommend some training material. They either are looking for some help, inspiration, or are just into dogs and want to learn as much as they can. So here are the few of my recommendations.
The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete. This is an excellent book that explains the importance of the early stages of learning. It highlights the importance of scent recognition with pups at a very young age and conditioning them that human scent is good. Pay close attention to the detail these Monks use in raising confident, balanced pups. It will teach you to do your homework when purchasing a puppy and how to avoid non-professional breeders. They cover leash conditioning, training, and socialization in their book. It is an important read prior to getting your first puppy.
The Dog’s Mind by Bruce Fogle can be a bit boring, but if you are a dog trainer I believe it’s an important read on learning about dog psychology, instincts, and behavior. The book starts out with the physiology, moves on to psychology, then finishes with behavioral issues. I recommend this read for all dog trainers.
Behavior Problems in Dogs by William E. Campbell begins with an evaluation and how the owner’s interaction with their dog contributes to the problem behaviors they were experiencing. He goes into neurology and behavior as well. As the book proceeds, Campbell delves into behavior, physiology, puppies, and how to address certain issues (barking, housetraining, begging, biting, mounting, chewing etc.). Basic behavior such as jumping, dashing outdoors, and aggression are discussed and addressed as well. It’s an excellent book for a new trainer.
Separation Anxiety vs. Containment Phobia by Karyn Garvin. If you own a dog that struggles with this issue it is a must read. Separation anxiety is a tough nut to crack. You can save yourself a lot of grief by getting a pup from a reputable breeder. However, if you rescue, as a lot of dog lovers do, you are apt to get a dog with some form of anxiety. This book can give you some good suggestion on how to address it.
Be a Pack Leader by Cesar Milan is an excellent book for a dog owner. One of his quotes is, “Mother nature does not rule by fear and anger but by strength and assertiveness.” Another is, “Play has a beginning and end and is determined by me, the pack leader.” When I am playing with my dogs I say “all done” when we are finished, which tells the dogs to calm down because we are finished playing. It works great if you are consistent with the command. He uses nature’s way of communication on how we should interact with our dogs. Cesar has a lot of good ideas and also discusses different training tools.
Schutzhund Obedience Training in Drive by Sheila Booth is an excellent introduction in how to train your dog in drive. What this means is using food and toys to train your dog, which creates an intense, very focused dog. Competitive dog handlers all train in drive. When you see dogs prancing as they maintain a heel and stare at their handler, never taking their eyes off of them, you are seeing a dog that was trained through drive. When the handler calls the dog to recall and the dog flies back to the handler, that is training in drive. Not all dogs can train in drive because they don’t have drive to begin with. Drive is the dog’s intensity or motivation to want the toy or food. If your dog could care less about treats or toys, you are not going to have much luck training in drive. Dogs that love to fetch balls and play tug can be trained in drive. It is best to have a dog that wants the toy more than anything. These are your competition dogs.
Aggression in Dogs by Bredna Aloff is a good general book on training, feeding habits, and how to interact with your dog. It is important to establish leadership to avoid aggression issues. Many times, aggression issues arise due to lack of structure and leadership. This book is an excellent source of information explaining how to avoid just that. Aggressive behavior could be triggered by fear, stress, food, or anything the dog considers valuable. Rarely is dominance associated with aggression issues. From my experience, it has to do with fear or resource guarding. If you already have a dog that is aggressive, do not try and fix it on your own, hire a professional. Typically it starts out with growling and showing teeth then progresses into barking and lunging. As the dog matures, the aggressive behavior turns into biting. When it turns into biting your dog is then becoming a dangerous liability. Don’t let it get to that point – seek out help as soon as you start seeing issues.
There are a few more reads that I recommend. If you want to read a book just for the entertainment value try Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan or Max Best Friend, Hero, Marine by Jennifer Li Shotz.