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A human and a dog are on a bed reading a book. The persons hands are holding the book open, and the dog, a jack russell puppy, is sniffing their fingers.

7 of the best dog books to help you understand your furry friend

From dog training tips to a vet's perspective on canine companions, these science books about dogs will bring you closer to your best friend.

The bond between humans and dogs is one that has been built over more than 10,000 years of domestication. Dogs may even have an innate ability to understand us, and we can thank our companions for extending our lives and even sniffing out COVID-19.

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But dogs are more than just their relationship to us. As a species, they’re equipped with evolutionary adaptations including a nose that acts as an ultra-sensitive heat detector and ears that can hear much higher frequencies than humans in order to better locate where a sound is coming from.

The science of puppies really is a fascinating subject, and whether you’re a new dog parent (thank you, Father Christmas) or a regular rescuer, you’re sure to enjoy our pick of the best dog books.

7 of the best dog books

What Dogs Want: An Illustrated Guide for Happy Dog Care and Training

Image shows the cover of a book about dogs, called What Dogs Want. It is one of BBC Science Focus's best dog books to read.

In What Dogs Want, dog behaviourist Mat Ward debunks the many myths that abound dog training and care. Ward’s book is perfect for a new pet parent, answering those questions that you might be afraid to ask a seasoned dog owner for fear of seeming completely naive. (What food is best? How do I stop my dog from pulling on the lead? Can I handle a puppy and work from home?)

Combining the latest science and research with practical activities to help you train your dog, What Dogs Want promises a happy pup and a confident owner – and some great illustrations by Rupert Fawcett, too.

Dog is Love: The Science of Why and How Your Dog Loves You

Image shows the cover of a book about dogs, called Dog is Love: The Science of Why and How Your Dog Loves You. It is one of BBC Science Focus's best dog books to read.

Dogs are undeniably intelligent – one recent study taught a dog unique names for over 130 toys! – and this makes them great assistance and support animals. But canine behavioural psychologist Dr Clive Wynne argues it’s their ability to love that makes them such a special species.

This ability was present in their ancestors, wolves, enabling us to form relationships with them, and new understanding of dogs’ evolution can also shed light on early human cultures.

Wynne also reveals the new technology that is showing us just how big a dog’s capacity for love is: one particularly study reveals that they respond to changes in their owner’s heart rates, because their own is beating in synchrony.

The Animals Among Us: The New Science of Anthrozoology

animals-among-us

Dr John Bradshaw has written a number of great books about dogs, but his dive into anthrozoology stands out on this list as something rather special. Less about training or caring for dogs, The Animals Among Us instead asks: why do we keep pets? And why are only a handful of animals considered worthy of keeping in our homes, while others are deigned as pests or only food sources?

Despite their impracticality, Bradshaw argues that seeking a relationship with other animals is part of what makes us human. To ignore our long history with them would be to our detriment.

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Image shows the cover of a book about dogs, called Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. It is one of BBC Science Focus's best dog books to read.

As director of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, Columbia University, Alexandra Horowitz has encountered many furry friends. But it was her study of her own dog, Pumpernickel, that really allowed her to see life through a dog’s eyes.

For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to be a dog, Inside of a Dog holds the answers – do dogs really see in black and white? How does time pass when you’re a dog? Is sniffing butts the dog version of shaking hands?

This isn’t a dog training book, but Horowitz says that its teachings can help further your understanding of how your dog learns new commands and processes external information.

The Dog’s Mind

Image shows the cover of a book about dogs, called The Dog's Mind. It is one of BBC Science Focus's best dog books to read.

Dr Bruce Fogle is apparently the UK’s best-selling vet author (sorry, James Herriot) and his books are even on the reading lists of some veterinary medicine degrees – but I assure you that doesn’t mean you need to be a student vet understand them! An accessible and engaging read, his book dives into the depths of the dog’s mind as only a vet could.

It is worth pointing out that this book was first published in 1992 and some of the training methods are outdated. We now know that reward, not punishment, is the key to a happy, well-trained dog.

Dogology: The Weird and Wonderful Science of Dogs

Image shows the cover of a book about dogs, called Dogology: The Weird and Wonderful Science of Dogs. It is one of BBC Science Focus's best dog books to read.

If the title and cover of this book hasn’t sold you already, then I don’t know what will.

Full of brilliant illustrations and fascinating (and funny) facts about dogs, Stefan Gates’ book is a must for any dog lover. His childlike inquisitiveness means no question is too ridiculous, including: why do dogs fart and cats don’t? Why do dogs stare at you when they poo? Are dogs basically just cute wolves?

I’ve already pegged Dogology as a book to gift next Father’s Day, for the man who was adamant he didn’t want a dog only to become the favourite lap to sit on…

Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy

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Zazie Todd’s book may be about making your dog happy, but it’s sure to bring a smile to your face too. Wag is a more practical book than some of the others on this list, designed to help new and existing pup parents keep their dog happy and healthy.

Todd, a dog trainer, has interviewed experts including vets and animal psychologists to give recommendations that are backed by research. The interspersed anecdotes from Todd’s work make this an easy, enjoyable read for all dog lovers.

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Want more great recommendations for dog lovers? Check out our list of the best dog gadgets to spoil your furry friend.