Dog Book Club
A few of my favorite dog-related reads
As much as I love dogs I’ve never been drawn to read many books about them. It is only over the last few years, as I’ve been living with a barking beagle and a bug-eyed King Charles, that I’ve really delved into the world of dog-focused literature.
Here are three of the best dog books I have read:
"The Dog Breed Bible" by D. Caroline Coile, PhD — This book is an absolutely amazing reference tool for any dog person. Each page offers a brief but informative rundown of the dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. The page includes a photo with items to look for in a standard breed along with a history of the dog and a general description of its temperament, upkeep and health concerns. Not surprisingly, I get into a lot of dog conversations with friends and it’s wonderful to have this book to use for quick answers to questions like, “How tall is a Giant Schnauzer?” (Answer: between 23.5 and 27.5 inches depending on the sex) or “What’s that white dog that looks like a janitor’s mop?” (Answer: a Komondor). And if you have a stray, this book is a great tool to use for guessing what various breeds might make up your dog.
"Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know" by Alexandra Horowitz — I picked this one up from Del Ray’s James M. Duncan Branch of the Alexandria Library. The author is a psychologist that also studies animal behavior. Being a dog person, she eventually focused her research on that topic. Dr. Horowitz does an amazing job of showing the reader what life is like from the dog’s perspective and what is likely really going on in their head (not just what we want to believe). The book is an easy read, never getting too detailed in science or research while still backing up her writing with facts. Horowitz also mixes in her personal stories about her mutt, Pumpernickel, relating them to her larger research findings.
"On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals" by Turid Rugaas — When my girlfriend recommended this book to me early on in our relationship, I was skeptical. It’s thin—just about 80 pages—and probably is better classified as a manual than a book. But this might be the most important text on dogs I have ever read. It was especially helpful as I got to know my girlfriend’s aggressive beagle and again after we adopted a very timid King Charles.
“Calming signals” was a phrase completely foreign to me. The yawns, the licking of the nose, the wide turns dogs make as they walk toward others. These are things our dogs do all the time to send signals to us and other animals. And I had never noticed. We would occasionally take our beagle to the dog park and after reading this book and I eventually realized that, unlike most of the other dogs there, he was clearly not having a good time. It really is a very eye-opening and educational manual on how dogs communicate and send signals about their emotions to others.