Books in Review: Eileen’s Essentials

A brown dog appears to be reading a book on learning theory by Paul Chance. Books keyword

This book is on the list!

Since this is a gifting season for many folks, I thought I would share the books I own that are almost never on my bookshelves. By that I mean the books that are next to my computer or open on the kitchen table or mixed up in the bed covers. The books you see me quoting here. The books I open up when I need to solve a problem or I need a high quality reference.

I could easily name 20 more dog books that I dearly love and highly recommend. Maybe I’ll do that next year. But these are the ones I need the most.

The following are not affiliate links. I chose the author’s website for the link if the book was available there, next, Dogwise, if the book was available there, and Amazon for the rest. Most are available several other places.

  • Learning & Behavior by Paul Chance. I have the fifth edition from 2003 because the current edition (seventh, 2013) is pretty expensive. I write about learning theory so I need a source for definitions and references. Can’t do better than Dr. Chance.
  • The Essentials of Conditioning and Learning by Michael Domjan. OK. Dr. Chance above will tell you lots about operant behavior. Then get this one for respondent behavior. It’s got stuff I have never seen anywhere else. It’s great if you want to learn the ins and outs of both Pavlovian conditioning and operant learning.
  • Coercion and Its Fallout by Murray Sidman.  Dr. Sidman is the go-to behavior analyst on the topics of negative reinforcement and punishment and has hundreds of papers dating from the 1950s. This book is in lay language and is a bit frustrating in that it lacks references, but given his credentials it has almost become a primary reference itself. If you haven’t read much about aversives from a learning theory or societal standpoint, this book will knock you over. It will take you a while to recover.
  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats by Karen Overall. It’s phenomenal that we can buy a book with this much information in it at such a reasonable price. It is about behavior problems from a medical standpoint. The intended audience for this book is probably vets. It is highly technical yet quite readable.
  • Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs by Malena DeMartini-Price. This book is fairly new but already a classic. If you are a trainer you’ve probably already heard of it. But people who foster, people who work with shelter dogs, and pet owners with separation anxiety dogs all need this book.
  • Agility Right from the Start by Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. This may surprise some people since I don’t write about agility much. But I love agility. This extremely down to earth book does just what it says it does: lays the fundamentals and goes from there. Wonderful, magical book. Good as a reference in that it has a solution for almost every typical agility problem. But even better because I’m pretty sure if you followed their plan from the beginning you wouldn’t have many problems!
  • A Guide to Living With & Training a Fearful Dog by Debbie Jacobs. Another classic. I wish I could gift a copy of this book to every single person who has a fearful dog. We could change the world that way.
  • The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. Here is the One. Book. I. Would. Like. Every. Dog. Owner. To. Read.
  • Dog Food Logic by Linda P. Case. I’ve already raved about this book in a full-length review but I can’t leave it out here. I consult it frequently. I think nutrition for dogs is a more at-risk field even than training. With training there is no credentialing system. With nutrition there are credentials but they don’t seem to matter to people. People just hang out a shingle anyway. Listen to Linda. She has the expertise and she is objective. Plus she’s fun to read.
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book on cognitive biases is invaluable to me as a writer. I have actually made myself a list of the biases he covers and review them at times. It’s a brilliant book. None of us is immune, unfortunately. We can only work at it.
  • Training Levels: Steps to Success by Sue Ailsby. Of all the training books I have read, this one is the most practical. It builds generalization and proofing into every step. Plus following instructions written by Sue is like having your favorite auntie coach you. If your auntie is wicked smart and, well, a little wicked.
  • Beyond the Brain by Louise Barrett. This one is new and I have to be honest in that I haven’t even finished it! But it fits my criterion because I keep pulling it out for some incredible examples of advanced behavior from organisms with very little brainpower. It gives you a whole new outlook on how behavior can develop.

There you have it! I have several other posts almost ready and will get back up to speed after my webinar on canine cognitive dysfunction hosted by the Pet Professional Guild on Monday, December 14th. Those old music habits kick in and I’ve been rehearsing in all my free time. Come if you can!

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2015

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  • Essential books for dog writers and owners.
  • Great books about dogs, training, and learning.
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