The Best Dog Training Books Available In Australia
When getting ready to welcome a new dog into their home, pet parents often spend their time worrying about getting all the right gear and supplies to make the new family member’s life more comfortable. But as soon as the dog is there, you realize that the most important part is what we can teach our dogs.
Training our dogs is more than just a chore - it’s a chance to establish a strong bond with our four-legged companions. And it’s important to do it right. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of the best dog training books available to help you on your journey.
How to Choose a Dog Training Book
If you’ve tried looking for a dog training book recently, you must have realised that there is certainly no shortage of such literature. But, which of all those interesting headlines are really good? Here are a couple of guidelines to consider before settling on a dog training book:
Who Is the Author?
As you might well know, there are no actual qualifications required to publish a book these days. Any kind of book. Some dog training books are written by experts in their field with years of experience, some by academics, and others are written by celebrities or self-proclaimed dog training gurus.
Training your dog right is important, so it’s best to get your information from a reliable source. If you do some research on the author of the book, you’ll quickly be able to see whether they have reputable experience and qualifications as dog trainers, or they do not.
What’s the Purpose of the Book?
Thinking about what you want to learn from your dog training book can help you settle on the right publication. On our list below, you’ll find a few dog training guides which are geared at complete beginners. They walk you through every little thing you need to know about getting a puppy and taking care of it through its life.
But, if you are already familiar with the basic principles of dog training and/or this is not the first dog you are raising, you might find such entry-level books don’t tell you anything new. Luckily, there are some in-depth guides available too, that go beyond the basic techniques and explanations.
It could also be a question of whether you want a quick and to the point manual that will give you the steps you can take now without any fluff, or you want a longer read and a more thorough explanation of why certain things are done in certain ways.
A Note About Different Schools of Thought in Dog Training
When it comes to the right way to train a dog, opinions can differ - a lot. There are a myriad of different methods and techniques for training and communicating with dogs. Almost every trainer will have their own style, and sometimes the differences are small, but sometimes they are huge.
Without going into details about every type of dog training that exists, we can distinguish between two main schools of thought: training based on positive reinforcement and training based on dominance and punishment.
Dominance training used to be the main school of thought, but today most experts find it dated and based on problematic assumptions. This type of training is based on the idea that dogs are pack animals, like wolves, and that someone always needs to be the ‘alpha dog’. By this logic, the human is the one who should assume this alpha role and coerce the dog into submission. The theory about alpha dogs and the usefulness of this method have since been disputed, but there are still trainers who advocate such methods (1).
Today, most experts agree that using positive reinforcement to train your dog is the right way to go. Instead of punishing your dog and causing them to obey you out of fear, this method focuses on rewarding positive behaviour. Reward-based training is much less stressful for your dog and helps you build a connection based on trust.
In Australia, for example, the RSPCA condemns dominance dog training (2), and endorses positive approaches instead:
When it comes to the right approach, you don’t have to blindly trust us or the RSPCA. But do think about what kind of relationship you want to build with your dog. Do you want your relationship to be based on companionship and trust or dominance and fear?
Dog Training Books Australia 2022: Our Top Picks
What sets this course apart from the rest?
Zak George is somewhat of a celebrity dog trainer. He’s an avid YouTuber and he’s been the host of various TV shows such as SuperFetch on Animal Planet. So, while he might not be the world’s #1 expert on dog behaviour, he’s quite good at explaining the principles of dog training to a wide audience and keeping it interesting instead of boring.
That’s the value he brings to the writing sphere too. The Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution is an easy read that covers all the topics new pet parents need to think about in order to raise a happy puppy.
That being said, this is very much a book for inexperienced pet parents. If you’ve already had a puppy before, you might find parts of this book rather boring, as it starts from the very basics like choosing the right puppy for you and bringing it home. Still, if you skip through the boring parts you might just find some valuable puppy training tips.
You’ll learn about:
Patricia McConnell is an adjunct professor in zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a renowned expert in canine behaviour. She’s been practising as a dog trainer and behaviour expert ever since she received her PhD in zoology in 1988, and these days she’s an avid writer working to share her knowledge with the world.
The Other End of the Leash is less of a training manual, and more of a guide to understanding the behaviour of your dog. The book deals with our own behaviour as much as it does with that of dogs, seeking to answer the ‘whys’ more than the ‘hows’.
Why do misunderstandings arise between dogs and humans and how can we manage the communication more effectively? If this question intrigues you, this is the book for you. A simple example to illustrate the point: did you know many dogs don’t actually like being patted on the head? Many pet parents do this as a sign of affection, but some dogs can interpret the move as punishment.
You’ll learn about:
Pat Miller is an experienced dog trainer and behaviourist, and an avid writer, having authored multiple books on dog training and behaviour and being the training editor of Whole Dog Journal. Her work focuses mainly on promoting force-free training, and this is also the case with this book.
The Power of Positive Dog Training makes a strong case for choosing positive reinforcement techniques when training your dog rather than those based on domination and punishment. In fact, the whole first part of the book is dedicated to a discussion of positive training. So, if you have someone in your life that needs an introduction to the positive training philosophy, or you want to learn what it’s all about, this book is a great place to start.
The second part of the book outlines a six-week basic training program that gives you clear instructions on teaching the basic commands and skills to your dog. The final section of the book is a concise overview of the most common behavioural problems in dogs and the ways they can be addressed.
You’ll learn about:
If you are looking for a well-written guide on taking care of and training a dog throughout their life, this book is always a good choice. How to Train Your Dog is one of the most reader-friendly books in the genre: it is written in a light-hearted conversational tone and it's full of useful actionable tips. Still, the book also does a good job at answering the whys - it does not just tell you what to do, it also explains the logic behind the advice.
Ryan & Jen Tate are among Australia’s most well-known dog behaviourists and they have both focused their careers on helping people raise healthy and happy dogs. This is their first book and it covers almost everything you need to know from getting a puppy until the end of your dog's life. It’s a great reference book to keep around and return to with every new chapter of your canine companion’s life.
The main downside? The book doesn’t have an index so you’ll have to search for specific bits of information manually.
You’ll learn about:
This book is not a comprehensive guide to taking care of a dog, but if you want to take your pup beyond basic training and teach some fun tricks, this is the book for you. The book starts with the simplest of tricks and ends with very complex tricks and advanced stunts.
You’ll not find long essays about the philosophy of dog training in this book, instead, it’s all just practical instructions for teaching tricks - always with positive reinforcement! The instructions are clear and easy to follow, sometimes with alternative ways to teach the trick so you can adapt your technique to your dog.
Getting through this book together with your dog is a great way to spend quality time together.
What you’ll learn:
This book claims to offer a 5-week programme that will make your dog the “the best dog ever”, that is a well-behaved and socialised dog, a dog with manners.
One of the authors of the book, Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz used to train the Obama and the Kennedy dogs and does not refrain from mentioning it in the book. Some find this part interesting while others find the name-dropping a bit annoying, but either way, the book is a fun read and a great introduction to positive reinforcement training.
Besides the basic obedience training, the book emphasises socialising your canine companion and making them comfortable with the world around them.
Are five weeks enough to completely train your dog? Perhaps, but this is a very intensive programme. This book covers a lot of ground, and it’s probably better to view it as a general guide
What You’ll Learn
The last book we reviewed claimed to have your dog trained within 5 weeks, but with this one, you can do it in 7 days? While there is obvious marketing value in such claims, McMillan does not claim that he will teach your dog everything in 7 days.
Rather, this book is a guide on teaching your dog 7 basic commands: sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no. You might manage to do this within a week, or you might not, but you’ll have a nice and easy to follow manual for teaching these necessary cues on your hands.
Lucky Dog Lessons is a very accessible book that is easy to read. The instructions are clear and accompanied by pictures. If you want a nice little reference book to help you train your dog that does not require too much time to get through, this one is worth a shot.
What You’ll Learn
Introducing a dog into your home is a big event for everyone in the household. And if this includes kids, there is no better way to honour the occasion than by getting them their very own dog training book.
This book is written clear and concisely so it’s easy for kids to follow, but it’s full of information that can be useful for adults too. The reader gets to start with all the basics about taking care of a puppy, from dog-proofing your house to potty training and walking.
But, what makes this book fun is the long list of things you can teach your dog: from basic commands to tricks and games. Each entry includes step by step instructions that are clear and easy to follow. Going through these is a great way to help you and your child bond with your dog.
You’ll learn about:
It’s hard to proclaim the single best puppy training book in the world. All of the titles on our list are good resources for dog training, but each book will resonate differently with different readers and their dogs.
If you are looking for a practical guide for training a puppy right from the beginning, How to Train Your Dog by Jen and Ryan Tate is a nice read, but far from the only one on the topic. For an in-depth view of human-canine communication, check out Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash.
There is no single best way to train a puppy. But the most important thing is to do it with dedication, patience, and love. Reward-based training methods are not just more humane, but also more effective for training your dog.
Training starts the moment you bring a puppy into your home. This usually happens when they are about 8 weeks old, and already at this time you can start “housebreaking” a puppy. This will involve introducing a daily routine, potty training, and socialization. Already at this time you can slowly start teaching basic cues and introduce your dog to walking on the lead.
You might have heard that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but that’s not true! It’s never too late to train a dog. In fact, some older dogs respond to training surprisingly well. Sure some challenges might come with age, but training an older dog is all but impossible.
- Ross, W. August 25, 2020. “How Science is Revolutionizing the World of Dog Training”. Time. Retrieved April 12, 2022. https://time.com/5880219/science-of-dog-training/
- RSPCA Australia. August 19, 2020. “What is the RSPCA’s view on dominance dog training?”. Retrieved April 12, 2022. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-the-rspcas-view-on-dominance-dog-training/
- RSPCA Australia. August 19, 2020. “What is reward-based dog training and why does the RSPCA support it?”. Retrieved April 12, 2022. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-reward-based-dog-training-and-why-does-the-rspca-support-it/