Training a dog can be difficult, especially if you don't know where to start. Dog trainers are wonderful resources, as are a number of websites, but a book on the topic can give you a more comprehensive understanding of dog training principals and common mistakes to avoid. It's also good to have a book on hand to reference when you need it.
Check out this list of the best dog training books to help narrow down your search options.
Best Overall: Zak George's Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love
Zak George is a renowned dog trainer known for his YouTube channel and his spots on Animal Planet. His book Zak George's Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love is our pick for best dog training manual because it provides a fresh new take on raising the perfect pup. This 240-page book covers all of the basics, from potty training to leash-pulling to aggression. It also provides must-know tips about dog ownership, like when to take your furry friend to the vet and how to pick the right food for his or her needs. George provides a humane and friendly approach to dog training, packed with advice on decoding and “talking to” your pup.
Zak George’s book is definitely heavier on the “how-tos” than it is on technical training material, which is why we picked it as best overall. It lightly touches on every topic, and it’s a great choice both for a new dog owner or a veteran who needs a refresh.
Best for Puppies: The Art of Raising a Puppy
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time that’s filled with kisses, snuggles and yes, lost sleep. A must-have for any new pup owner, The Art of Raising a Puppy is written by the Monks of New Skete, a community of dog-loving monks who really know their stuff. All 352 pages are filled with expertise about training, loving and caring for a new puppy as the monks draw on their 30-plus years of experience raising German Shepherd puppies. It will help your puppy adjust to his or her new home and offers tips for every stage of a puppy’s life.
All in all, The Art of Raising a Puppy is not only well written, but this book is chock full of overwhelmingly useful advice you can refer back to all the time.
Best for Potty Training: How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days
Whether you’re struggling with housebreaking your new puppy or you need to potty train a new rescue dog, How to Housebreak your Dog in 7 Days is an invaluable book. Written by pet expert Shirlee Kalstone, this book will help you train even the most “untrainable” pups. It also provides tactics for all types of house training, from housebreaking to litter training to paper training. You’ll find suggested potty schedules to adhere to, advice for handling accidents and tips on the right way to positively reinforce your pup.
Though housebreaking can be a slow and occasionally trying practice, Kalstone will help you train your pup no matter how old he or she is.
Best for Kids: Puppy Training for Kids: Teaching Children the Responsibilities and Joys of Puppy Care, Training, and Companionship
Everyone knows the age-old tale of the kid who asked for puppy and never took responsibility for his new friend. Good news: You can let your kid take charge of training with this invaluable and intelligently conceived book. This Barron’s title is written specifically for children, focusing on teaching them how to care for, train and nurture their new four-legged friend. It will help your children learn the basics of clicker training, socialization and healthy exercise. The 96 pages are photo-heavy, allowing children to visualize rather than read a heavy manual with long blocks of text. Easy to understand and digest, Puppy Training for Kids is ideal for middle school-aged children and under.
Best for Tricks: 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog
Now that you have potty training down, keep your dog mentally sharp and engaged by teaching it tricks. 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance is the ultimate guide to teaching your dog every trick in the book (literally, in this case). It’s full of color-coded guides to its 101 tricks, each one rated with a difficulty level and necessary “prerequisites” your pup should know in advance. The tricks range from the standard sit, fetch and stay to the more advanced (but incredibly nifty) “go get a soda from the fridge.” Beyond being useful, teaching your dog tricks can help keep active pups engaged and challenged, making them less likely to create destruction around the home. So, if you’re searching for a one-stop trick shop, 101 Dog Tricks is the book for you.
Best for Service Dogs: Training Your Own Full Potential Service Dog: Step by Step Instructions with 30 Day Intensive Training Program to Get You Started
Acquiring a service dog can be a lengthy and expensive process. Training Your Own Service Dog by Lelah Sullivan is a guide to teaching your dog skills to help him or her be a companion animal. Sullivan is a retired service dog trainer who covers the fundamentals of training a dog for a variety of disabilities. Though we recommend going through a licensed service dog agency for most needs, Sullivan’s book can help those who need a little extra help around the house and don’t have the extra funds to acquire an official service pup. The author also has a Facebook group that she visits frequently for advice and suggestions.
Overall, this guide to self-training a service dog will help pups behave better and follow a variety of commands after finishing Sullivan's steps.
Best for Agility Training: The Beginner's Guide to Dog Agility
If you’re interested in training your pup for agility competitions, The Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility by Laurie Leach is a great place to start. This 256-page book covers subjects from creating your very own agility obstacles to the ins-and-outs of clicker training. Agility competitions can be fun for you and your pet and provide an active, bonding experience you’ll both enjoy. As the title states, this book is great for someone who has no experience in agility training and wants to explore it with their motivated pup. Though Leach's book is aimed at the professional agility community, it's a great book for anyone interested in exploring this world.
If you need a good, all-around dog training book, Zak George's Dog Training Revolution is an obvious choice (view on Amazon). This book provides a great overview for training a dog and covers a variety of topics. But if it's tricks you're after, 101 Dog Tricks will help you teach your dog what you want it to learn (view on Amazon). This book focuses on specific commands and behaviors that will not only impress your friends but keep your dog mentally stimulated.
What to Look for in a Dog Training Book
Choose a book that was written by a well-known dog trainer or someone certified in animal behavior, dog training, or has demonstrated other expertise in the field. Read the author's biography in the beginning of the book to see what kind of experience and education they have had and see if their advice might be a fit for you and your dog.
Do you want a quick book with how-tos or a lengthy read that goes in-depth? The length of a book may mean the difference between whether you will read it or just flip through the pages. You'll want to make sure the book has what you're looking for—many broad details or one specific training topic—before you make a purchase.
There are ways to teach dogs tricks, but there are also basic ways to teach a dog to live in your home. Both require training but not all books will cover all types of training goals. If your dog is housebroken and has basic manners but you want to expand the number of tricks it knows, make sure you don't choose a general dog training book. Conversely, if you have a new dog, you'll want to focus on basic behaviors that allow it to live well in your home—such as housebreaking and not jumping on guests—before you teach it other skills.
Can you effectively learn to train a dog from books?
Yes! A good book will help you learn how to train your dog, but you need to be willing to put the techniques into practice. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are all important parts of dog training, regardless of what book you choose.
If books don't help me train my dog, do I need classes?
Dog training classes are always a good idea, especially if they allow you to socialize your dog with other dogs. Sometimes it helps to have the perspective and knowledge of a trainer to help your dog gain the skills it needs.