Animal Lovers Pick Their Favourite Books of 2018

Animal lovers and readers of Companion Animal Psychology share their favourite book about animals that they read in 2018.

Animal lovers favourite books of 2018
Photo: Kimrawicz/

By Zazie Todd, PhD

I asked people about their favourite book about animals that they read in the last year. Here are their choices, and what they love about the book they picked. You can find copies of all the books at my Amazon store,

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Kristi Benson, CTC, Dog trainer and owner of Kristi Benson Dog Training; on staff at Academy for Dog Trainers.

Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, by Doublas J. Emlen. Illustrated by David J. Tuss.

Have you ever gazed in wonder at your dog’s pearly whites when they show them off in a particularly robust yawn? Or pondered what’s up with elk’s antlers, or perhaps laughed (less than charitably) at a picture of the single hilariously large claw on a fiddler crab? Antlers, club-like tails, teeth, jaws, and claws come in all shapes and sizes, and are all a form animal weaponry. Used for protection and to obtain resources like food and territory, they’re each and every one fascinating. Author Douglas J. Emlen, a biology prof with a knack for storytelling, wrote a compelling book about all sorts, sizes, and shapes of animal weaponry, and goes even further, comparing their evolution to the evolution of human weaponry over time. The author takes the book from tyrant dinosaur teeth to the peril of an unhorsed knight, and somehow manages to pull the threads together in a lively way. Extra bonus: the animal’s behaviour and biology is presented clearly and convincingly in the context of evolution. This is the exact book for the person in your life who likes to look up from a book every few minutes and say “you won’t believe this, but…”.

Animal weapons

Jodi Cassell, MS, CTC, Jodi's Dogs: Training and Behavior Consulting

Pitbull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey

I finally read Pitbull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey. My time volunteering at a shelter taught me to love pitties and pitty mixes I actually think they are among the dogs that provide the best fit for families in the US. They bond to their families and love human contact, but are pretty low maintenance in terms of exercise needs. Dickey did a fantastic job delving into the history, politics, and science of pitty dogs. The sections on the history of this breed group were detailed and fascinating, in terms of the traditional bull and terriers that were beloved pets in many Western societies in the 19th century to the shady side of their use as fight dogs. Who knew "bull and terriers" were common pets for many classes of people in the 19th century??? The discussion of social class and dog breeds and how this has contributed to the demonetization of the various pit breeds (and other breeds throughout history) was an eye-opener. And I enjoyed reading about how many amazing groups have formed since the renowned Michael Vicks fight bust to provide education to bust the pervasive myths about this breed group and to save many dogs.

Pit Bull: The battle over an American icon

Alex Tran, Digital Marketing Strategist with Hollingsworth.

Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind by Sy Montgomery.

This book is amazing. I love how they get into the psychology of animals so that we better understand these creatures. The books literally are like reading a David Attenborough novel. It comes from the POV of cats, dogs and more. The authors have spent decades studying animals worldwide. This is a great read if you love animals.

Tamed and Untamed

Jackie Johnston, CTC, CPDT-KA, CSAT, Dog Trainer & Behavior Consultant

Helping Minds Meet: Skills for a Better Life with Your Dog by Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills.

A quick, easy read that provides solid ways that we can adjust our interactions with our dogs to strengthen relationships and well-being.

Helping Minds Meet cover

Elka Karl, Dadascope Communications

LOOK BIG: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds, by Rachel Leven and illustrated by Jeff Ostberg.

This is a beautifully illustrated, smartly written book on how to deal with  wild animals (and urban animals). It includes a handful of animal-encounter tales from acclaimed writers like Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat). It's a great gift for animal lovers, both big and small (kids LOVE it and adults are impressed by its amazing illustrations and smart writing) as well as those who are fascinated with weird animal facts and who just want to read about animal adventures from afar. It features accurate, smart advice.

Look Big: And other tips for surviving animal encounters of all kinds

Amber Gilmore

CatWise: America's Favourite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behaviour Questions by Pam Johnson-Bennett.

For dispelling the myth of feline behavior being rooted in revenge or malice.

Cat Wise

Shannon B. Thier, CPDT-KA, CSAT, CTDI, ABCDT), Founder of  K-949: Training for Humans with Dogs,

Remember Me by Eileen Anderson.

I lost both of my littermates and the loves of my life in 2018 - Tonka in February; Pongo in July), both of them were 16 years old, and I had them since they were 8 wks old and found in a hot South Florida dumpster. Even though they were not showing signs of cognitive dysfunction, I had a feeling that Pongo, the one who lived longer than her sister, might succumb to CCD. Sadly, she had tumors in her liver, and I had to let her go mid-year.

With that said, I found Eileen's book fascinating and chock full of information that can help other guardians who don't know what to do or the signs to look for when their dog begins to show signs of canine cognitive dysfunction. Eileen has boatloads of insight and she writes meticulously. Whether or not you have a dog experiencing CCD right now or not, it's definitely a book that I believe everybody should have on their shelf."

Debbie Turner, Dean Insurance Agency

What to Expect when Adopting a Dog by Diane Rose-Solomon.

It is an excellent book in laying out the dog adoption process, instead of going to the shelter and just selecting one. It should be mandatory reading for anyone adopting.

What to expect when adopting a dog

Grace King, Grace and Luca

Making Dogs Happy: A  Guide to How They Think, What They Do (And Don't) Want, And Getting to "Good Dog!" Behaviour by Melissa Starling and Paul McGreevy.

My favourite animal book of 2018 was ‘Making Dogs Happy’ by Dr Melissa Starling & Prof Paul McGreevy. It does what it says on the tin, discussion of dog behaviour and what we can do to make our dogs’ lives happier.

I found it discussed scientific ideas in easy to understand language. I got a lot out of it, particularly about optimism in dogs and using surprises and minor changes in routine in positive ways.

Making dogs happy

Jeff Neal, The Critter Depot

Insects: An Edible Field Guide by Stefan Gates.

Humans consuming crickets has been a trending topic within American society. It's not a topic we're prepared for, but it's a question we've been seeing more and more. So I wanted to learn more about the idea. There's a lot of insect cook books. But I wanted to find something that was more natural and down to earth. Stefan Gates does a nice job discussing a variety of insects that one finds while strolling through the woods. From crickets to grubs to worms, he discusses the nutritional value of these bugs, and what benefits animals, and humans can acquire from eating them. He does offer some cooking tips. But I thought this book did a really nice job of touching on a curious topic that many people have, without get too bogged down on recipes.

Insects an edible field guide

You can find copies of all these books via my Amazon store,

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