The Animal Books that Changed People’s Lives: Part 2

The books about animals that had a profound effect on people’s lives.

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This is the second post in a series on the animal books that changed people’s lives. You can read part 1, animal lovers on the books that changed their lives, here.

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The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

Vanessa Mae Hajek MS CTC of Hands Full Dog training told me,

“In 2002, my dad got me a book for my 14th birthday. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. He knew nothing about the author and nothing about the book so he took a chance. I read it in four days. McConnell introduced me to dogs as a subject of scientific study and more importantly, further introduced me to this radical idea of modifying dog behavior not with force or intimidation, but with food. During the next few years I devoured all things force-free dog training and slowly began changing how I trained which slowly began changing how I thought about training. For years I thought my dog was selectively stubborn when she was probably confused (or worse, scared) and I could not figure out why certain cues like "Stay" made my dog nervous. Now I began to understand that the very methods I had been taught were integral to dog training were also the very methods causing this response.  (Pro Tip: do not bang pots together right next to your dog to teach them not to break their stay no matter what. This doesn't do what you think it does) and your dog will not thank you. The Other End of the Leash started 14 year-old me on a path to force-free dog training and the trainers/behaviorists I discovered after this book (Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, etc.) cemented that path. I'm 30 now and have been working my dream job as a force-free professional dog trainer for 3 years because I read a book that changed how I viewed dogs and in turn, molded my life. So, thank you Patricia McConnell (and dad) for getting me a random dog book because I circled it in the back of a pet supply magazine.”

The animal books that changed lives part 1. Cover of The Other End of the Leash

Animals You Will Never Forget by Reader’s Digest

Megan Leavy, ABCDT of Southpaw Dog Training told me,

Animals You Will Never Forget. This book was published the year I was born - 1969, and I think my grandparents gave it to me for Christmas one year, probably before I was 10 years old.  I poured over that book cover to cover over and over for years.

Each short story presented a different animal and gave it so much more depth than what I was exposed to as a child.  There were no 'dumb' animals in that book, they all possessed skills, emotions, and cognitive behaviors that were not believed to be possible in when I was 10.  That, combined with a variety of different things like Charlotte's Web, and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (that we watched religiously when I was growing up), I think gave me a deeper insight into the animals around us.  We had all sorts of animals growing up, and I've always believed they deserved richer lives than what humans afforded them due to human beliefs.

I passed my copy on to a friend's daughter years ago, but after becoming a dog trainer, I got another copy to keep for kids to read when they come to my training center.”

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller

Sheryl Winkler told me,

“Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training. Prior to getting our first puppy we took loads of books and videos out of the library which pretty much convinced us how we DIDN’T want to train! I spent loads of time on Yahoo groups and reading what I could to find an alternative. And then Pat Miller came out with this book. I felt I had found the canine equivalent of Dr Spock’s baby care book - clear practical positive answers to everything I could think of. I lost count of how many copies of the book I bought because every time someone I knew got a dog I “loaned” them my copy and no one ever returned it!!!”

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2. Cover of The Power of Positive Dog Training

Plenty in Life is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training, and Finding Grace by Kathy Sdao

Kayla Block MA CTC of Understanding Dog Training told me,

“My mother used to joke that her dog must think her name is Kadie-no. A hundred times a day, my mother told her what she didn’t want her to do. It was frustrating for my mother and I’m sure it wasn’t fun for the dog. Kathy Sdao’s book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace recommends doing the exact opposite. Your dog might start to think his name is Fido-goodboy! Kathy recommends starting your day with a bag of small treats and watching your dog for things you like. Your goal is to have an empty bag by the end of the day. Multiply that by a week or a year and over time, without much effort, you have a dog doing so much more of what you like and you have fewer reasons to tell your dog, “no”.Once you start looking for things to reinforce in your dog, you may find yourself looking for things to reinforce in people too!”

The animal books that changed lives, part 2. Cover of Plenty in Life is Free

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

Jean Donaldson of the Academy for Dog Trainers and author of The Culture Clash and other books told me,

“I read the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer in 1987 and it changed my life utterly.  I became vegetarian, volunteered for animal causes, took a job between semesters at the SPCA, and that was the beginning of a migration towards doing companion dogs full time rather than sports.  It also spurred me to read other similar books to get myself educated on the plight of animals in our society.”

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2. Cover of Animal Liberation

For more book suggestions, check out the Animal Book Club or visit my Amazon store:

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, writes The Pawsitive Post premium newsletter, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

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