A Reading List in Animal Behavior, Part 2

Back in the fall of 2008, I presented a blog which started like this, “I am frequently asked about readings in animal behavior.  One of the nice things about practicing in a region like Seattle is that our audience is so well educated.  So not infrequently I have clients who want to learn more, want to read more about animal behavior.  Most often, they want to read more about what we call Applied Animal Behavior.  Applied animal behavior is the relatively new field which deals with the behavior (and misbehavior) of our companion animals based on a scientific approach that extends from the modern academic field of animal behavior, or ethology.  Ethology was historically based in Europe, and is a field of biology and psychology, that is, it is a sub-discipline of evolutionary biology,” and the blog goes on to define ethology in a little more detail.  You can find that blog [here].

I went on to say, “So here I present a highly personal reading list in ethology.  In this entry, I suggest some reading in basic ethology, and in a later entry, I will focus in readings in applied animal behavior.”

But it never happened.. no follow-up blog on the most relevant material, applied ethology!  So, forthwith, the rest of my list… the disclaimer, as before: this is a personal list.  These are the sort of readings, applied in this case, that I would, and have, “required of students of this field, beginning at the undergraduate level and right on through graduate or board-certification work in ethology.  These are the books that my students, graduate and undergraduate, read.  And these would provide the foundation for an excellent library in animal behavior.”


Applied Animal Behavior for the Lay Audience

These are books for the educated owner: I hope that most trainers, veterinarian technician and veterinarian with an interest in behavior have read these.

The first three are simply classic, must-reads: I strongly encourage all dog owners, and all of my behavior-issue clients to read these.

Donaldson, Jean.  1997.  Culture Clash.  James and Kenneth.

(The differences between primate [human] and dog behavior, social organization, and communication]

McConnell, Patricia.  2002.  The Other End of the Leash.  Ballantine Books.  (Dog-primate communication, or the lack thereof.  Based on Trish’s PhD dissertation work and a lifetime of learning about dogs and humans.)

Pryor, Karen. 1999.  Don’t Shoot the Dog!  The New Art of Teaching and Training.  Bantam.

(The original book that defined the new field of positive-approach dog training)

There are some follow-ups to the themes described in the books above:

Donaldson, Jean.  1998.  Dogs are from Neptune.  Lasar Multimedia Productions.

(Dealing positively, and successfully, with aggreessive dogs)

McConnell, Patricia.  Various.

(Trish has an extensive series of How To booklets, all of which are excellent: available from Dogwise [see below] or her website.  These build, in more practical terms, on the ideas developed in her best-seller books.)

Reid, P.J., 1996.  Excel-erated Learning: Explaining in Plain English How Dogs Learn and How    Best To Teach Them.  James and Kenneth Publishers, Oakland, CA

Ryan, T. 1998.  The Toolbox for Remodeling Your Problem Dog.  Howell Book House, New York.

(These two books are by leading canine learning specialists, and build on the concepts of a positive reinforcement approach, and understanding the broader behavior of your dog, the context in which your dog behaves.)

Wright, J. C. 1994.  Is Your Cat Crazy?  Macmillan Publishing Co., New York.

Wright, J. C. 1999.  The Dog Who Would Be King.  Rodale Press,  Emmaus, PA.

(And then, how does all this conceptual material come together: first, John’s books bring you into the world of a behavior specialist, an academic bringing the science that we have learned about dogs, and cats, to bear on specific behavior problems… and at the same time, educating about dog behavior and learning in an entertaining way.)

Markowitz, H. 1981.  Behavioral Enrichment in the Zoo, Van Nostrand Reinhold. (Finally, as an ethologist, I find this book to be fascinating: applied animal behavior principles, but with application to exotic animals.  This is the behind-the-scenes story of a series of imaginative, and highly successful, attempts to produce natural behaviors in captive animals.)

Puppies and Puppy Selection

Then how about the big issue: what kind of dog should I get?  Here are two good suggestions for reading on this subject, again based on good science.

Hart, B.L. & Hart, L.A. 1988.  The Perfect Puppy. How to Choose a Dog by Its Behavior.  W.H. Freeman, New York.

Rutherford, C. & Neil, D.H.  1992.  How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, 2nd Ed.  Alpine Pub., Loveland.

More Advanced and Professional Books

There are many references used by behavior specialists, certified applied animal behaviorists and board-certified veterinary behaviorists: these are a few of the more accessible ones.

Askew, H.R., 1996. Treatment of Behavior Problems in Dogs and Cats.  Blackwell Science, Cambridge, MA.

Bradshaw, J.W.S.  1992.  The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat.  C.A.B. International, UK.

Fraser, A.F.  1992.  The Behaviour of the Horse.  C.A.B. International, UK.

Hart, B.L. 1985.  The Behavior of Domestic Animals.  W.H. Freeman and Co., New York.

Hetts, S.  1999.  Pet Behavior Protocols.  What To Say, What To Do and When To Refer. AAHA Press, Lakewood, CO.

Voith, V.L. and P.L.Borchelt, Eds. 1996.  Readings in Companion Animal Behavior. Veterinary Learning Systems, Trenton, NJ.

Serpell, J., Ed. 1995.  The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People. Cambridge Univ. Press, New York.

Thorne, C., Ed.  1992.  The Waltham Book of Cat and Dog Behaviour.  Pergamon Press, New York.

Turner, D.C. & Bateson, P., Eds. 1988.  The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour.  Cambridge University Press, New York.

Waring, G.H.  1983.  Horse Behavior. Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ.

So that’s my reading list in applied animal behavior, from both an academic and a popular view.  Combining the books in this list with the previously listed readings in general ethology would generate an impressive library in ethology with a focus on applied animal behavior.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have a favorite book to recommend, or a question about a book you’ve seen or read, or a specific topic in animal behavior for which you would like a reading recommendation.  Time to read!


I must credit my colleague, Daniel Estep, PhD, for developing the original form of these reading lists, which I have modified and annotated considerably.  Any changes and added editorial opinions are strictly my own, unless Dan likes any of them.

Many of these are available from Dogwise, a book and supply catalog,  P. O. Box 2778,  Wenatchee, WA  98807-2778,  Phone 1-800-776-2665, on the web at www.dogwise.com

About drjimha

I am a professor of animal behavior at the University of Washington, specializing in social behavior with a focus on primates, killer whales, crows, and companion animals (dogs and cats). For fun, I love to fish saltwater (spinning, fly), snorkel, and travel with my wife Renee and son Andrew.
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