For this month’s book and resources post, I’m featuring two books published twenty years ago and one that details new discoveries about how dogs think and understand the world.
In How Dogs Learn Mary R. Burch and Jon S. Bailey trace the history of dog training, introduce the discoveries and theories of researchers such as Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner, and explore how various tools of training work. In a section on dog behavior, they outline methods for uncovering why dogs do what they do. They also tackle the ethical implications of punishment-based training. It is an extensive introduction to learning theory and training as they apply to the dogs in our care.
I’ve written about Pamela J. Reid’s book Excel-erated Learning before as it is one of my favorite training books. Much like Burch and Bailey, Reid includes a historical overview of training, defines the major terms of learning theory, and provides an account of other factors that affect learning. In precise detail, she lays out how the four quadrants of operant conditioning work, which is why my copy is filled with notes and pink highlighter and was the source of most of my flashcards as I studied for my trainer certification exam.
In The Genius of Dogs Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods draw on studies from the Duke Canine Cognition Center and other research facilities to broaden our understanding of dogs' intelligence and learning capabilities. Their work includes fascinating discoveries about our canine companions—how they think, what they mean, and what they feel. The book is also an exploration of how dogs and humans evolved together into the partnership found around the world today.
If you're interested in learning more, Brian Hare offers a course on dog emotion and cognition on his website.