Interesting Books for the Breeder

A Small Start on a Reference Library

Reviewed below (by category and then by author)

Cavaliers                                         Genetics                              Breeds and Training


Books About Cavaliers:


Brown, J.  2001 and 2003.  Julie Brown's Directory to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Pedigrees.


Do these count as books?  Surely they count as reference materials.  Each page offers a photograph, usually color, of a Cavalier.  Also on the page is information about the breeder and the owner, and sometimes notes about health certifications.  Below the photo is a pedigree -- three, or more often, four generations, presumably whatever the dog's owner submitted.  Sometimes there are brags ("Best puppy in specialty at the 2000 ACKCSC Roving National Specialty at seven months") or claims ("sound, sturdy, well-balanced and typey").

These directories are very good to flip through as you try to develop, first, an eye for a good Cavalier; second, a picture of what you actually like in a Cavalier; and third, an idea of which breeders are producing what in the Cavalier world.  In my copies, the photo quality of the 2001 edition is distinctly better than that of the 2003 edition.  There may be more editions, but I haven't gone online recently to check and I don't remember for sure right off hand.


CKCSC Yearbooks.


You get the Yearbooks for free if you join the CKCSC-USA, or you can order them for $20 or so from the CKCSC web site.  The Yearbooks offer lists of the Cavaliers that earned their championships in the past year, info about dogs that earned points but didn't make their championships, info about performance titles, lots and lots of photos of Cavaliers, lists of stud dogs registered with the club, and complete lists of CKCSC-USA members, indexed by kennel affix.  They are well worth having.


Coile, D. C.  1998.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Not recommended.

This little book is a mere 100 pages long.  It has lots of pretty pictures, some of show-quality Cavaliers and others not.  Coile mentions some of the health problems to which Cavaliers may be subject, but not in much detail -- I would suggest going elsewhere for more thorough descriptions of each problem.  She casually mentions that Cavaliers are "generally a healthy and hearty breed" and then later notes that a particular Swiss insurance company "processed claims related to heart disease in Cavaliers at more than 14 times the mean rate for all other breeds."  Excuse me?  Even more contradictory:  "Claims related to euthanasia or death in Cavaliers aged seven to ten years were processed 13 times more than in other breeds."  I've seen other books in which authors seem to feel compelled to state that every breed mentioned is "generally healthy and hearty," regardless of reality.  This doesn't seem a service to the reader.  I expect the average Cavalier outlives the average Bernese Mountain Dog, but please, let's not go throwing the "generally healthy" phrase around so enthusiastically.

Coile gives the AKC standard and defines some of the terms used, like short-coupled, with which readers might not be familiar.  Then there's general info about what to do to prepare for a new puppy and how to train the newcomer -- housetraining and so forth -- none of it specific to Cavaliers, but all of it perfectly adequate, as far as it goes.  Coile discusses basic obedience training, again, not at any length.  Although she espouses gentle training methods, she also encourages owners to use choke chains, apparently under the fond delusion that the typical dog owner is going to use a choke chain correctly.  I can assure you from an adequate range of personal experience that this is not true.  Then we get a brief description of appropriate grooming for the Cavalier, a possible first-aid kit and advice on how to recognize which problems are serious enough to require a vet, a bit on breeding (with stern advice to the casual owner to please not breed their bitches), and a bit on showing, both in conformation and in performance venues.  There's not a whole lot wrong with this book, I guess, but there's just not much to it, either.  There are far better books out there.


Evans, J.  1990.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Not recommended.

I disagree with this author about too many things to recommend this book, given that superior books exist.

The chapter on the history of the breed is fine.  There are photos throughout of Cavaliers that had an important influence on the breed, which is nice.  There is a tiny bit on genetics, necessarily very introductory.  Evans (of the Alansmere affix) provides a short list of genetic disorders affecting Cavaliers, of which all but 4 are reported as polygenic, so this isn't all that helpful.  There's a very brief description of breeding systems (line breeding, grading up, out-cross breeding, and inbreeding).  Then there's a chapter on what a buyer ought to consider when buying a Cavalier, which is all very fine, but we find here that Evans doesn't think pet owners should spay or neuter their pets!  "Once a bitch has been spayed she loses her puppyhood and her sense of fun."  Oh, come on!

The "puppy management" chapter has little of worth -- the section on housebreaking isn't worth the name.  Evans recommends a diet for Cavalier puppies which would probably be easier to follow in Great Britain, where they probably sell things like puppy biscuit meal.  He doesn't approve of kibbles.  I'm not sure what the difference is between a kibble and puppy biscuit meal.  We get a chapter on building kennels and keeping Cavaliers in them, which strikes me as unnecessary for pet owners and not very helpful to people like me, who plan to breed but not to exceed the number of dogs that can easily fit in the living room at one time.  There's a good bit on showing, oriented towards British shows, of course.  Evans has chapters on breeding -- selecting the stud dog, taking care of the pregnant bitch, whelping, taking care of the puppies, and complications such as infertility and fading puppy syndrome.

And last, Evans has a long section on herbs and homeopathy, with which I am utterly unimpressed.  Evans has a short couple of paragraphs on the history of homeopathy -- suffice it to say that I know a lot more about that history than he seems to, and I am not into using magic water to treat my dogs, thank you.  Evans warns that homeopathic remedies can be very potent, which, it seems to me, is hardly a concern, since superdiluted homeopathic remedies frequently do not even contain a single molecule of the substance that is supposed to have the healing effect!  If you're interested in more about why I think homeopathy is merely magic masquerading as medicine, please go cruise around quackwatch ( ), which will give you the background you need to investigate the topic in more depth if you wish.  Please do not email about this topic until you have read what quackwatch has to say about homeopathy.

There are much better Cavalier books easily available.  I'd suggest this one only for someone who's interested in building a Cavalier library and wants to be complete.  It was the first one I bought and was a major disappointment.


Garnett-Smith, B.  1998.  The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in North America


This is the book I'd recommend for the interested pet owner.  Barbara Garnett-Smith (of the Laughing affix) also has a good website with a lot of pictures of beautiful dogs ( laughinggallery.htm).  Her book also has a fair number of photos of important Cavaliers of the past interspersed throughout the text.  There's a good section on the history of the breed with particular attention to breeders who were instrumental in creating the Cavalier breed.  There there are the "pet owner" chapters -- living with a Cavalier, choosing the right Cavalier, preparing for a new puppy, and general care.  There's a very specific list (down to brand names) of the grooming and other equipment the author particularly recommends.  There's a chapter on the breed standards which lays the AKC, CKC, and CKCSC-USA standards side by side for comparison, with commentary and illustrations -- much better than just reading the standards cold, so to speak.

There's a perfectly fine, if brief, section on training, with emphasis on training for the show ring -- the author is basically recommending a "clicker" type of training in which a verbal marker is substituted for the click.  There's a bit when the author very seriously leads up to correcting a puppy for lack of attention.  I was just beginning to get uneasy when she finally got to the correction:  a stern look, a stern word, and if necessary . . . a poke on the neck with a finger.  Yes, that sounds about right -- attention-getting but not at all scary.

There's a chapter on showing and show grooming, a chapter on breeding with a respectable if brief glance at simple genetics, a bit about heritable problems, a chapter on mating and whelping, and a chapter on raising a litter.  None of these chapters are all that relevant to the pet owner, but they're fun to read.  There are some very good pictures of Cavaliers as they mature -- the same animal as a puppy, a young adult, and finally fully mature.  These are very interesting when you're trying to imagine how your own young puppy is going to turn out.

The penultimate chapter features "noteworthy Cavaliers" -- a full page spread devoted to each of about 20 Cavaliers which Garnett-Smith considers particularly important in the breed.  Finally, there's a chapter on Cavaliers in art, which if fine if you're interested in that kind of thing; the code of ethics from the CKCSC-USA club; and a glossary of terms.


Forward, M.  1967.  The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


This book is by Lady Mary Forward, who is one of the very influential breeders (Eyeworth) early in the breed.  It was Eyeworth dogs which, imported from England to Mrs. Brown of Kentucky, formed the first nucleus of breeding dogs in the United States.  Psyche of Eyeworth was imported in 1952, and others followed.  It was then Mrs. Brown, along with her sister-in-law Trudy Brown, who started the Cavalier King Charles Club, USA.

This book is therefore very much worth owning just for historical reasons, and I was very pleased to be able to snap it up for a nominal price at an auction sponsored by a local Cavalier club.

Lady Mary describes the history of the breed, and her take is particularly interesting because of her important role in that history herself.  Her book includes, unsurprisingly, quite a few photos of animals very important in the history of the breed.  She discusses the standard -- meaning, of course, the original English standard -- and correct Cavalier conformation.  She offers advice for choosing a puppy and describes how to keep Cavaliers and how to breed and raise litters.  When addressing the question of what to look for in a puppy, she mentions the desirability of a "good, cobby body," dark eyes, high-set ears, large eyes, "well-turned stifles," and good temperament.  In discussing pigment, she mentions that "Quite often they [Blenheims] are born with hardly any brown markings to be seen at all, but these will appear by three or four weeks and darken as the puppy grows."  I've never heard that Blenheim puppies are born white, like Dalmatians!  I wonder if this trait isn't one that has changed pretty dramatically since Lady Mary's day?

When talking about breeding, it's worth noting that Lady Mary uses the term 'dominant' when she means 'homozygous.'  I don't know whether that usage was accepted at the time, but it assuredly isn't today, so don't do it yourself.

Lady Mary's take on showing is oriented, of course, towards the British show ring.  She then briefly describes the status of the breed in other countries


Smith, S.  1995.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Today.


Roughly similar to Garnett-Smith, above, this book covers many of the same topics, but with a bit more of an orientation towards the breeder as opposed to the pet owner.  Sheila Smith (Salador) introduces the breed, but then gets right into important topics.  She discusses how one should choose a puppy to keep out of a litter -- you see how this is different from describing how to select a good breeder in order to get a pet puppy -- noting for example that the "natural tail carriage of a puppy can be fairly assessed at an early age, and I would be very wary of keeping one back who carries its tail right over the back when moving around at a trot."  That's good to know.  "The two grey areas in assessing young puppies are the heads and the temperament."  Also good to know, and the ensuing description of what Smith looks for is very interesting.

Smith then does go, briefly, into getting a Cavalier as a pet and caring for it.  She has a lot of photos of a Cavalier being taken through a complete grooming session -- he looks very calm about it all.  This is the last time she seems oriented towards pet owners, however.  She offers both the British and CKCSC-USA standards and then analyzes them.  Then there is a long chapter on influential breeders who played large roles in establishing the breed -- and then another chapter on influential dogs who did the same.

Throughout the book the pictures of Cavaliers are numerous, but never so much as in this chapter  -- almost  all contribute to an understanding of the history of the breed.  Want to see the dogs behind your own personal Cavalier?  Take her pedigree back ten or fifteen generations and then go through Smith's book:  Here's Ch. Rose Mullion of Ottermouth, a sire who sometimes seems to be behind every Cavalier you look at.  Here's Homeranne Caption -- "in possessing the ability to put actual champions (progeny) into the show ring, Caption had no peers."  Salador Charlock, Ch. Kindrum Lucifer of Rutherford, Ch. Rutherford Elliot of Shagbark, and on and on, both in Britain and the USA, also Ireland and Australia and so forth.  There's a whole chapter on wholecolors -- Ch. Caderyn Black Tulip appears, Ch. Rheinvelt Ringold v. Salador, etc.  Garnett-Smith has a fair number of photographs, too, but Smith has a good many more.

Smith winds up with chapters on breeding and health care.  According to Smith, her own personal favorite of the Homerbrent / Homeranne line was a blenheim bitch named Ch. Homerbrent Samantha -- her picture is the first one in the breeding chapter.  Perhaps that's because Smith immediately goes on to discuss the importance of the brood bitch.  Anyway, she then has a chapter on rearing puppies and then finishes with one on health care.  She seems to favor herbal stuff and gives a nod to homeopathy, which I cordially despise -- the homeopathy, not the herbs, though I wouldn't be inclined to treat herbs as magic wands, either -- but the chapter isn't bad overall, though I greatly prefer Garnett-Smith's, above, or Walcowicz and Wilcox, below, for a more extended discussion of the problems that can attend whelping.  Nevertheless, I'd forgive a lot more for all the outstanding history contained in this book.


Thresh, M., et al., compilers.  2000. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Champions 1928-1999.


This is exactly what its title implies:  a compilation of zillions of Champion Cavaliers from the very beginning of the breed onward.  These are British Champions, not CKCSC-USA or AKC Champions.  It is not very easy to make up a British Champion, so there are actually only about 500 animals listed in this book.  Each is shown with a black-and-white photo, date of birth, breeder, owner, and a 3-generation pedigree.

The first dog listed is Daywell Roger, born in 1945.  That name will be familiar to anyone who has been reading detailed accounts of the history of the breed.  Daywell Roger, a grandson of Ann's Son, takes us back to the very earliest days of the Cavalier breed.  The last dog shown is Ricksbury Royal Emblem, born in 1995.  The Champions shown in between make fascinating browsing.  I don't know if this book is easy to find via Internet searching, but it is often offered for sale at CKCSC shows, which is where I got my copy.



Books (and a few recommended articles) About Genetics, Breeding, and Related Subjects


Bell, Jerold.  August 2000, AKC Gazette.  Choosing wisely:  understanding the benefits -- and limitations -- of genetic tests and selection methods can help in the quest to develop healthy breeding programs.

Ibid.  February 2001.  Genetic researchers find canine melting pot.

Ibid.  June 2001.  The effects of genetic testing:  constructive or destructive?

Ibid.  August 2001.  Hereditary hypothyroidism:  understanding the disease process.

Ibid.  May 2003.  Determining whether a condition is inherited.

Ibid.  ??.  Breeding strategies for management of genetic disorders.

Ibid.  Popular sire syndrome and concerns of genetic diversity.

Ibid.  Practical genetic counseling in pure-bred populations.  SAA.

Ibid.  Epidemiological studies of inherited disorders. SAA.

Ibid.  Managing polygenic disease.  SAA.

Ibid.  The ins and outs of pedigree analysis, genetic diversity, and genetic disease control.

Ibid.  Removing the stigma of genetic disease.  SAA. 

Ibid.  Developing a healthy breeding program. -- this one seems to perhaps be a presentation or summary rather than an article.


All articles by Jerold Bell are worth tracking down.  Some are available on the internet, but I haven't been able to find all of them on-line.  (I haven't tried very hard since I have them in paper form.)  The links above may include articles by other well-known authors on the subject of genetics and breeding dogs.  Most are worth reading, but I can hardly list every good article, or even author, here!  Bell is the one I admire the most.


Cole, R.  2004.  An Eye for a Dog.

Highly recommended.

A wonderful book, by a man who is both a show judge and a gifted artist, already well-known (in certain circles) for his You Be The Judge series of breed booklets.  We've all seen line drawings and photographs purporting to show correct and incorrect movement, no doubt.  Well, Robert Cole does it better and far more thoroughly.  Cole will draw a Dalmatian, remove the spots so you can see the dog with less distraction, and then make a dozen different changes to the same dog -- shortening the legs by one (to scale) inch, lengthening or shortening the body by one inch, deepening the body by one inch, dropping the brisket under the elbow, removing angulation front and rear, and so forth.

Cole spends a lot of time showing correct and incorrect movement at the trot and describes in detail what various standards say about movement at the trot and why.  He'll juxtapose a correct whippet at the trot with a correct Italian greyhound and explain what you should see in each.  Then he'll show a square breed like the Great Dane at the trot and contrast it with the flying trot of the German Shepherd, or show correct versus incorrect movement, or ask the reader to contrast sets of trotting dogs of different breeds.  Did you know that any breed showing correct movement at the trot should have a period of suspension when all four feet are off the ground -- even Pugs and Dachshunds?

It's not all movement -- we have chapters that focus on the forechest, or toplines, or fronts, or proportions (length vs height) in different breeds; I had no idea the Ibizan hound had such an odd front, but it clearly works for the breed.  Cole closes with a chapter or two on faults and illlusions -- how color patches can distract the eye and create the appearance of faults; how real faults like sickle hocks influence movement -- and on mouth faults that have taken him by surprise in his career as a judge.


Coppinger, R., and L. Coppinger.  2001.  Dogs:  A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution. 

Recommended, with caveats.

I've rarely felt this ambivalent about a book after reading it.  Here's why:  I find part of this book very useful, and part of it completely useless.  Both sections have the same strength, which at times becomes a weakness:  the authors are trained biologists.  So am I, which may give me a different take on this book than other readers probably experience.

The first part of the book is about the possible origin of dogs.  This part I really liked.  I've said for years and years that dogs probably did not evolve from wolves -- they evolved from dogs.  I, like the Coppingers, used the chimp-human analogy:  chimps may be the closest living relative of humans, but that doesn't mean humans evolved from chimps!  But the Coppingers unquestionably took the bones of this idea and fleshed them out to develop a clear, coherent theory of just how it all worked.  Might have worked.  (The argument is sufficiently persuasive that I can easily find myself assuming it must be true.)

The second part of the book, which concerned the origination of some of the original types of dogs -- herding dogs, village dogs, sled dogs -- was equally good.

The third part, which deals with current purebred dogs and the human-pet relationship, I don't care for at all. I have more than philosophical objections to considering that pet dogs and their owners are engaged in a mutually harmful relationship:  I also think the Coppinger's background as evolutionary biologists has thrown a spanner in the works for this section.

The Coppingers assert that humans decrease their own fitness by pouring resources into supporting pet dogs.  This may be true, sort of, and I can see why an evolutionary biologist, trained to consider biological fitness the end-all and be-all of everything, could get sucked into this point of view.  I have moments like this myself.  (Oh, my gosh!  I don't have children!  My fitness is zero!  I might as well be dead as far as natural selection is concerned!)  Then I get over it, because, since I am not a fruit fly, there is in fact more to my life than reproduction.

The ":fitness" of living organisms, in evolutionary terms, is determined by how many descendents they leave behind them.  Normal organisms act so as to maximize their own fitness, because if they had behavioral traits that prevented them from doing so, those traits would be selected against and would disappear from the population.  But humans are not normal organisms, a point often forgotten by those who work with the evolution of other animals and then try to switch to thinking about humans.  People in developed nations do not behave so as to maximize their fitness and haven't since the famous demographic transition.  They make choices that raise their personal standard of living instead.  Rather than having twenty children, for example, a woman in a developed country may choose to be a concert pianist -- a choice which requires her to have fewer, even no, children.  This sort of choice is not available to normal organisms (or to stone-age peoples, who probably did act so as to maximize their fitness).

Pet dogs today should not be considered parasites, as the authors conclude.  The authors are dead wrong on this point.  Instead, from an economic (resource) point of view, pets are luxury goods.  Buying a Porsche does not increase a woman's biological fitness, but it doesn't lower it, either, because the resources she spends for the car would not otherwise be spent on allowing her to have more children -- she wouldn't have more children in any case.  She might spend the money on something else or save it for the future, but she will not have as many children as she could potentially support economically because that isn't how women in developed counties behave.  Buying and supporting pet dogs is like buying a car -- it's the same as buying any other luxury item that allows you to enjoy life, and does not affect your (evolutionary) fitness at all.

I have never seen anyone else conclude that service dogs hate their lives, which the Coppingers do.  I will certainly keep an eye on service dogs from now on and see if they look to me like they're stressed-out miserable creatures.  I doubt that a woman who used to post on the clicker list when I subscribed -- a woman with multiple sclerosis, who had three Papillons she had trained herself as service dogs -- would agree with this estimate of the lot of service dogs.  Of course, a lot more service dogs are trained by institutions than by private people.  To the extent that the Coppingers are correct about the flaws embedded in their training methods, and the authors make some disturbing comments, then those institutions may not be doing the dogs much of a favor.

Finally, I have doubts about the tragedy of "trapping" dogs in modern pure breeds or "enslaving" them in harmful pet relationships. (Of course, I would.)  Limiting an animal's biological fitness by spaying or neutering it certainly does not bother me, because I don't enshrine evolutionary fitness as some kind of ultimate moral good for myself or for pet dogs.  Having owners who abuse their pets in the name of "love" makes me sick, although not as sick as owners who abuse their pets out of outright sadism.  I think I am just as disgusted by the sight of a desperately overweight pet as the Coppingers are -- especially Cavaliers, as Cavaliers are so much at risk for health problems once they become overweight.

I hope the Coppingers overestimate the proportion of pet dogs who are trapped in abusive homes, I really do.  But I also think the Coppingers idealize the glorious life of a pariah dog -- what they call a village dog -- more than a little.  It is common to assume that animals who are living natural lives in the wild feel happy and fulfilled.  But life in the wild is not a stroll through the Garden of Eden.  There are diseases and injuries -- most wild wolves examined by biologists have suffered severe injuries in their lives -- there is hunger and want and every sign of emotional pain as low-ranking individuals are ostracized from their social groups.  Wolves can and do tear each other up in dominance or territorial struggles, and there is no veterinary care for the loser, which quite often suffers and dies on its own.  That you aren't there watching does not relieve the fact of its suffering in the slightest.  Nature does not enshrine a "right to the pursuit of happiness" in her inflexible law.  A village dog may be free to reproduce (and free to watch her puppies die of accidents, disease, parasitism, predation, or hunger, as most pups do, or to die in agony herself because of a whelping difficulty), but I doubt, somehow, that a spayed bitch in a good pet home dwells on her lack of reproductive capacity, any more than a dog who has its leg amputated dwells on its lack of physical wholeness the way a human does.  These are human worries that we experience on behalf of our pets.  My own estimation is that a properly-cared-for pet has a life much better than your typical pariah dog.  That some pets are not properly cared for does not, for me, suffice to condemn the whole idea of keeping dogs as pets.

It may be true that inbreeding as practiced for modern purebreds will doom purebred dogs to ill health and eventual extinction.  I doubt this, however.  For more on that, please check out my inbreeding page.


Craige, P.  2002.  Born to Win:  Breed to Succeed.


What can I say?  This is a fine book by a long-time and very successful breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds.  Every aspiring breeder should add this one to her library.

There is essentially no genetics in this book -- Patricia Craige refers to that section, which is very short, as "bonehead genetics", which is apt.  There is a great deal, however, about establishing a breeding program, with extensive "case histories" of great foundation bitches of many breeds, for example; a lot more about selecting a really good stud dog once you have a bitch to breed from, with similar "case histories" of great sires.

Under her "Winning means hard work" section, Craige spends quite a bit of time discussing the selection of puppies and the importance of conditioning and grooming, then goes on to deal with solving problems -- such as heat stroke -- an exhibitor may be faced with at a show.  Then there's a long section about the actual process of showing -- not the mechanics of it so much as what to look for in a judge and how to decide when and where to show, that kind of thing.  There are many anecdotes about famous people -- judges and breeders and handlers -- tossed in to illustrate this and that point.  Kind of a You Are There look into the show world.  This may not be of as much practical use, but it adds depth and richness to the book.


Elliott, R. P.  2001.  Dogsteps.


Short (124 pp) and a LOT of the space inside this book is taken up by line drawings.  The drawings are useful in explaining the material, though.  If you want to start building a good theoretical understanding of canine structure and how it relates to performance, this is a good book to start with, although in a lot of ways I prefer Robert Cole's book, above.  Ditto with learning the breeder-exhibiter vocabulary of canine structure and gait (roach back, pacing, "running downhill", "flat withers", having "more behind the tail" -- all with good illustrations).  There are interesting comparisons of the structure of galloping breeds, trotting breeds, etc.

Elliott used cineradiography -- "moving x-rays" to get a look at the actual bone structure of dogs standing and moving normally, which is unique and instructive.  She also spends a lot of time on movement faults, with numerous line drawings.  In fact, this book spends more time on faulty movement than Lyon's, which emphasizes correct movement.  Both are useful.

This book is annoying because it's the wrong size to fit on any normal shelf.  It's worth the trouble, but it annoys my perfectionist soul to have to shelve it in the wrong place due to its unnecessarily nonstandard size and shape.


Fleig, D.  1992.  The Technique of Breeding Better Dogs.

Half-heartedly recommended.

This is actually not a book on genetics.  It is a book on the hands-on aspects of breeding -- choosing the brood bitch and stud, all sorts of stuff about mating and gestation and whelping, caring for the nursing bitch and her puppies, and rearing the litter.  The title therefore seems a little misleading to me, since given reasonable physical care the only way you could be producing "better" dogs is in the choice of the parents -- which would seem to imply some discussion of genetics.  But there you are.

Fleig does have interesting tables that are unique to his book:  success rates for artificial insemination in various breeds -- that's neat to know (thoroughly outdated now, though) -- all the data were taken from one institution, which should have controlled somewhat for differences in AI technique.  (Afghan Hounds had a terrible success rate with AIs -- 9%!  I wonder why?  Apparently this was not a sample size problem, btw.)  There are a reasonable number of other tables -- relationship between the length of the pregnancy and the number of pups in the litter; birth-weight of puppy in relation to the weight of the mother . . . etc.  There's no reason not to pick up this book if you have a chance, but it might not be my first choice (Walkowicz is more fun to read). 


Hastings, P.  2000.  Tricks of the Trade and "Puppy Puzzle."

Highly recommended.

"Puppy Puzzle" is an outstanding video Pat Hastings put together based on her experience evaluating eight week old puppies for conformation.  "What you see and, more importantly, what you feel at eight weeks is what the puppy will grown into as an adult dog.  This applies to all breeds across the board."  Pat Hastings and her husband have evaluated a great many litters of puppies, keeping careful records, and I'm inclined to take her claim seriously, though I've seen it disputed by proponents of one breed or another.  Note that she's not talking about type, but about structural conformation.  If you want to see real-life examples of problems you hear about -- sickle hocks, straight shoulders -- this is the video to buy.  It's just wonderful.

Tricks of the Trade is a book which in part echos the video.  The puppy evaluation chapter is nearly word-for-word from the video.  The Hastings have been professional handlers and so the book goes into what they consider to be the really essential equipment necessary for showing a dog, nutrition, training a dog to show, grooming, general tips about keeping a show dog in condition, and information about advertising a show dog.

 One promising tip for getting weight off a dog is to cut its regular (quality) food ration in half and make up the difference with plain popcorn or rice cakes.  That sounds like it ought to work -- I haven't tried it, since I've had no trouble keeping weight off my dogs.  An even better tip is to look at the dog every day and cut back the food before you find you have a serious weight problem!  If there's one thing you can do to help your Cavalier live a long healthy life free of congestive heart failure it's keeping the weight OFF!

Best quote:  "A sound dog will age more gracefully, be less likely to break down from stress or injury, experience less fatigue and greater efficiency in work, and stay healthier and more attractive throughout its life."  I totally agree.  But it was a hard pick.  There are a lot of good short tips and quotes in this book.


Hutt, F.B.  1979.  Genetics for Dog Breeders.

Highly recommended.

This one's old, but it's very good.  Hutt provides a pretty typical explanation of basic genetics and the standard variations on the theme -- incomplete dominance, epistasis, lethality, sex linkage, polygeny and so on.  But he uses mostly canine examples throughout, which is both interesting and of practical use to the dog breeder.  He then goes on to discuss test-crosses and how to use them and how to decide what the results tell you, and where the statistical pitfalls lie and how to correct for them -- for example, as Hutt explains, if a breeder tries to figure out the mode of inheritance of a trait, but includes in her analysis only litters which included at least one affected puppy, then she'll overestimate the proportion of affected puppies.  For a straight-up no-frills one-gene recessive trait, about a quarter of all crosses between parents both of which are carriers won't produce any affected puppies, and if you don't include those crosses in your analysis, you'll badly overestimate the proportion of affected puppies.  Then Hutt explains how to correct for this problem.  This is a very valuable discussion for anyone who wants to do her own analyses to figure out the mode of inheritance of various traits.

Hutt then goes on to give a long list of genetic defects and explain what's known about their inheritance.

But other authors have done those things, although not always as well.

What Hutt does that is particularly useful is provide brief summaries of the actual data that underlie the claims researchers have made about their inheritance patterns.  He does this better than anyone else, even Willis.  This is extremely valuable.  First, it show very clearly the kinds of data breeders ought to be collecting and clarifies how genetic analyses are performed.  The very thorough and well-designed analysis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in Springer Spaniels is a great example.  Hutt shows the pedigree arising from the test-crosses made and a table of the results and has a fine text description as well.  Thus the reader can be confident that, at least in Springers, Ehlers-Danlos is a dominant trait with complete penetrance and probably some lethality of homozygotes.

In contrast, Hutt describes the analysis of Collie Eye Anomaly, describes the test-crosses used to investigate this problem, and explains why the investigators in that case concluded that the trait was a simple recessive.  Then he goes on to re-analyze the same data, add more detail, and explain (very persuasively) why he doesn't think CEA is actually a simple recessive at all, but rather polygenic.  This seriously beats the pattern for many books of providing simply a list of defects along with (presumed) modes of inheritance.

Hutt is one author who believes that HWE analysis can be useful for thinking about simple recessive traits in dog breeds.  Here's his take on the "random breeding" issue:  "It is true that breeders do not make matings at random.  They go on appearance, performance, and general desirability.  However, so far as single, unseen, unknown genes that may be floating around in the breed are involved, the matings are essentially at random."  I agree, but there are some caveats to think about before you leap into HWE calculations with both hands.

Anyway, there's lots more.  This is not a book to read through briskly, like a murder mystery.  This is one to read carefully, taking one's time and carefully studying the examples given.


Isabell, J.  2002.  An Introduction to Genetics for Dog Breeders.

Very highly recommended.

A very fine work; thankfully not too introductory.  Isabell, a Weimaraner breeder who draws heavily from her personal experience, first hits the different-but-related disciplines embedded within the wider field of genetics, providing just enough of an overview so that an interested complete novice could begin to frame appropriate questions, which is about the right level of detail for a book of this kind.  Then she offers yet one more overview of coat color genetics -- everybody seems to.  Fine so far.  Isabell weight in on whether Hardy-Weinburg works for dogs (arguing that it does); my thoughts on that issue are here.

The book really shines when Isabell gets to her discussion of structural traits, genetic and congenital disorders, and common hereditary problems.  She does a really nice job when she talks about how to verify that a problem truly is genetic and figure out its mode of inheritance.  For example, Isabell lists known teratogens -- environmental factors that can induce congenital defects -- as part of her discussion about distinguishing genetic problems from environmentally-induced ones.  Do you know how many things can cause cleft palates?  Lots and lots, it turns out -- a riboflavin, vitamin A, or zinc deficiency; an excess of vitamin D or vitamin E; corticosteroids; worming agents; or simple dehydration.  Who would have guessed?  It would be nice to know how much of a nutritional problem it takes, how severe the dehydration needs to be, etc. -- but still.  A very interesting list.

Isabell offers a guess from her own experience as a breeder that late descent of testes in male puppies is a hint about a genetic predisposition toward cryptorchidism (retention of testicles in the abdominal cavity, a disqualifying fault in all breeds), which sure sounds plausible a priori and gets more so when she lays out her evidence.  She's followed several generations in which male dogs had early descent of testes and sure enough, noted a significant decrease of cryptorchidism in their descendents.  Isn't that interesting?  And the daughters of such males produced less cryptorchidism than usual in their sons, too.  Adds another selection criterion when you're selecting puppies, doesn't it?  There's a fair bit of good, specific, practical information a breeder can get out of this book on things like that.

When talking about genetic problems, Isabell picks a few and goes into them in depth.  Her discussion of hip dysplasia is certainly one of the best I've seen.  She goes into the history of control efforts and provides an interesting summary of OFA statistics on a breed-by-breed level.  Most interesting, she provides a summary of the results from a study that looked at correlations between physical appearance of a breed and the incidence of hip dysplasia.  This discussion really shed some light on why Cavaliers might show more hip dysplasia than other toy breeds.

The best section -- and they're all good -- from my point of view as a serious but inexperience breeder, is the one where Isabell goes into selection criteria.  That is, how to decide which puppies to keep from a litter; how to decide which male would be a good choice for your girl; that kind of thing.  She gives really good examples -- one for using Independent Culling Levels for whippets; one for a using a Total Score Index for Weims, examples of puppy evaluation records and records of adult breeding evaluations.  This makes fascinating reading when you are thinking about becoming a serious breeder.

She has, last, a very quick overview of the color alleles present in all the AKC breeds.  Really, this kind of thing is fraught with peril.  Nobody is that familiar with all the breeds.  This is the second such list I've seen -- I'm sure there are lots more -- where Papillons are shown as all tt (unticked).  They're frequently ticked (T_).  It's just that this trait is not considered to be worth mentioning in the breed and, since ticking doesn't get noticed or recorded, they keep getting into lists as unticked.  I bet there are a lot of breeds that have errors recorded for posterity in lists like this one.  Isabell also includes a "catalogue of congenital and hereditary disorders" for most breeds, although earlier in the book she carefully describes the severe limitations of such lists.  I wouldn't have bothered to include either list, but it's not like it detracts significantly from the overall quality of the book to put them in.

If I were buying just one book on genetics to get started, it would be this one.


Lee, M. P.  1997.  The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies. 


Muriel Lee offers practical advise about what do when your bitch is whelping, what to do if problems occur, how to care for very young puppies, what healthy puppies should look like and how to recognize and deal with sickly puppies, how to care for a nursing bitch if she runs into trouble, how to hand-raise puppies, and how to raise the growing litter.

Before writing this book, Lee conducted a survey of 27 long-time breeders.  The results of this survey are interspersed through the text.  Twenty-seven isn't a huge number, but the survey is still interesting.  Have you had any litters that went past the 63rd day?  A third of breeders said yes.  Do you sit with your bitch once she goes into labor?  100% do.  (I should think so.)  Have you had any difficulty with mothers not accepting their pups after a C-section?  9 of 14 breeders said yes.

Occasionally I wonder if the results of a survey question are reliable.  If you have a good whelper and a good mother, do you find that the majority of her female offspring are the same way?  Yes, said 21 of 24 breeders.  But I still wonder.  This is plausible.  But unless the breeders actually take notes on this trait, this may just be their subjective impression -- and memory is notoriously selective.  So this survey question gets tagged interesting if true and I wait for good data from some other source, like personal experience.

The information is clear and well-presented.  The book is spiral-bound, handy for laying out flat on the floor or a table while, say, your bitch is whelping.  Directions for tube-feeding puppies are reassuringly precise.  Directions for taping the legs of a "swimmer" puppy are shown with pictures illustrating the process, which looks simple.  This book looks like a good one to read over again before your bitch is due.  I plan to.


Lyon, M.  1950.  The Dog in Motion.


I think I remember that this book has been reissued recently, but I had no special trouble finding a copy of the 1950 edition on  It's worth tracking down.

"The forehand assembly of a dog is as busy as a centipede crossing the floor.  For all dogs it has five missions and for terriers, six.  First, it must support weight.  Second, it must absorb concussion both from the momentum of the gait and the jump.  Third, it must propel on the turns.  Forth, there is lateral displacement to be off-set.  Fifth, it must aid in or maintain the level of the center of gravity.  Sixth, the terriers use it for spade and shovel.  Remember that in every stride of every dog at least four of these are manifested."

"A Boston or other small dog jumping from your lap to the floor receives more concussion relatively than a horse taking the bars in the Maryland Hunt Cup race.  You may not think of your house dog as facing the problems of a field dog but if you hang a pedometer on his collar sometimes you are in for a surprise.  The weight that the Chihuahua's shoulder supports is the same in proportion to that of a Dane's."

If you ever wondered why breed standards were written as they were, read this book.  If you want to know what the original breeders of your breed had in mind when describing "ideal" structure, read this book.  If you want to know why structure matters and how bones and muscles work mechanically to allow the dog to function, that's exactly what this book is for.

Lyon talks a lot about the virtues of a 45 degree shoulder layback.  We know, from Rachel Page Elliot's work with "moving x-rays," that this degree of layback is certainly not ideal and probably not possible.  However, it's important to keep in mind that the ways in which different people measure shoulder layback differs and that everyone agrees that a shoulder "well laid back" is very desirable (for a trotting dog).  Read both.  Lyon goes into a lot more depth on most subjects and is well worth adding to your library.


Matznick, J. K.  Handraising Puppies.


This short (63 pp) booklet was published by TFH, which seems to have a problem with putting the date of publication in its material, so heaven knows how old this product is.  It's not bad.  Since it focuses solely on handraising puppies, don't look for any information on whelping or whelping difficulties here.  Janice Matznick does have a lot more on raising and socializing single orphans than Muriel Lee has in her book.  Many of the suggestions would be appropriate when you have a litter of one, even if the mother is raising it normally.

I wouldn't suggest this little book as your sole source of information on raising puppies, but it's okay as a supplement to more complete sources.


Onstott, K.  1962.  The New Art of Breeding Better Dogs.

Not Recommended

This book shows why it is not wise to use the word "new" in your title.  Lord, what a difference four decades makes!  Onstott is pointing the way to a brave new world, one in which genetic diseases can be wiped out with ease, fluffed aside lightly at the breeder's whim.

Well, that's the tone, anyway.  The whole attitude is one of great optimism.  Onstott mentions in the intro that he "took a great deal of pains to keep the style simple" -- well, let me tell you, it's not as simple as all that.  Readable, yes, but certainly not light and frothy.  I wonder just how heavy his normal style would be?

Onstott hits the mechanics of reproduction, describes embryonic development, provides a straightforward description of simple Mendelian inheritance, describes mitotic and meiotic cell division, spends quite a lot of time discussing the concept of prepotency, and goes off into paeans about the usefulness of an understanding of genetics in achieving perfection.  "A conscious application of Mendelism . . . will enable the small breeder as well as the large breeder to make his matings with an assurance and confidence, with a definiteness of the end in view, with an absence of guess-work which were hitherto impossible."  If only.

Onstott then goes on to describe the inheritance of sex, discuss sterility and cryptorchidism, describe inbreeding, linebreeding, and outbreeding, and spends a good bit of time considering the use of pedigrees.  Then there is quite a good (but short) chapter on "knowing what you want" in a breeding program and getting yourself set to achieve it.  Frankly, Mary Roslin Williams does this better and at more length.  There are chapters on choosing a brood bitch or a stud dog, and a somewhat entertaining chapter on misconceptions that breeders may hold, or might have at one time.

But this book, though it still has some good information and is worth reading if you're a collector, is interesting primarily for a look at the history of genetic thought in the world of dog breeding.  This is not the right book to start with if you're just getting into the subject.


Padgett, G. A.  1998.  Control of Canine Genetic Diseases.

Highly recommended.

I see references to this book all the time.  It's good, yes.  It's useful.  As a resource to have on the shelf, it's very valuable.  All his probability tables are excellent.  Where the are-you-keeping-up quizzes in FutureDog seemed a bit patronizing, Padgett's seem well-thought out exercises for the student.  His examples of extended family trees are really neat.  This book has very, very good advice to breeder and to breed clubs.  And yet.  And yet . . .

Padgett's tone annoys me, all right?  His I'm Such a Rebel attitude grates.  Especially on a second reading, or a third, his "He wants us to think knowledge is better than ignorance!  String him up!" diatribes sound . . . shrill.

Granted, it must be exasperating to continually deal with breeders who think they can't breed a dog unless it's genetically perfect, or lie about what their dogs have produced, or whatever.

Anyway, yes, you should buy this book if you're interested in breeding.  It'd make a valuable addition to your reference library.  Here's what it has in it:  the development of pedigrees (very good).  Modes of inheritance (fairly standard).  Tables and probabilities (really excellent).  Want to know the probability that a given animal is not carrying (autosomal recessive) PRA if it was bred to a known carrier and produced five normal puppies and no affected puppies?  It's 76.3%.  What if it was bred to an animal affected by PRA and it produced five normal puppies and none affected?  The chance it's clear of PRA just went up to 95.8%.  [This is why breeders sometimes do test matings to affected animals.]  The tables are just great.

The use of pedigrees to determine the genetic status of given dogs (excellent).  The use of pedigrees to determine the mode of inheritance of a trait (excellent).  I found myself coming back to these chapters again and again, studying the pedigrees and wishing I had family trees like this for my dog.  The use of test mating (excellent -- really excellent).  Registries and prioritizing genetic diseases (excellent).  Breed clubs and control of genetic disease and advice to the breeder (very good to excellent.)  If breed clubs followed Padgett's advice, we'd all be better off.

However, I do have a few caveats.  Padgett uses Hardy-Weinberg math to calculate carrier frequencies in various breeds, while stating that Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium calculations don't really apply to purebred dogs.  Well, maybe they do and maybe they don't, but I object to Padgett trying to have it both ways.  What he should have said, like Willis, is that HWE calculations may be able to at least give you a snapshot of current carrier frequencies in your breed -- even if the breed is not at equilibrium and the frequencies change in the next generation.  Then he should have discussed that.  Actually, Jerold Bell disagrees with both Willis and Padgett, with a brief but devastating statement that studies have established that there is no mathematical relationship between the frequencies of affected vs. carrier animals in domestic animal populations.

Further, Padgett starts, in this chapter, to give lists of genetic diseases with suspected mode of inheritance.  Unlike Hutt or Willis, he provides no data.  In some cases the suspected mode he lists is probably wrong and you have no way to tell which cases unless you have personal knowledge of the defect in question -- or a copy of Hutt or Willis (I prefer Hutt, but Willis is more current).  Moreover, Padgett doesn't hesitate to list conformation defects right along with real diseases.  That's how he comes up with his "40% of all dogs have a defect" estimate.  Yes, a crooked or kinked tail is undesirable.  Or an undershot or overshot bite.  Or missing teeth.  Or shyness.  Or cryptorchidism.  But do you think for one second that these traits should be listed right alongside ataxia, retinal detachment and epilepsy as "diseases"?  A breeder should give thanks to God if the worst problem that crops up in her puppies is, for heaven's sake, missing teeth.  Oh, Padgett acknowledges that these faults are not serious, but he includes them in his estimates, all the same.  It would be far more relevant to estimate the percentage of purebred (and random-bred) dogs that are affected by a serious genetic problem.

Padgett is not impressed by breeders who think, or pretend to think, that genetic perfection exists, and that secrecy is better than knowledge.  Best quote:  "Here you have the exact situation you want.  You have three top-notch dogs.  You know the exact status of all three high-quality animals regarding all genetic diseases that have been reported in the breed.  These dogs carry no more than the average number of genetic diseases that are known to occur in the breed, and you would not breed from this bitch or breed to the males?"  Padgett's sharp tone in this case seems to me to be completely justified.

Finally, Padgett provides a difficult-to-follow list of all genetic defects ever described for all AKC recognized breeds, plus a lot more unrecognized breeds.  "Ever described" does not mean "common in the breed" and for this reason the list is of dubious value.  Some defects listed are certainly wrong.  Color dilution alopecia for Cavaliers?  Cavaliers do not have the color dilute allele (d)!  They would have a hard time having this form of alopecia!  Who, in heaven's name, reported this defect, and based on what evidence?  We have no idea from this list, but I don't believe it.  How many blue Cavaliers have you seen?  Likewise, some of the modes of inheritance listed for the genetic defects are almost certainly wrong.  People are always guessing about mode of inheritance on the basis of very limited and inadequate data.  I'd take such guesses with a grain of salt until I looked up the evidence myself.  I strongly suspect a new breeder will get better information on what defects are actually common in her breed by finding the right experienced breeders to ask.  For modes of inheritance I'd head, of course, first to Hutt, then to Willis, and then to the Internet.

All caveats aside, a lot about this book is very good.  A lot is excellent.  It belongs in the serious breeder's library.


Ruvinsky, A., and J. Sampson.  2001.  Genetics of the Dog.

Recommended . . . sort of.

This is not a "practical genetics for the breeder" kind of book.  This is a scholarly collection of articles on the same general topic, a type of book I haven't seen a lot of since graduate school.  Some of the articles are interesting and easy enough to read.  Some demand a lot more background in molecular genetics than I have yet managed to acquire, and I can only get the gist (sometimes not even that).  The most useful thing I can probably offer is the table of contents, so here it is, annotated:

1.  Phylogeny and Origin of the Domestic Dog (Wayne and Vila)  -- Frankly, I think the Coppingers do it at least as well, in far more depth, and in a vastly more readable style.  The most interesting single sentence for me was "Within breeds, the genetic diversity is high."  The authors do not support this statement, but simply state it as though it is common knowledge.  Their lit cited section would be worth browsing through, I'm sure, which is often true with articles of this sort.

2.  Experimental Studies of Early Canid Domestication (Trut) -- the author focus mainly on the famous fox domestication experiment carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

3.  Consequences of Domestication:  Morphological Diversity of the Dog (Wayne) -- development and allometry, with emphasis on cranial morphology.

4.  Genetics of Coat Colour and Hair Texture (Sponenberg and Rothschild) -- Sponenberg, of course, is the author of the superb Equine Colour Genetics, which I strongly recommend.  This chapter, especially considering the date of publication, is one I would consider definitive at this time.

5.  Genetics of Morphological Traits and Inherited Disorders (Nicholas) -- consists almost exclusively of a long tedious list of disorders, with references to whomever made the first report and latest report on the condition and notes about the peptides affected.  This is good to have as a reference, especially as the lit cited section is longer than the article, but as reading material -- one would flee screaming.

6.  Biochemical Genetics and Blood Groups (Juneja, Gerlach, Hale) -- a "review on the different canine biochemical and serological genetic markers . . . and their significance in dog genetics and medicine."  Some bits are interesting, but a lot of it is over my head.

7.  Molecular Genetics of the Dog (Sargan, Sampson, Binns) -- not my field.  I read it, but remember nothing and don't feel like wading through it again.

8.  Immunogenetics (Wagner, Storb, Marti) -- this is an interesting subject, but reread the relevant chapter from your handy physiology textbook before you tackle this chapter.  It offers tantalizing suggestions of topics that would be interesting to research.

9.  Genetic Aspects of Disease in Dogs (Brooks and Sargan) -- another long list of defects, with brief descriptions of the symptoms plus references.  There are quite a few diseases discussed with in more detail, fortunately -- that makes this chapter a good companion to Hutt and Willis, given the time spanned by these works.  The authors make far more of an attempt to examine genetic similarities between canine and human diseases than Hutt or Willis do.  This is a long chapter with a very long lit cited section.

10.  Genetics of Canine Hip Dysplasia and Other Orthopedic Traits (Breur, Lust, Todhunter) -- good look at the current research on this topic.  The chapter hits a large number of orthopedic traits, mostly in very little detail.

11. Cytogenetics and Physical Chromosome Maps (Breen, Switonski, Binns) -- the part about chromosomal abnormalities is the only part I read.  And it was a short section.

12.  Linkage and Radiation Hybrid Mapping in the Canine Genome (Ostrander, Galibert, Mellersh) -- I haven't read this chapter at all, yet.  It has a long, long table of gene symbols, names, loci, and DNA primers and an appendix with a set of linkage maps.  Not my field at all, but under some circumstances it could be useful, since it shows which genes are known to be linked to which others.

13.  Genetics of Behavior (Houpt and Willis) -- much, much more interesting -- I saved this chapter for last as a reward for wading through the molecular stuff.  All kinds of stuff -- behavioral selection of working dogs, breed differences, trainability, agression, etc -- but not in great detail.  It's only a short chapter, after all.  The references are great if you want to get into the literature.

14.  Biology of Reproduction and Modern Reproductive Technology (Linde-Forsberg) -- fine, I guess, but there are any number of books intended for the breeder that are a whole lot more detailed.

15.  Developmental Genetics (Ruvinsky) -- just what it says, embryology and development.  Interesting stuff, but not of much practical use.

16.  Pedigree Analysis, Genotype Testing and Genetic Counseling (Oberbauer and Sampson) -- this is the most useful section for breeders, especially the bit on genetic counseling and the potential role of kennel clubs.

17.  Genetics of Quantitative Traits and Improvement of Dog Breeds (Famula) -- too brief to be really useful, but of course interesting.

18.  The Canine Model in Medical Genetics (Galibert, Wilton, Chuat) -- not relevant to breeders.

19.  Dog Genetic Data and Forensic Evidence (Savolainen and Lundeberg) -- focuses on the use of current genetic data to figure out the evolutionary history of dog breeds, but this article also does just what its title suggests -- recounts cases when evidence of canine origin at a crime scene was used in the investigation.  (Who cares?)


Spira, H. R.  1982 (reprinted 2001).  Canine Terminology.


An essential dictionary for the novice breeder -- I found it very informative when I first flipped through it and I expect I'll refer to it over and over for years.  Want to know the difference between a camel back, a carp back, a roach back, a wheel back?  Spira will explain, with illustrations.  Want to know what a breeder means when she uses terms like "stilted gait" or "well ribbed-up" or "hocks well let down"?  Spira will tell you about all these and lots, lots more.  A very handy reference manual.


Sponenberg, D. P.  1996.  Equine Color Genetics.


I don't know why it is, but for some reason everyone (yes, me too) seems to find color genetics particularly interesting.  Raise the subject of genetics and nine times out of ten that's what people want to know:  how can I tell what colors my dog will produce?  There's a saying that a good horse can't be a bad color, no doubt borrowed from time to time for dogs as well, but in fact nobody really deep-down believes it.  I don't like roan horses much and wouldn't go out of my way to look at one.  I prefer tobiano pintos to sabino pintos.  There's no reason behind these preferences.  It's just one of those things.

Sponenberg has written a perfect book for everybody who wants to really get into the genetics of color.  Sure, it's horse color, but so what?  Horses are great.  Besides, a few genes are the same in dogs as in horses.  You'll meet old friends here if you're at all acquainted with canine color genetics -- the agouti gene, the extension gene, the chinchilla dilute . . . although a lot will be new and different.  Did you know that pinto patterns are all dominant in horses, unlike the recessive spotting patterns in dogs?  And that there are at least four separate pinto genes, maybe five, where for dogs there's only the one spotting gene?  This is a great place to start if you want to learn a lot about genetics in a fun way.

I learn something new every time I read this book.  There are wonderful interactions between base color and the extent of white markings, for example, so that white markings (caused by whatever gene(s)) tend to be most extensive on chestnut horses, less so on bay, and least on black.  Isn't that neat?  I didn't catch it until the third time I read the book.  I wonder if there's a similar tendency in dogs?  As far as I know no one has remarked on such a phenomenon, but if it occurs surely somebody has noticed it.  Cavaliers would be perfect to look at in this respect, since they get their red off the extension locus, just like chestnut horses.  I wonder if you're more likely to get blenheims that are "too white" than tris?  I wonder if you crossed an overly-white blen girl to a tri dog that was pure for black, whether you'd be less likely to get too much white on the puppies?

Sponenberg has splendid pictures -- not enough, but when do you ever have enough pictures in a book of this kind?  There's a wonderful sooty buckskin mustang shown that makes me want to search till I find a horse of that color, though ordinarily I'm not too crazy about buckskin.  I love the silvery grullo.  I lust after the beautiful champagne Tennesee Walkers -- wonderful!  And I'm half-convinced to seek out a chocolate silver Rocky Mountain horse if I ever take the plunge and buy a horse or two for myself.  The black silver Noriker is the most striking horse in the whole book, if you like heavy horses -- what a wonder a horse of that color would be!  It makes you throw up your hands and declare that while a good horse can't be a bad color, a splendid enough color can improve the horse!


Walkowicz, C. and B. Wilcox.  1994.  Successful Dog Breeding.


Chris Walkowicz is a breeder, exhibiter, and show judge.  She's also the author of my favorite breed book out there:  The Perfect Match.  Bonnie Wilcox is a veterinarian and an exhibiter.  Together they've put together a very impressive book.

Successful Dog Breeding was written with a light, chatty style that's fun to read and it's beautifully illustrated.  For a complete novice just thinking about dabbling her toes in breeding, this a very good book to start with.  There's a chapter on elementary genetics in which information is nicely presented and easy to follow -- just a quick note of warning:  this book does not even begin to touch on the complexities of the real world.  What it does do is illustrate basic genetics with the most charming series of Dachshund line drawings you can imagine!  I think surely the illustrator must be familiar with canine conformation in real life, because the drawings quite clearly show the conformation traits described in the text!

Walkowicz and Wilcox present a very nice introduction to breeding systems and then get into the practical aspects of breeding -- estrous in the bitch, training the stud, timing the mating, problems a breeder may encounter, caring for a pregnant bitch, and how to handle a normal whelping.  Then there's the part that gives novice breeders heart palpitations:  problems in whelping and problems the bitch may face post-whelping.  Then care of the pups, again with brief descriptions of possible problems that may arise -- everything from herpes infections that apparent can really zap infant puppies, to umbilical hernias.  Finally, the authors present an appendix of breed predispositions -- it's reassuring to see Cavaliers described as typically "easy whelpers and good moms."  That's nice to know, considering that various other breeds are noted to often have "silent heats" or "long, excessive estrous flow" or "poor fertility."  Appendix II then lists zillions of genetic disorders along with the assumed mode of inheritance (which I would take with a grain of salt).  This list sometimes disagrees with Padgett's about mode of inheritance, which again suggests picking up the salt.

Overall an excellent book for the novice breeder.  I know I'll be re-reading the parts on breeding and whelping over and over as my bitch gets closer to breeding age.


Wilkie, P.J.  1999.  Future Dog:  Breeding for Genetic Soundness.

Not recommended.

I ordered this by mail, as there are no bookstores within 80 miles of my house.  My heart sank when I saw the size of the book -- not counting glossaries and appendices, this book is only 86 pages long!  And then pages and pages are wasted -- from the viewpoint of a breeder seeking practical advice -- on describing the structure of DNA, the canine karyotype, how meiosis works, and other such information of dubious value in a book that is supposed to be about breeding.  Wilkie provides a pretty typical explanation of simple Mendelian inheritance and of polygenic inheritance.  She does briefly mention trinucleotide repeat disorders, although not by name.  It's unfortunate she doesn't trouble to provide the correct terminology, as it's hard to hit the Internet for research purposes without a starting point.  If you're interested, go take a look here.

Wilkie spends a lot of time, relatively speaking, describing genetic maps and linkage.  Linkage is important, of course, and it's nice to have a book that goes into it a little.  But it's not a topic I would have hit hard if I'd been writing a book for practical use, which the title implies this should have been.  She discusses genetic tests and this part of the book might actually be useful.  But the section is too brief to allow much detail.

Overall, this is not a book that I would recommend to anyone seriously interested in genetics and breeding -- even for a complete novice, the treatment of the subject is too facile and shallow.

The only positive thing I can say about this book is that the color photos are pretty.


Williams, M. R.  2000. Reaching for the Stars.

Highly recommended.

Now, this one is a find in a lot of ways.  This book was first published as Advanced Labrador Breeding; the author was (quite likely still is) the breeder of the apparently famous line of Mansergh Labradors in England.  For a novice breeder, this is an excellent book.  Even the parts about Labradors specifically are interesting, but Mary Roslin Williams has a lot to say that's really relevant to any breeder, about the way a new breeder advances through the ranks to become a top breeder -- or fails to do so, and what keeps her from so advancing.

"The obvious millstones that hamper the middle-ranger," says Willaims, "are first, that their stock is being looked at daily in their own kennels against perhaps slightly mediocre Labradors, while the top breeders are weighing their stock against Champions or near-Champions.  Secondly, they listen to the ringside instead of looking for themselves . . . the third millstone is ignorance and this is one that they may or may not be able to remedy because to overcome ignorance one must have time, must be literate, must have an eye and must be able to learn, which everyone cannot do.  And the fourth millstone that prevents them rising higher is that they let themselves get overstocked."  Sounds right to me.  And I enjoy her restrained, slightly understated, very British style of writing.

Williams also outlines a really promising idea for keeping a breeding kennel small -- that's really important to me, since I feel I'd have too many dogs if they didn't all fit on the couch, or at least in the living room, at once -- while still making progress in a breeding program.  I have every intention of putting her suggestions into practice, eventually.  Not something to worry about just now, when my first Cavalier is still a long way from breeding.

What's a really bad fault?  What can a breeder live with?  Williams has an excellent discussion of faults vs. failings (the former harms the dog, the latter is aesthetically undesirable) for Labradors, and nearly all of it's applicable to Cavaliers.  Certainly the distinction is completely applicable.  It's entertaining to read her description of the idea Labrador Retriever temperament -- it's so close to what I'd consider the ideal Cavalier temperament.

The only section of this book that's not worth reading is the part about genetics.  Like a lot of old fashioned breeders -- not meaning to throw stones -- but, bluntly, Williams simply doesn't know anything about genetics, asserts a couple of ideas that aren't true, doesn't consider genetic diseases at all, and concludes that the study of genetics is irrelevant to the serious breeder.  It will surprise no one who's taken a tour of this site that I don't quite agree.


Willis, M. B.  1992. Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders.

Highly recommended.

This is one of the best to start with -- this and Isabell's book, above.  Neither is so introductory as to be useless; neither presumes a great deal of background knowledge on the part of the reader.  They are repetitive in topic, but the different backgrounds and viewpoints of the authors guarantee that they are not too repetitive in opinions and recommendations.  Every part of this book is useful.  In it, Willis covers standard Mendelian genetics, polygenic inheritance, the use of pedigrees -- unfortunately, he does not discuss the use of "expanded" pedigrees that show siblings, uncles, and aunts.  You can't have everything.  He has a good section on selecting brood bitches and stud dogs and then goes into a long discussion on desirable traits and undesirable traits and what is known or suspected about the genetics behind these traits.  Willis is a GSD breeder and very aware of hip dysplasia:  he has a whole chapter on this.  He describes breeding systems and then ends with a very good section on tackling problems that are suspected of being genetic in origin -- how to figure out what you're dealing with, genetically, and then what steps to take to reduce the problem.  His appendices add some math -- how to figure variance and standard deviation, which is indeed sometimes a good thing to know.

However -- though it's very worth buying -- frankly, if I were buying just one basic book on genetics to get started with, I would buy Isabell's book before this one.


Willis, M. B.  1989. Genetics of the Dog.

Highly recommended.

A lot like Hutt in format and coverage of the topic, although, of course, a decade more recent.  Why this book is out of print I can't imagine.  It's dense and packed with information.  This is the wrong book for a beginner to start with -- Willis covers the basics plus in chapters one and two, including info about continuous variation and polygeny and stuff like that, and then goes right on.  He's got a good section on the inheritance of reproductive traits -- did you know that the litter as a whole generally weighs about 12% of the bitch's own weight?  Isn't that interesting?

Willis has a very thorough discussion of coat color genetics.  This is the first really in-depth look at the subject I ever got, back when the book was first published, but I have to mention that Willis is probably wrong about some of the alleles he assigns to certain genes (like everybody else).  He lists color alleles present in various breeds, but sometimes he's wrong -- same as Isabell.  The place I would go for the most up-to-date and probably correct listing of color loci is Sponenberg, in Ruvinsky, above.

Like Hutt, Willis chooses (quite a few) specific heritable defects and discusses them in some detail, often with data summarized so the breeder can see what kinds of data are necessary to figure out modes of inheritance. He divides up defects into categories -- structural traits, brain and central nervous system, eye, circulatory system -- and has good discussions of many of the more common problems that concern breeders.  His comments on pyruvate kinase deficiency in Basenjis was really interesting -- Willis suggested that this blood trait might act like sickle cell anemia in humans; that is, that being heterozygous for this trait might confer protection from malaria. Apparently the normal half-life of red blood cells is cut in half for heterozygotes (and in half again for homozygotes, which then are clinically anemic and have trouble).   It certainly is plausible that zapping RBCs fast might interfere with the malarial organism's life cycle.  Anyway, that would certainly explain why PKD is pretty common only in one African breed.

Willis refers to Hutt on Collie Eye Anomaly, but simply says something like "Hutt thinks this is polygenic and has data to support this idea."  That's all very well, but I've looked at the data Hutt provides and it looks pretty conclusive to me.  Why not say so?  Unlike Hutt, Willis notes that merle Dachshunds do indeed have eye and ear defects, just like Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies.  Moreover, Willis indicates that heterozygous merle Dachshunds are also affected by defects.  He not unreasonably concludes that breeders should quit fooling around with the merle coat color.

Willis also has lots and lots of info on hip dysplasia, particularly with reference to German Shepherds -- he's a GSD man himself -- but, interestingly, he doesn't talk about the importance of examining an expanded pedigree (sibs and uncles and aunts) in assessing hip quality.  (There's a good article on this at the OFA website, btw).  He does comment on "normality" of hips differing from breed to breed, which is an important idea.  Willis totally takes apart Belfield's "study" of sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) supplementation, which Belfield maintains is what it takes to solve hip dysplasia.  Belfield's methodology was just horrendous -- Willis goes into a lot of detail about it and it was quite something.

Willis' take on "swimmer" puppies is totally different from Isabell's.  I go with Isabell on this one -- Willis sees genetic influence rather than environmental and thinks it best to destroy affected puppies.  I think that's rather extreme, given how easy it apparently is to get swimmers up on their feet.  Especially since in fact it looks like any fat puppy is at risk for turning into a swimmer, and thus it is in fact an environmental problem, not a genetic one.

Coppinger & Coppinger have a lot more on behavior than Willis fits into his single chapter on the subject, if that's what interests you.

But Willis has some very good chapters on selection and offers at least a brief description of Hardy-Weinberg math and other selection math.  He's got a really extensive discussion of selection of polygenic traits, noting finally that if either selection pressure or heritability is low, then progress will be slow.  He's got a good description of various selection methods breeders might use -- tandem selection, independent culling levels, selection indices, performance and progeny testing.  Willis has a good discussion of inbreeding and one of the better descriptions of how to calculate and use coefficients of inbreeding in any book I've read.  Most of this is missing from his more introductory book, listed above.  Willis has several examples of populations that handle very high levels of inbreeding just fine, which is important to that whole discussion, and notes that different species can clearly handle very different levels of inbreeding. One line of lab rats had good fertility and vigor after 25 generations of brother-sister mating, which is very interesting.  Willis also points out that a breeder can drop the COI to nearly zero in one generation if inbreeding becomes a problem in her linebred dogs, whereas problems that arise in more outbred populations are a lot harder to deal with.  That idea is worth thinking about, too.

Willis goes on to explain assortative crosses, disassortative crosses, outbreeding (between different breeds), outcrossing (between different inbred lines within one breed), test mating, etc.  He lays out Bruce Lowe's ideas about the "tail male" and "tail female" lines (the top and bottom lines on a standard pedigree) and explains why he is underwhelmed by the idea.  I've always wondered why anybody would ever think that the "tail" lines should be more important than any other straight line back through the pedigree, and the answer is, apparently, for no good reason.  Willis describes how to develop a breeding system, how to keep useful records -- it's incredible, the records he's apparently put together for German Shepherds -- he encourages breeders to build photographic collections with notes about all important dogs in their breeds.  This is a very good section of the book and makes an excellent companion to Isabell's similar discussion.




Breed Books, Training Books, and Miscellaneous:


There are a lot of breed books out there, many consisting of nothing but pretty color photos plus two lines of not necessarily accurate description of temperament.  Sometimes the photos aren't even very good.  Sometimes the description is more extensive, but really not reliable.  Some are VERY complete and include fifty breeds even I hadn't previously heard of.  Some focus only on "family" breeds and exclude even half the AKC recognized breeds.

Below are my top picks.  I've read nearly all breed books published -- all of them, I think -- and these are the ones I like best.

There are a LOT more training books out there than breed books, and I haven't read more than a fair-sized sample of those.  Training books vary tremendously in style, philosophy, and overall quality.  Below are the few that I heartily recommend to everyone who wants a well-behaved, well-adjusted, well-raised pet and companion.


Baer, N. and S. Duno.  1995.  Choosing a Dog:  Your Guide to Picking the Perfect Breed.

Halfheartedly recommended.

Nancy Baer and Steve Duno are dog trainers.  This means that they have seen a LOT of Golden Retrievers, but probably very few Dandie Dinmont Terriers.  This is, of course, a common problem for authors of breed books.  In addition, they have certainly seen a LOT of pet store dogs, a LOT of casually-bred pups from backyard breeders, but proportionately few well-bred, well-raised animals.  I haven't trained anywhere near as many dogs as Baer and Duno -- I do classes only a couple of times a year -- but here's how the proportions break down for me:  I have never seen a well-bred German Shepherd Dog in a class of mine.  I have never seen a well-bred Cocker Spaniel in a class.  I have seen one Bichon and it was extremely hyper, not a term I use lightly (but perfectly trainable once we learned how to handle it).  I've seen two toy poodles, both with severe patella luxation and other structural faults.  At least they both had nice personalities.  One was definitely from a local puppy mill.  I've seen several nice Pomeranians and one handsome and very intelligent, but very small, Doberman.  I've seen Cairns and Westies, all definitely puppy-mill dogs, if sweet in personality -- one Westie had a coat as soft and fine as my Cavalier!  And a face like an Australian Terrier, too, now that I think of it.  Generally the ratio of puppy-mill or casually-bred dogs to well-bred dogs has been zillions to one.

My point is that trainers, like vets, do not see a large number of dogs that meet breed standards in conformation or (often) in temperament.  This, it seems to me, may make it hard to write a dog breed book.  This problem applies to a lot of the breed books on the shelves.

Now, having said this, Baer and Duno have produced a pretty good book.  The breed descriptions seem largely accurate.  This is an okay book to start with if you're still narrowing down your breed choice.  There is some repetition of phrases from one breed description to another, which makes the book less interesting to read if you start at the beginning and go straight through, although the authors have a generally engaging style.  This book is out-of-date -- quite a few breeds have gained AKC recognition since it was published and those are not included.  The line drawings are no more than adequate and sometimes do not really represent the breeds very well.


Kilcommons, B. and S. Wilson.  1999.  Paws to Consider:  choosing the right dog for you and your family.


The same caveats apply to this book as the above, because Kilcommons and Wilson are also professional trainers.  However, I like this book better.  There's more stuff on choosing a dog before you get to the breed descriptions, all of it good.  The phrasing and breed descriptions are more creative and more fun to read if you go straight through -- this is a challenging task, I know, and in this case the authors have handled the problem partly by having very brief descriptions.  Phrasing is vivid and personal.  Of the Great Dane:  "Debonair, sweet, patient, this breed is breathtaking.  We are big fans of Danes."  Of the English Setter:  "Lovely, easygoing dog, by far our favorite setter."  Of the Maltese:  "Sarah lost her heart to a Maltese we were training and now is utterly useless around these dogs."  It's refreshing, and oddly persuasive, to see such personal opinions given in a breed book.  Somehow you seem to feel that an opinion phrased this way is more likely to be right than a more stiff and factual "Maltese are generally sweet and engaging dogs."  Yes, the authors like both Cavaliers and Papillons.

The black-and-white photos are a lot better than the line drawings of the above -- the picture of the miniature poodle with the little boy is particularly charming.  The dogs are mostly good, attractive, representative specimens. 

However, the organization of this book is nonstandard.  Oh, you can find breeds -- the table of contents shows where they are, and there's an index -- but it doesn't follow the typical organization of breeds by AKC group or the most straightforward organization of breeds alphabetically.  Instead, Kilcommons and Wilson make up their own categories, like "the nine-to-five dog" and "the indoor companion."  These categories are informative, but it's still a bit difficult to find specific breeds in which you're interested.  Many dogs are double-listed.  Some breeds are not included -- the authors say they have left out breeds they know too little about (which shows good judgment) and also explain they have followed the rule that if you have nothing good to say, you should say nothing.  This leaves the reader wondering, when she notices an absent breed, which category it falls into.  I like Bedlington Terriers and they aren't in this book -- surely rarity rather than distaste?  Also, this rule didn't stop them from including a "bottom-ten" list of breeds that "are not for an inexperienced, casual home."  I think their choices for this category make sense, too.

All caveats aside, this is my second-favorite breed book on the market.


Tortora, D. F.  1980.  The Right Dog for You.

Recommended, with serious caveats.

Notice the date on this one?  This book is seriously outdated and omits a LOT of breeds now recognized by the AKC.

Tortora is a specialist in problem solving.  This means that not only will he see disproportionate numbers of common breeds and puppy-mill animals, but also that the two or so Bedlington Terriers he sees in a lifetime of practice have, by definition, problems.  Heaven knows what this is likely to do to his feel for some breeds.

The line drawings are merely okay.  Line drawings can be good -- the ones on the breed columns in the AKC Gazette are excellent -- and having poor drawings leaves an impression that the author does not really know what good specimens of breeds are supposed to look like.

Now, what Tortora does have is a lot of self-quizzes and surveys, with T/F questions ("I couldn't rest until all the rooms in my house were clean and orderly"), which attempt, obviously, to help match you up with a short list of perfect breeds for you.  There are also extensive tables and lists:  a list of exceptional shedders.  A table of breeds sorted by "vigor" (he means roughness) and bulk.  Half the book is taken up with this kind of thing.  It's great -- who doesn't like a survey?  But, as with internet quizzes, you should take the results with a grain of salt.

The breed descriptions themselves have a neat little 16-item checklist of characteristics like "indoor activity" and "problem solving ability," which are good as a quick reference guide.  The ratings seem roughly accurate most of the time.  This is not to say that they are flawless.  Samoyeds are listed as not sociable with strangers, which does not describe the Samoyeds I've met, and I've met a reasonable number.  Papillons are shown as less active outdoors than in, which is not true for my Papillons.  There are other places where my experience differs from Tortora's impressions.  The text descriptions are not all that engaging and consist in many cases of very brief quotes from other sources about the characteristics of the breed.  Tortora naturally lists typical behavior problems, since he's a problem specialist.

This is a fun book, informative in a lot of ways, and definitely thought-provoking when you're searching for a breed -- this was the book I read and liked best before I got my first-ever dog (a Papillon).  But it's not my top recommendation these days.


Walcowicz, C.  1996.  The Perfect Match.

Highly recommended.

This is the breed book I like best.  Despite the breeds recently recognized by the AKC, this book is not as outdated as some, because Walcowicz took the precaution of including a section on "miscellaneous and rare breeds" -- like the Anatolian Shepherd Dog and German Pinscher and Havanese and 16 other breeds, many of which are now in regular AKC groups.

Walkowicz' style is light, chatty, and vivid.  She is not at all repetitious and rarely repeats a phrase.  "The Standard Schnauzer enjoys problem solving (or what they perceive as problems, i.e., boredom) . . . It's much better to plan a nightly run and weekly Agility course than to fill in the forty-foot mole excavation." Or, "Otterhounds submerge their heads when drinking and come up shaking their beards."

As a breeder-exhibitor-judge, Walkowicz has met a lot of dogs that do meet their standards and were properly raised and trained, and obviously she's been a position to chat with a huge number of breeders.  This may be why she's one of the very few breed-book authors who correctly notes that Papillons will try to dominate other dogs when they think they can get away with it, which is so true.

Walkowicz has black-and-white photos in her book, many of show dogs in what is clearly a free-stacked pose, and nearly all good.  A few pictures are a little too dark, hard to avoid with black dogs.  Under each photo she has a quick reference to breed characteristics and then a brief, but not too brief, breed description.


Welton, M.  2000 (2nd ed).  Your Purebred Puppy.


This is my second- or third-favorite breed book.  Michele Welton is a dog trainer and "breed-selection consultant" -- that latter implies a long-standing interest in breeds that probably helps compensate for the inherent biases in what a trainer sees.

This book  is much more complete than most -- she includes lots of breeds almost unheard of ten years ago, which is when she published the first edition of this book.  She has brief questionnaires about your own characteristics so you can think about the right kinds of things before getting a dog.  She has her breeds organized in strict alphabetical order, and there's a lot to be said for this completely straightforward type of organization.

Welton has black-and-white photos to illustrate her breed descriptions, most good.  She has a quick-rating system first in each breed description and pretty good, fairly extensive text descriptions of each breed's characteristics.  But the descriptions can be very repetitive when breeds are similar -- many sentences and entire paragraphs are repeated word-for-word for "sister" breeds like the Belgians or smooth and rough Collies.  The same repetitiveness occurs when breeds are similar in temperament, as with Basenjis, say, and Shiba Inus.  This gets quite tedious if you read much of the book at one sitting.  On the other hand, Welton is the only breed-book author other than Chris Walkowicz who correctly identifies Papillons as inclined to be dominant to other pets -- her descriptions seem reliable and accurate.  For completeness and accuracy, this is my pick of the litter.  But for pizzazz and style, it only comes in third, or even forth.


Spadafori, Gina.  1996.  Dogs for Dummies.


This book bridges the gap between breed books and training books, with this and that thrown in.  If you're looking for an all-in-one book, this one is pretty good.  On the other hand, as for any complicated subject, you'd really be better off getting one book for breeds, one book for training, and one book for health, say, and letting each go into more detail.  Spadafori has a chapter on considering what you want in a dog, but then discusses dog breeds all lumped together in groups:  sporting dogs, hounds, terriers, etc.  She pulls a few breeds out of each group for more specific review, choosing somewhat uncommon breeds that she thinks are worth a second look.  Her choices make sense to me.

Spadafori then describes different sources for puppies, equipment for a puppy, bringing a puppy home, early puppy training, adopting an adult dog, basic training -- she advocates fairly typical coercive training methods.  The physical methods she describes for sitting or downing a dog are not bad, exactly, but I've never known any toy dogs other than Cavaliers for which they work.  (I suspect they might work for other "heavy" toy breeds, such as Pugs or Havanese, too.)  You can, as described in this book, lift the front legs out from under a Mastiff, a Golden, or a Cavalier and lay it down.  You can't do that with a Papillon, a Maltese, a Pomeranian, a Toy Poodle, or any other delicate small toy -- just try.  They leap to their feet, and if you persist (for some reason) in trying to use this method they get worried and their brains switch off.  This is a common problem with one-size-fits-all training books where the author has mostly worked with big dogs and doesn't want to bother going into methods that actually work with toys.  Frankly, it annoys me.  Spadafori has more excuse than most because this isn't really a training book -- it's an everything book -- and therefore she really can't go into depth about anything.

Anyway, Spadafori then has a problem-solving chapter, a chapter on breeding (To Breed or Not to Breed), raising a litter of puppies, caring for an aging pet, cool things to do with your dog, and a chapter that consists of a bunch of short tips and so forth.  The books isn't bad -- it's written in a casual chatty style all through and is fun to read -- but it is far from being a complete reference.  It's just a place to get started, maybe, if you insist on starting with just one book.


Dodman, N.  1996.  The Dog Who Loved Too Much.


If your dog has a serious behavior problem and you just don't know where to turn, you might want to read this book.  If it doesn't make a solution clear, it may well clarify your thinking about the situation enough that you will be able to decide on a next step.

Dodman deals with aggression, fear, and obsessive behavior with a series of fascinating case studies.  The biggest risk is that when you read this book you may start to say things like, "Gosh!  Pfluffy sometimes acts sort of like that!  Do you suppose she could have sudden rage syndrome?"  I suspect this is similar to the way med students are famous for deciding that they themselves have the tenth known case of whatever amazingly obscure disease they're reading about at the time.

The fact is that most dogs do not have a serious behavior problem, even if you are frustrated or fed up.  Most of the time, dogs show normal behaviors like jumping up on people or eating the couch while you're gone, because nobody has taught them that these behaviors are undesirable (although somebody may have tried).  There's nothing abnormal about the dog, and normal training, plus the provision of necessary exercise, should re-channel the dog's behavior along more desirable lines if you're at all competent as a trainer and willing to put even the teeniest amount of time into training.

But if your dog does have a really serious behavior problem, or if you're just interested, this is a great book.

Unlike Donaldson, below, Nicolas Dodman is a vet.  He can and does prescribe mood-leveling drugs, anticonvusants, etc. as adjuncts to behavioral programs.  After reading his books (this one and the one on cats), I recommended amyltriptolene to a friend whose cat had failed to make an acceptable adjustment to the introduction of another cat to the household (she hid under the bed for six months).  It worked beautifully.  The cat was weaned off the medication after a few months and retained her new-found calmness with no trouble.


Donaldson, J.  1996.  The Culture Clash.

Very highly recommended.

I lend this book to people (if I think they're likely to give it back).  I recommend it to everybody who calls me with a training question or enters a dog in a class of mine.  I re-read it myself every year or so.

This is not a book about how to teach a dog to sit and lie down on command.  Jean Donaldson handles these "nuts and bolts of obedience training" last, and with an afterthoughty kind of tone.  What this book really is, is about how to fit a dog into your life without going crazy (or driving the poor creature crazy, either).  You could put Donaldson's philosophy in a nutshell, I think, by saying that dogs may love us, but that's not why they do what we say.  You could sum up her training methods as classical clicker training, if that term rings a bell.

How to make sure the dog doesn't guard its food from the kids.  How to teach it to sit while greeting people.  How to socialize it so it doesn't bite somebody's granny when she waves a cane at you.  Housetraining, of course.  I suspect sometimes that most people simply don't want a trained dog enough to bother training it, but if you seriously want a well-behaved pet, this is the book for you.

She has some theory embedded in this book, about bite thresholds, for example.  And feedback, shaping, and reinforcement schedules.  She has a very neat bit about exactly what it is that dog trainers do that novice trainers (that is, typical pet owners) are hopelessly bad at doing.  "The non-trainer group could be characterized as 'trees.'  They supplied little in the way of feedback to the dog for either good or poor responses; from the dog's perspective, it must have felt like being tied to a tree."  Harsh, but Lord, does she hit the nail on the head with that one.

This isn't the only training book worth reading -- far from it -- but it's surely one of the best to start with.


Donaldson, J.  1998.  Dogs are from Neptune.


Men are from Mars, women are from Venus . . . This could be a companion volume to the book above, but certainly not a replacement.  This is a book about solving serious problems, not about fitting a normal dog into a normal household.  Donaldson deals with a wider range of behavior problems than Dodman, above -- she has a lot on aggression and fear, but also obedience and manners problems -- counter surfing, breaking the stay, dealing with an off-lead recall problem.  This book is organized in the same way as Dodman's, as a series of case studies.  Unlike Dodman, Donaldson cannot prescribe medications.  This book is therefore a look at purely behavioral solutions to problems.  It makes a good companion book to Dodman's book.


Dunbar, I.  1987.  "Sirius Puppy Training."

Highly recommended.

This is a video, and a good one.  The fact is, it's hard to beat Ian Dunbar.  He has several books out, as well as little booklets on specific topics such as housebreaking.  Dunbar is great.  Everything he produces is excellent.  Don't hesitate -- stock right up.


Fisher, B. and S. Delzio.  1998.  So Your Dog's Not Lassie.

Highly recommended.

This book is meant for "difficult" dogs and independent breeds.  Betty Fisher got out of coercive jerk-and-drag styles of training because these methods didn't do much for her bulldogs.  She came up with methods that worked well for her bulldogs and also for other breeds that are typically considered difficult to train.  Those methods also work just fine for dogs that "are Lassie," like Cavaliers, for example.

I don't like every detail of this book -- I don't care for the choke chains that Fisher recommends.  She doesn't use them to deliver corrections, but the fact is, in my experience most owners simply cannot keep their dogs from "leaning" against choke collars.  Fisher suggests holding a dog gently in the sit position for a few seconds after luring the sit.  I can see that this might work all right for bulldogs, and in fact I think it might for Cavaliers, but for a lot of toy dogs, touch-sensitive dogs, and wildly excitable dogs -- I see this in a good number of Labradors, for example -- trying to hold the dog in place, no matter how gently, will not work.  Really what this means is that you will always have to tailor your training methods to match the particular dog with whom you are working.  Dog books imply that there really is a one-size-fits-all training method.  The only method I can imagine being so global would be clicker training and that still requires trainer competence.


Goodman, L.  1993.  Just Say "Good Dog"


This is a short little book that you don't seem to see around much, but I like it quite a bit.  Linda Goodman has a lot about basic manners training, teaching what you might call "house manners" -- not sit and down, but the kind of manners that make a dog a pleasure to live with, like tolerating brushing and not guarding food.  The style is fast and breezy.  The book is a pleasure to read and well worth picking up if you happen across a copy.