Pup Culture: The Fridge-Toppers—5 Good Dog Books We Can’t Even Give Away!

Books arrive here at our New York offices by the bushel, sent by publishers in hopes of a review by an AKC Publications editor. For every book we review there are dozens more that, for reasons not always connected to their quality, don’t make the cut.

The “reject pile” is stacked atop the refrigerator in the staff kitchen, with the open invitation for our fellow employees to help themselves. Some are snapped up quickly. Others languish for months. Many go unread on merit: They’re lousy books. Always, though, there are some diamonds in the dung heap.

Here are five good dog books sitting neglected in the kitchen right now, awaiting rescue from fridge-top oblivion.

The Business of Dog Walking: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love, Veronica Boutelle

This Dogwise publication informs us that “professional dog walking is a booming business” and also that the author, a veteran of the dog-service industry, has “helped thousands of dog walkers set up and run a successful enterprise.”

In 138 no-nonsense pages, Boutelle covers every aspect of professional dog walking. She answers the most basic questions, like “Can I make a living from this?” (Yes indeed, Boutelle assures us, “Of all the dog-related services, dog walking is generally the most easily lucrative”) and also covers the more arcane aspects of the business in chapters titled “Good Business Practices” and “Marketing for Dog Walkers.” Along the way, we get lots of practical advice about the day-to-day realties of walking dogs for pay: aggression, “pack management,” canine body language, and more.

This is the ultimate “niche book,” written for a relatively small segment of the dog-loving public, which in turn is a niche within the general book-loving public. It’s nice to know that Dogwise is still willing to invest time and money in producing authoritative books for such a small but important constituency: the people who walk our dogs while we’re at the office writing book reviews. 

Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones, Editors Debra Horwitz and John Ciribassi, with Steve Dale

“Behavior” is among the hottest topics in canine publishing: In recent years our staff refrigerator has groaned under the weight of unread behavior tomes. We rescued Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s 350-page whopper of a book, though, for two reasons. First, the phrase “ultimate experts” in the subtitle is no idle boast. The 20 authors represented are all members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Each author has enough practical experience to fill a good book of their own; together, they form a virtual college of canine knowledge.

The second reason “Decoding Your Dog” deserves a look is its thoroughness. The distinguished authors and editors have provided an exhaustive rundown of canine behaviors, and they advise on how to reinforce the ones you desire and correct the ones you don’t. Especially helpful are passages that debunk the many myths that cling like barnacles to the fields of behavior and training. Veteran pet writer Steve Dale is onboard to keep the prose mercifully jargon-free and flowing smoothly.

Search and Rescue Dogs: Training the K-9 Hero, American Rescue Dog Association

The American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA) is America’s oldest air-scenting search-dog organization, whose standards and training methods are a model for K-9 units far and wide. Beginning with a brief history of the ARDA, “Search and Rescue Dogs” details all you need to know about training dogs for work on live finds and human remains. The 265-page manual presents the ARDA’s tried-and-true training methods and exercises, K-9 first aid, proper equipment and clothing, and most interesting to this lay reader, actual case studies of search teams at work.

Like the dog-walking book above, this is a niche-within-a-niche publication for a self-limiting readership—certainly, it will never pull in the “Harry Potter” money. But if you are among the selfless few who want to do the grueling and often grim work of K-9 search and rescue, this should be the first book you buy.

K-9 Nation Biscuit Cookbook: Baking for Your Best Friend, Dan “Klecko” McGleno

Too many of the canine cookbooks we receive contain recipes for cutsey-wootsie dog treats—inevitably in the shape of a fire hydrant—that look great to humans but which no self-respecting dog would actually eat. Klecko, a master bread baker who’s a neighborhood legend in St. Paul, Minnesota, takes the opposite approach: His biscuits aren’t much as human eye candy, but dogs apparently love them.

Some of the recipes call for such exotic ingredients as red caviar, kelp powder, and squid ink (I love dogs but can’t imagine myself waking at the crack of dawn to milk the squid for Sparky’s breakfast). But most of Klecko’s treats contain everyday ingredients found in a well-stocked supermarket. One recipe calling for the stomach-churning combo of buttermilk and braunschweiger reminds us that human and canine palates are still evolutionary eons apart.

Dogs in Cars, Lara Jo Regan

The best canine-photography book of 2014 comes recommended to you with a caveat: I’m personally squeamish about letting a dog stick his head out the window of a moving car. As much as they love the wind in their face, and as adorable as it always looks, it’s a scenario for several kinds of disaster.

Happily, “Dogs in Cars” isn’t a “how to travel with your pet” manual but a richly appointed art book filled with gorgeous photos of—yeah, you guessed it—dogs in cars. Regan is a top-notch animal photographer based in Los Angeles—ground zero of America’s car culture. Her colorful photos of dogs zooming down the freeway are alternately funny and touching. “Dogs in Cars” artfully combines two great American obsessions: driving, and the wet-nosed, wag-tailed buddy who’s riding shotgun.

For those who have limited access to the AKC staff refrigerator, these books are available at amazon.com.

PHOTO: Lara Jo Regan, from “Dogs in Cars.”