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For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,928 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
Yes, humans and canines are different species, but current research provides fascinating, irrefutable evidence that what we share with our dogs is greater than how we vary. As behaviorist and zoologist Dr. Patricia McConnell tells us in this remarkable new book about emotions in dogs and in people, more and more scientists accept the premise that dogs have rich emotional l ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 382 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published July 21st 2005)
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For the Love of a Dog by Patricia B. McConnellThe Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnellBones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne ClothierDon't Shoot the Dog! by Karen PryorBefore and After Getting Your Puppy by Ian Dunbar
Best Dog Psychology and Training Books
1st out of 36 books — 23 voters
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth SteinA Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce CameronMarley and Me by John GroganWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson RawlsThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
Great "Dog" Books
102nd out of 791 books — 1,586 voters

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Community Reviews

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The last book I read by her was all about communicating with your dog, with much emphasis on how humans act around dogs and why some of what we do is just plain wrong. The subject of this book was dogs and emotion.

There has been a lot of debate over the years as to whether or not dogs (and other non-human animals) can have emotions. I recall a philosophy class I once took. The teacher asked us what differentiated humans from animals. Someone said "emotions." He agreed. I dropped the class. I thi
Joseph Soltero
Nov 07, 2007 Joseph Soltero rated it it was amazing
Warmly informative - should be on every dog owner’s shelf

My partner and I have a beautiful and loving Shetland Sheepdog as part of our family. I purchased this book in an attempt to better understand him, why he does the things that he does, how to know if he’s happy, and what I can do if he’s not.

Patricia McConnell writes with such warm concern and intimate tone that you feel as though you’re sharing a cup of coffee or tea with her somewhere. Her writing is lucid and witty, her anecdotes person
Mar 02, 2009 Stef rated it really liked it
Josh and I listened to half of this on our road trip to DC. I had already read the book a few months ago. With Charlie in tow in the back of the car, it made for a lovely conversation piece. Josh hasn't read an entire book on dogs (just puppy training), and this was my way of sneaking in some information. We got through the chapter on facial expressions and we are now paranoid that Charlie rarely smiles.
Still, it was a great book to listen to since Charlie was going to be with my two year old n
Aug 20, 2012 Mario rated it it was ok
I hesitate to give a more substantial rating to this book as I just couldn't get motivated to read further than the preface and about 12 pages more. It really lacked the concise, accessible language I had hoped for and instead delved a bit too deeply into physiology and anatomy of the brain.
Fred Dickson
Jan 27, 2011 Fred Dickson rated it it was amazing
My favorite dog book of all time, I cried at different points in almost every chapter. For the dog lover, this is a must read. It combines anecdotes with scientific data perfectly, and addresses the love that we all feel for our dogs with a frankness that is refreshing.
Jen Blood
Jul 23, 2016 Jen Blood rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Dr. McConnell's work surrounding positive training and animal behavior research for a long time, and this book is a perfect introduction to her work and philosophies. McConnell provides personal anecdotes and well-documented research, as well as her own experiences as a canine behaviorist and trainer, to give readers better insight into the canine mind.

What I love about this book is that the author acknowledges that we, as humans, have a tendency to project emotions and beh
Dec 02, 2015 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Fantastically amazing book that any true dog lover should enjoy and learn a great deal from. I love all of the research she has done and other people's research which she has studied and cited throughout the entire book - and even more how McConnell relates it to true events and stories from her own life.

Call it a cop out, but I believe the many important reviews found on its back cover say it best. Here are three out of a myriad of wonderful ones:

"A fascinating, highly educational read. McConn
Mar 31, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it
I love listening to people who love dogs talk about dogs. Patricia McConnell ends her book with a reiteration of her opinion that dogs are more than just cute, cuddly animals, that they are a reflection of ourselves and the bridge between us dog lovers and our deeper, egoless selves. She speaks of her dogs in a way that I imagine could sound overly "fluffy" to some people, even people who like dogs. But for those of us who see the value and utility in trying to truly tap into what goes on in a d ...more
Jan 26, 2012 LizG rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, I love McConnell's explanation of the science behind how emotion works in humans and animals. Very digestible. We are so very similar (from the physical structure of our emotional centres to the chemicals that create them, to the ways we express them) only the most narrow-minded can continue to believe humans are not animals. We are, and we behave very much like them. (Even with our much larger cortex.)

The more I come to understand about animals, the more I appreciate them and wh
Fuyuko Gratton
Mar 13, 2011 Fuyuko Gratton rated it liked it
I liked the book until the very end. I got disappointed in the last chapter that made me rate this book from 5/5 to 3/5. My impression of the book throughout the book except the last chapter was the author was taking "academic-neutral" positions of the various topics....sort of "well let's give a benefit of doubts because there is no hard proof right now." But then in the last chapter, I noticed an inconsistency in her logic of reasonings. In one section she goes:

"The fact that the more complica
Aug 25, 2012 Becky rated it liked it
After reading Patricia McConnell's wonderful book, "The Other End of the Leash," which is about why we (primates) act the way we do around dogs and how dogs usually interpret our actions. I recommend "The Other End of the Leash" to any dog owner or want to be owner. I was eager to read more by the same author.

"For the Love of a Dog," is written the same way as her former book, Dr. McConnell begins each chapter with a case scenario from her animal behaviorist practice, Dog's Best Friend, LTD. Som
Nov 27, 2011 Nina rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to finish this book, but I really enjoyed it. I would read it a section at a time and then spend a little while processing the information before continuing on.

This book really packs in a ton of information. It is a great book for anyone who is interested in learning more about canine behavior and emotional states. I found it really interesting and well researched. Each time I read a section I stopped to talk about it with my husband or try to observe some things in my own do
Sep 26, 2009 Ruby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book helped me understand some physical differences and similarities between our species. It had an impact on me. My changes also made an impact on my dog. I thought it was really interesting to think on that emotions can be triggered biologically. (like a mouse will attack if you take away the chemical that makes him feel fear) Some dogs are made more shy genetically. (shy or afraid) If you are looking into getting a new pup it is always a good idea to meet the mom.
I loved to find out dog
Sep 02, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science, dog
Despite the syrupy-sounded lead, this book is a solid exploration of the emotional world of dogs. There's still a fair amount of debate in the scientific community whether animals have emotions, which emotions they have and what they mean. McConnell explores the role of emotion in cognition, laying out the arguments both ways, and citing a number of researchers in the field (notably Demasio). While it's clear she sides with those who believe animals do have emotions, she deftly navigates the unc ...more
Mar 25, 2009 Gemma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, dogs
This is an invaluable volume for any dog owner. Primarily, McConnell tackles how we can learn to notice emotion in our canine companions, as well as the biological basis for these instinctual responses. Her scientific references are varied and fair, and she handles the complicated subject matter with aplomb, without making it noticeably dumbed-down for those of us without a rigorous scientific background. That said, I was occasionally frustrated with her reference to particular cases, which she ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
If you love dogs, this is a wonderful read. The author lives on a farm with her dogs and takes you through her journey with them.

Publisher's Summary
Yes, humans and canines are different species, but current research provides fascinating, irrefutable evidence that what we share with our dogs is greater than how we differ. As behaviorist and zoologist Dr. Patricia McConnell tells us in this remarkable book about emotions in dogs and in people, more and more scientists accept the premise that dogs
Jan 31, 2013 Cason rated it it was amazing
There are so many things about this book that I loved, I'm not sure I can even remember them all. I think what I found most helpful is Patricia McConnell's thoughtful and interesting progression through different emotions, similarities in how those emotions are expressed between humans and dogs, and how to better read and understand what your dog may be feeling in different situations. She gave excellent examples from her own work with fearful and aggressive dogs as well as examples of well soci ...more
Terri Naughton
May 31, 2016 Terri Naughton rated it really liked it
"He took my heart and ran with it, and I hope he's running still, fast and strong, a piece of my heart bound up with his, forever." Patricia McConnell describes her "heart dog" this way, and having lost such a dog recently I can't stop my tears. This is not a dog training book per se, but rather a discussion of Ms. McConnell's belief that dogs think and have emotions just like people do. I think so too. Four stars instead of five because some of the scientific data she cites was a bit too comple ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Jean rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book on the emotions dogs have! One caveat -- were I to do this over, I would not get it as a Kindle book. It was not really possible to reference the illustrations as they were mentioned in the text. Still I gained some insights into what my little dog is feeling.

And I liked it enough to order it again in paper so I can easily see the photos' details. With my limited space, buying a book in paper is rare. It is a tribute to the book's quality that I am doing so.
May 13, 2010 Natasha rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book. I am a fan of Patricia McConnell, I think she has the perfect balance between science and fun. "For the Love of a Dog" focuses on the biology of emotion, and what that means for animal, and human, behavior.

Although I enjoyed this book, and found it interesting, if you are to read only one book by McConnell, I would recommend "At The Other End of the Leash". She covers everything a dog owner or dog lover could ever want to know in that book, and she explains it in suc
Rob Rub
Feb 09, 2008 Rob Rub rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dog Owners
This book is a good read, but really you could clip out about half of it and it'd still be just as good. Half the time the author is blabbering on about how much she loves her dogs, and silly dog stories she has, and honestly, it's like some mother telling you about her kids: Unless you know the kid, you really just don't care. What is interesting is how the dog brain works, the similarities they share with our own, and reading a dog's facial expressions. There's a lot of nuance in reading a dog ...more
Jun 02, 2013 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For The Love of a Dog" is about the emotions of dogs and how they are similar, as well as different, from our own emotions. She mainly supports her arguments with biology and experience, as well as a little common sense. McConnell lays out a very strong argument for the existence of emotions in dogs as well as how they work and how they affect our relationships with our dogs. She also talks about how these emotions affect the dog and what we, as their human partners, can do to help when things ...more
Feb 01, 2016 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have met the author and listened to her on the radio and she really knows about dogs. However, as a human being, I found this painful to listen to. In the space of a few pages she must have expressed the idea that we don't know what animals think about a 100 times. Maybe she's modeling dog training when she's doing that but then she should throw me a piece of cheese every time I pay attention.
Mar 17, 2015 Kris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books, 2015
This was a really interesting book. I think all dog owners need to read this book to better understand their dog.

Just the other day I saw a picture of a dog with a crochet ear warmer on his head. From what I read in this book I could tell that he was not happy. The person who posted the picture claimed her dog was happy because his ears were warm and that you could tell happy from mad not by the face but by the tail.
Apr 18, 2014 Pamela rated it it was amazing
I can't imagine a better guide to the emotional life of dogs (and yes, they do have them!). The author does a remarkable job of explaining neurobiology, both canine and human, in ways that are clear and compelling for a non-scientist like myself. Not only that, but she clearly loves dogs and has great stories to share about her own dogs, as well as dogs and people who have become clients in her animal behavior business. I plan to read more of her books and utilize some of her insights with my ow ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Lo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dogs
This was a very interesting read. McConnell lays out the biology behind emotions; what happens in the brain, what chemicals are present and how they affect the way we feel and how similar chemicals are present in dogs, how human brain and dog brain are similar, yet different and what that could mean for dogs' emotions, with the reservation of the limits of current knowledge, methods and amounts of studies.

I was thrilled about some of the studies she referenced, mostly about one where dog lovers
Listened to this on a long roadtrip. We have had Zoe in our family for 10 years and learned many things that we can put into place to correct our faux pas or/and enhance our relationship with her. I will recommend this to friends looking in to bringing a dog into the family.
Shannon Weynand
Lovely, thoughtful, and reassuring to all us dog lovers. It doesn't seem so crazy to wonder if your dog loves you when you a PhD animal behaviorist presents this viewpoint with a wealth of anecdotes and academic citations. Patricia McConnell is a genius who is so relatable and down-to-earth (many parts made me laugh out loud!). Other parts made me cry - she so apparently adores her Border Collies. This is the second book I've read of hers and I'm obsessed. I cannot get enough of her wisdom!
Apr 25, 2011 Patti rated it it was amazing
I was fascinated by this book. I heard Patricia McConnell talking on the radio about the importance of dog owner's posture and facial cues when dogs are checking each other out at the dog park and decided I wanted to learn more. We learned invaluable basic dog training in Patricia's puppy training classes but now I am enjoying studying my husky's facial expressions and observing the goings on at the dog park with new eyes.

I also learned to teach our 7 year old husky some new tricks, exercise of
Oct 12, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: dog
McConnell wants us to understand what and how our dogs think. A fascinating topic, to be sure. My only reservation is one of audience. McConnell is a trained academic, and often uses academic tactics to make her point. She frequently references case studies and scientific experiments. This is an excellent thing, in and of itself. The other half of the book wants to be charming, with anecdotes about dogs and very helpful discussions of dog facial expressions. Also an excellent thing. Going back a ...more
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Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, (CAAB) has made a lifelong commitment to improving the relationship between people and animals. She is known worldwide as an expert on canine and feline behavior and dog training, and for her engaging and knowledgeable dog training books, DVDs and seminars. Patricia has seen clients for serious behavioral problems since 1988, and i ...more
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“We humans may be brilliant and we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of this better than our dogs. Perhaps the human condition will always include attempts to remind ourselves that we are separate from the rest of the natural world. We are different from other animals; it's undeniably true. But while acknowledging that, we must acknowledge another truth, the truth that we are also the same. That is what dogs and their emotions give us-- a connection. A connection to life on earth, to all that binds and cradles us, lest we begin to feel too alone. Dogs are our bridge-- our connection wo who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be. When we call them home to us, it'as as if we are calling for home itself. And that'll do, dogs. That'll do.” 33 likes
“When people visit my farm they often envision their dog, finally off-leash in acres of safely fenced countryside, running like Lassie in a television show, leaping over fallen tree trunks, shiny-eyed with joy at the change to run free in the country. While they're imagining that heartwarming scene, their dog is most likely gobbling up sheep poop as fast as he can. Dog aren't people, and if they have their own image of heaven, it most likely involves poop.” 7 likes
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