Books for Labrador Owners – Pippa’s Choice

photo of a collection of books about dogs

Like most writers I have been an avid reader for much of my life. I have acquired quite a collection of dog books over the years. So today I thought I would share some of the gems on my bookshelf with you. 

Please feel free to add your own comments, and your bookshelf favorites! I’ll check back from time to time and update this for you. And I’ll add more books as I have time to review them. 

Please note we are amazon affiliates so if you buy a book after clicking on links to Amazon below, The Labrador Site earns a small commission. This helps to keep the site running and does not affect the price you pay. And I only recommend books that I own and love, or have written myself!

Books for your situation

New puppy owners

One of the most common questions I am asked is “which book should I get for my new puppy?”  And I wrote the Happy Puppy Handbook for all the people that asked that question. 

I’m biased of course and I hope you enjoy my puppy handbook. But I also hope you don’t stop there! There is such a wealth of information in the other books on this list. And while a general guide to raising your puppy is invaluable, a good understanding of how dogs think and learn will really help you get the best from your new pup as they grow up

The Happy Puppy Handbook – Pippa Mattinson

My puppy handbook is a guide to raising a puppy from the day you bring your puppy home. It answers the questions new puppy parents ask me and more.

Crying, biting, chewing, night waking, jumping up, potty training are all covered. Together with preparing for your puppy in advance, training, and problem solving.  

Don’t Shoot The Dog – Karen Pryor

This is an important book for anyone new to dogs. It’s one of the books that set me off on a path to becoming a force-free trainer.

It also helped me raise my kids! It’s a complete gem, is timeless, and no puppy owner should start their puppy journey without a copy. 

The Culture Clash – Jean Donaldson

Another classic that all new dog owners should read. It examines the relationship that we have with our dogs. And some of the widely held misconceptions about how dogs learn and become obedient.

Every dog parent needs this book! 

Total Recall- Pippa Mattinson

This is my best selling book, it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world and been translated into many different languages.

Total Recall looks at the whole dog training process through the lense of a single skill and shows you how to train your dog to come bounding back to you whenever you call them. Starting when your puppy is small makes the task much easier!

How To Know If A Puppy Book Is Worth Buying?

Looking at reviews can help, but you also need to know that the methods recommended in that book are up to date. When it comes to general puppy training, the newer books (less than twenty years old) tend to be better because puppy training methods have improved so much in the last two decades.

Some older books have great reviews because at the time they were released, the methods recommended were mainstream. And because many reviewers even now are not aware that there’s now a better way to do things.

Goodreads can be a better guide than Amazon in this respect because reviews tend to be lengthy and go into detail about the methodology of the trainer.

When it comes to history, or specialist training for sports or activities, older books are often full of useful information, and can usually be adapted provided you have some knowledge of modern training principles. 

Keen trainers

Clicker Training For Obedience – Morgan Spector

I was recommended this book many years ago when I first started to learn about clicker training. It opened my eyes to a very different way of training and taught me a great deal.

It’s packed with information and if you want to take force free training to the next level I think you’ll find it very helpful.

Reactive and anxious dogs

Behaviour Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart

Dealing with a reactive dog is one of the biggest challenges faced by any dog owner. Reactivity affects every part of your dog’s life and if your dog is reactive you are going to need help and support.

Arming yourself with information and techniques to manage and support your dog in coming to terms with the big wide world are a big part of that, and this book will help you. 

Hunting companions

I’m sad to say, but many otherwise excellent retriever and hunting dog books are far from force-free. I do have a number on my shelf waiting for review, but I can only recommend one at the moment.

Force free gundog training –  Jo Laurens

This is a fantastic guide to getting started with training a hunting companion. Jo is a great writer and a passionate and knowledgeable force free gundog trainer. It’s a rare combination and I heartily recommend her book

This is a fantastic guide to getting started with training a hunting companion. Jo is a great writer and a passionate and knowledgeable force free gundog trainer. It’s a rare combination and I heartily recommend her book

All About Labradors

From history to daily care, much has been written about Labradors. I must confess though, that most of my dog books are broader in topic so I don’t have many reviews on Lab specific titles yet. That is definitely on my to do list!

The Labrador Handbook – Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Handbook covers Labrador care from puppyhood to senior citizen, and will help you find a Lab, train them and solve your Labrador problems!

This book was my follow up to The Happy Puppy. I wanted to write something that really spoke to those  who love this amazing breed as much as I do!

Life can get in the way, but one of my goals is to spend more time reading! So check back soon for more reviews and recommendations and don’t forget to add yours below.


  1. The books by Richard Edwards are the most detailed and deepest publication about Labradors. History of the breed, types, history of Show Labradors from 1945 to 1960. From the arrival of Tweed in Sandylands in 1958 to 1996. Detailed descriptions of each important Show Labrador Retriever, their victories and their impact on later generations. Detailed nursery descriptions: Sandylands, Veyatie, Brentville, Ardmargha, Linershwood, Elveledge, Deeside, Suddie, Othamcourt, Donacre, Glenarem, Roseacre, Trenow, Wishwood, Poolstead, Suleys, Lenches, Lawnwood, Pinesview, Warringah, Halsanhrookreookreok Bradking, Davricard, Newinn, Heatherbourne, Friarsgarth, Lasgarn, Mansergh, Follytower, Balrion, Ballyduff, Charway, Abbeystead, Mardas, Oakhouse, Brigburn, Lindall, Leije, Boothgates, Kupros, Foulby, Lougin, Timspring, Cambremer, Lougin, Timspring, Cambremer, Longley, Greenworth, Carpenny, Crosscroyde, Tibblestone, Stajantors, Novacroft, Rossbank, Foxrush, Rocheby, Carromer, Priorise and many more. Marion Hopkinson. “A Dog for Everyone, An Illustrated Guide to Labrador Retrievers.”

  2. Hi Pippa,

    I have a one year old Lab and I have taught him simple things like sit, shake, lay down, and touch. However, he is really horrible on a leash, is there any hope of teaching him how to behave on a leash? Do you have a book for this?

  3. Hi, I have a rescued lab who I think is about 3 at this point. She clearly had no training before I found her but is learning fast and is very eager to please but is also a very nervous puppy. What book/training would you recommend? Thank you!

  4. Pippa,

    Sorry for my confusion but what book should be purchased first and then second (and third if necessary) for our need to train our new chocolate lab puppy from when he arrives at 8 weeks up to his first birthday. Your website is extremely informative. Thank you Bill from Savannah USA. PS. We will purchase through your links to Amazon.

    • Hi Bill, There is no set order for reading. The Happy Puppy Handbook is of course most appropriate for the puppy stage, but Totally Recall and The Labrador Handbook also have some helpful puppy information, as well as training information that you will find it useful to know from the beginning! Sorry that’s not a straight forward answer, but we really hope you enjoy the books 🙂

  5. Good morning Pippa. At the end of the month we will have a new addition to our family in the shape of a beautiful 8 week old Black Lab.
    Which of your books is most suited to puppies from the offset???

  6. Sara
    I’m just out of hospital after major abdominal surgery. My beautiful 1 yr 3 month old golden lab Belle has been staying with my sister and her lab (Belles auntie). This has worked fine but I really miss Belle and hoping to be reunited this weekend which will be 3 weeks after my op. As you can imagine I’m anxious that she doesn’t get over excited on our reunion and jump up. During regular training I turn away from her if she jumps up but sometimes she does it unexpectedly which could have a very serious impact on my stitches. I have a dog walker lined up for daily walks. Any words of wisdom? Sara

    • Hi Sara, If your sister would like to do some training with Belle then she can find advice regarding teaching a dog not to jump up here:
      I would also recommend your sister putting Belle onto a leash when you are reunited, so that she can control her access to you during those initial moments of excitement. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Lucy

  7. Hi Pippa
    I have just finished reading total recall, now I am going to go back to the beginning and attempt to train my one year old!!!
    I think I might need quite a bit of luck!!
    By the way, my pup is just one, and I am a bit concerned that when we go in the garden, I only throw the ball for her a few times and she lays down panting. Is this quite normal for labs?
    Many thanks for any advice.
    Penny xxxx

    • Hi Penny, difficult to comment on whether behaviour is normal without seeing a dog. It depends on her fitness, the temperature, etc. If you are worried about her or she seems to need to take a break frequently when exercising then its best to get your vet to give her a once over 🙂 Good luck with your training and do join the forum for support and help as you go

  8. Hi Pippa I have just bought and been reading your book Total Recall which is fantastic. I am really looking forward to starting the training plan with my Labrador and Husky x Border Collie. I have used verbal commands for recall but want to switch to using a whistle. I bought an Acme whistle a while ago and have tried it out on my dogs occasionally in the house (they responded well) and tried it once when out on a walk (the dogs ignored it). Do you think there would be a problem using the same whistle but using 5 pips instead of the 3 I have used before or should I buy another whistle with a different pitch so I have a totally different sound? Many thanks

  9. Im curious how come you dont suggest or speak about pet insurance for owners to have since labs do have many health issues? Not only that as its been told labs do NOT like being on leash and they do enjoy running.

    From experience my pup everytime she gets a chance to run off she hurts her leg.

    Yes, I have pet insurance because ive had some issues with people watching my house and questioning me about my dog, plus my pup had gotten sick recently and almost died. Not only that it helps with the cost of her vet care.

  10. Hello Pippa,
    Firstly may I thank for producing a fantastic book, I am currently following this to the letter due to, you guessed it, recall failures, however just to say as a guy coming from Northumberland I can’t for the life of me say good in an up beat manner as it still sounds like ‘Gud’ however I have replaced this with ‘Yes’ as I use this word when he gets things right in other training and think he understands the meaning of this!
    Is this OK?

      • I have been diligently following your book page by page but when it came to recall from food he was not interested in the food on worktop, or wherever, he just wanted to follow me like a hawk!
        However nearest I could think of to achieve this was to give him kibble in the Kong ‘wobbler’ in kitchen when he was fully occupied with this I went in to sitting room gave him usual 5 pips of the whistle and low and behold he came running in to me! Can this be considered calling from food?

  11. Hi Pippa: would you say that most of the advice and learnings you provide in your Labrador Retriever books apply to Golden Retrievers?
    Thanks for your input

    • Hi Guy, I am happy to confirm that almost everything regarding training and care of Labradors in these books can be applied to Golden Retrievers. Please note though that some health issues differ between the two breeds, and of course Golden Retriever lovely long coats have different needs too 🙂 All the best, Lucy

  12. Hi Pippa,
    I have a 10 month old lab and was thinking of buying your book The Happy Puppy Handbook. is this the best book for me to buy or can you recommend another book. I take him to obedience classes and really want to have a well trained dog (who doesn’t pull on the lead during walking). I have read a lot on your site but just wasn’t sure if your book was more for the early stages of pup. Thanks

  13. Hi Pippa, We are getting a baby boy from a local breeder. Being last on the list we knew we would get the last boy available and were invited to visit them at 2 weeks of age. He is a beautiful golden lab and the largest of the puppies. He is also very pushy when feeding. Having two daughters who are small for their age I wondered if from experience you thought he may end up as the largest dog and if he would perhaps be quite dominant. I wouldn’t want him to see my youngest as the bottom of the pack so to speak. I realise it is early days but also want to make a good decision with my family in mind. thank you for your time!

    • Hi there, I really would not be able to comment on the potential size or temperament of your puppy. Very few dogs have any interest in dominance and dogs are not really pack animals, so you don’t need to worry about that. Have a look at this link. You will be able to achieve all the control over your puppy that you need through careful training, whatever size he is. And the more he likes food, the easier he will be to train 🙂

  14. Hi Pippa, I have been trying to get a copy of The Right Start but everywhere is sold out – it’s obviously good – do you know where I can get a copy. I am hopefully getting a black lab in Jan so would like it before then.
    Hope you can help.
    Many thanks.

  15. I am trying to locate a copy of your book “The right start” for puppy training . I live in Australia and can’t locate a local copy. Does the gundog website post to Australia? I have the Totall Recall Book which i love (thanks for responding to previous question).

    • Hi Naomi, the Gundog Club posts my books all over the world. The only catch is that you will need to pay extra postage. If you order the book online, the GC will email you with the postage amount and ask you if you are happy to pay it. If you don’t want to pay the extra, they will refund your paypal payment. Alternatively you can email or phone in advance to ask for a quote for postage.
      Hope you enjoy the book, and thank you for your kind comments about Total Recall.
      Best wishes

  16. Sorry, only put it in because there was a box asking for it. But curiously it doesn’t show up on the posts that I see. Adrian

  17. This is not the kind of serious book that I have seen in your listing thus far but it is achieving some very good reviews on Amazon.

    It is my take on how my Lab views our world. It is serialised in several local magazines and on our village website and gets more hits than the rest of the site put together.

    The book started as a Facebook page in an effort to prove to my son who had been nagging me to get a Facebook page that they meant nothing and no one can really have a thousand friends. So I said we would create a page for Jack, our Lab, and so the character of Jack Labrador was born. The vast majority of his followers have no idea who he really is. Including, at first, several family members, yet they all accepted him as a friend. So the stories of how he viewed the surreal “Hoomun” world he found himself. It deals with his relationship with me “The Owner” and those wonderful Labrador moments when you can read the confusion in his mind as he tries to fathom out why he is now in trouble, how I found out about it and what can he do to divert some of the flack coming his way.

    It is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback so if you get it through your associate account rather than direct from me then I am happy you get something in your coffers for any sale.

    Kind regards

    Adrian (AKA Jack Labrador)

  18. Inside of a Dog – What Dos See, Smell and Know is an interesting and informative read. As well as behaviour, it covers the biological aspects of dogs such as what’s up their nose. Although I read the book in full, I keep dipping in and out of it to better understand my dog.