Animal behavior books for students, scientists, veterinarians, and more. If you are looking for books on animal behavior our list will guide you!

Animal behavior is the study of how animals interact with each other, their environment, and humans. Whether you’re interested in animal behavior at university or simply want to understand why animals do what they do, each of these books is a must-read. While in graduate school, I took a class at Portland State University called Animal Behavior. We went into great depth with this best animal behavior book by John Alcock titled “Animal Behavior.”

Animal behavior books are an excellent resource for understanding animal behaviors. Our pick for the ten best books on animal behavior will not disappoint you. Each book covers different aspects of animal behavior-including genetics, biology, social structures, and more.

These best animal behavior books are extensive resources for those who are unfamiliar with animal behavior books. This book goes into deep detail about animal behaviors, which can help you understand what your pet is thinking or doing.

The best animal behavior books offer up insights into the world of animals.

The best animal behavior books can answer anyone who has ever wondered why their dog chases their tail, or why their cat is grooming itself. There are books on various types of animals in the wild and captivity, as the best book for cat behaviors, the best book about parrots, best dog behavior books, and more. Another best animal behavior book focuses on some of the peculiarities of certain animals.

The best animal behavior books will cover all aspects of an animal’s life, including their cognition, senses, predation, mating, and social structure.

Without further ado, let us begin.

The Best Animal Behavior Books to Read

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Any person who loves to learn, animal behaviorists, and those interested in animal intelligence.

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The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
  • Atria Books
  • Montgomery, Sy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 04/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Atria Books (Publisher)

One of the best animal behavior books has to be The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. I never considered how brilliant octopuses are until I read the book “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery. This book will alter your life! As a consequence of studying this book, I’ve discovered that I had been missing out on something essential.

This book is about the conscious life of octopuses, which are fascinating creatures. Octopuses have three hearts, a brain that wraps around their throat, and an extensive central nervous system.

As an avid naturalist and author, Sy Montgomery shares her joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures in her book, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness. This book on animal behavior in Octopuses explores the wide-ranging knowledge about Octopus. It explores what and how we can learn from these intelligent and complex beings.

Author Sy Montgomery is a best-selling author of many books and articles. This best animal behavior book takes us to the ocean depths, where she swims with the wild, solitary, predatory octopus. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, Montgomery has befriended eight species of octopus. Each creature shows its cleverness in myriad ways, including escaping enclosures similar to an orangutan does.

She explores the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about meeting two very different minds.

Important Highlights

  • Scientific facts
  • You will learn what drives the behavior of an octopus
  • The entire book is a case study
  • You will learn more about octopuses than ever before and be thankful for that.

Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach

by John Alcock

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? College students or any people interested in understanding animal behavior.

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Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Alcock, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 522 Pages - 01/28/2013 (Publication Date) - Sinauer Associates is an imprint of Oxford University Press (Publisher)

Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach is an excellent book for anyone interested in animal behavior. Many graduate-level animal behavior courses use this book as their class textbook. Throughout this superb animal behavior book, there are many insights into animal behavior and exciting facts and theories about why this is the best approach to understanding animal behavior. The best part of this book is that it does not deal in the hypothetical and vague; instead, the best animal behavior books deal with facts and theories.

shrew drawing learn about them in a book about animal behavior

John Alcock makes points very clear by thoroughly explaining each topic, followed by a relevant example before moving forward. My favorite part of this best animal behavior book is the first chapter on natural selection and the case studies throughout each chapter.

Case studies help tie everything together and demonstrate how to apply the concepts from theory to real-world animals. I appreciate how Alcock details various insects, such as how a specific worm behavior develops in response to a predator. It’s not surprising that worms have developed a counter-response to their predators since moles voraciously eat them. When worms become aware of the earth’s tremors produced by a digging mole, they flee to the surface.

Alcock deals with many common misconceptions about evolution and then explains how natural selection works at the genetic level to create adaptations that are best for species survival.

This best animal behavior book has some great concepts explained clearly, making them easy to understand and apply to your life. This animal behavior book also allows you to step back and see the larger picture – understanding how natural selection has influenced specific behaviors that we can study today.

This best animal behavior book is a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the best way to approach studying animal behavior.

It was challenging to understand all the information because of how complicated it is, but anyone interested in understanding animal behavior will get something out of this book.

Important Highlights

  • Excellent photos
  • Graphs
  • Case studies

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Dog trainers, any person with a dog, any person interested in animal behavior, any person interested in how dogs communicate, and kids. Teach kids at an early age the signals dogs use to communicate with other dogs and us.

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On Talking Terms With Dogs Calming Signals
  • training field calm aggressive behavior
  • Turid Rugaas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 78 Pages - 12/14/2005 (Publication Date) - Direct Book Service (Publisher)

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas is a best-selling book available in its second edition. This edition has more descriptive captions, three extra chapters, and color photos that the author did not include in the first edition.

One of the things you will learn from reading this book is how to use calming signals to defuse situations and decrease stress—the author is a Norwegian dog trainer who advocates for a peaceful and respectful approach to training.

In addition to the calming signals, this best-selling book includes information about how you can read your dog’s body language.

It is a relatively small best-selling book that is less than 100 pages long, and many people refer to it as a must-have for anyone who owns a dog. To sum up, this best-selling book will teach you about canine communication and how dogs use their body language to communicate.

You will learn about calming signals and other forms of communication that dogs use, such as tail movement and facial expressions. We chose this as one of the best animal behavior books because it goes over 30 documented signals that dogs use to communicate. In short, this best-selling book is a must-have for anyone who wants to acquire the skills to interact with their dog.

By reading this best-selling book, you will learn how to handle your dog in stressful situations and how both of you can enjoy your time together more.

Highlights for another best animal behaviour book

  • Features excellent photos of the communication signals that dogs use
  • It will genuinely help you understand dogs in a way that you never did before
  • Features over 30 documented canine communication signals

Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors

by Vladimir Dinets

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Everyone, including scientists, kids, and adults.

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Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors
  • Hardcover Book
  • Dinets, Vladimir (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 10/19/2016 (Publication Date) - Timber Press (Publisher)

Many of the best books on animal behavior provide insights into understanding these animals and their natural habitat.  A new book by Vladimir Dinets, “Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors,” takes a closer look at some of the best-managed habitats in North America. The book shows us that there is more to be understood about wildlife than we may know.

Dinets begins with the simplest of questions: how does an environment affect the diversity and abundance of life?  Answering this is challenging, but he uses his training in physics and ecology to explore wildlife patterns concerning the climate. Comparing the Atlantic and Pacific ocean currents is a good example. We have short grass prairies as a result of drier and harsher conditions in the west. It’s fascinating to see how these climates lead to a diversity of species.

Many of his observations are not generally known: there are three types of orcas, oceanic that hunt far from the shore, residents that feed on medium-sized fish near the coast, and transients that travel great distances and invoke fear in seals and whales. Mormon cricket outbreaks still occur, and now that the species is no longer extinct, we can see them much easier than their Rock Mountain locust ancestors. You will learn all about Kangaroo rats unique to southwest North America and facts about violet snails using a foam float to predate on Portuguese Man O’ War.

Many bird species like some hummingbirds are changing their migration from the Rocky Mountains to the eastern coast due to the droughts in southwestern North America. There are many examples that Dinets uses that show how climate affects the best-managed habitats across North America.

Dinets’ book Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors is an excellent example of how we can best learn about the animal behavior of North American animals. Furthermore, the best part about the book is that it shows us how much more there is to learn about the best-managed habitats across North America. Many good books focus on particular species, but this work gives us an overview of many animals and habitats.

This book may just be the first step in igniting a passion for learning how to become an exotic animal vet.

About the Author: Vladimir Dinets is a zoologist from the USSR who studies wildlife behavior, emphasizing the social antics of crocodilians and mammals, including humans. He is best known for his research on croc groupers, crocodile bats, flocks of crows, naked mole rats, and other fascinating critters.

Highlights for a Book on Animal Behavior

  • Provides an in-depth overview of North American animal behavior and ecology
  • You will find information on where to visit what is discussed in each chapter.
  • Stunning photos (coffee table book)

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence

by Irene Pepperberg

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? All people especially: scientists, parrot lovers, bird enthusiasts, anyone interested in STEM, animal trainers, and more.

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Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
  • Harper Perennial
  • Pepperberg, Irene (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages - 09/01/2009 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

Alex & Me is a fantastic book for those who enjoy animals, cognitive psychology, animal behavior, or just science in general.

Dr. Pepperberg earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT. Even so, she became disinterested when she learned Harvard was conducting extensive research on animal behavior and communication. Dr. Pepperberg’s study of parrot behavior and intelligence changed the way we think about these birds.

This book is about a scientist and her best friend, Alex, a parrot taught to communicate with humans. The best part of this book is how thoroughly the author describes her best friend Alex, who was always curious about everything he saw around him, wanted to know more, learned to count, and had a vast vocabulary. Alex, the parrot, solved complex problems with lightning speed, had a sense of humor and loved to dance.

In every chapter of this best animal behavior book, there are touching personal stories that provide an excellent sense of what Pepperberg’s work with Alex was like.

However, the best parts are the stories that are so descriptive you will feel as though you were there observing everything firsthand. You will feel emotional at the end of the best animal behavior book.

This best animal behavior book is a must-read for parrot owners and scientists.

Irene Pepperberg reminds us that Alex is gone, but she will never forget Alex, the best friend of her life. Hence, Dr. Pepperberg’s book is a must-read for every animal behaviorist because this bestseller animal behavior book has a message for all those who love animals.

Additionally, Irene Pepperberg’s book has changed the way I view animals, especially birds. Furthermore, after reading this, you will see that birds and other animals are capable of intention. A world populated by thinking, conscious creatures is surrounding us.

Highlights A Favorite Book on Animal Behavior

  • You will learn how a scientist figured out how to make her passion a career.
  • Chiefly, It will help you understand parrot in a way you never did before.
  • In-depth case study on parrots: one scientist’s quest for answers in an area that was lacking.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World

by Abigail Tucker

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Animal behaviorists, cat lovers (not for the light-hearted), students, or anyone interested in ecosystems.

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The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World
  • Tucker, Abigail (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/05/2017 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

The Lion in the Living Room by Abigail Tucker is about house cats and their effect on wildlife. Granted the book is written explicitly for cat owners and animal lovers, so it may be best to read if you’re one of those two groups.

The Lion in the Living Room is a book about how house cats have come to dominate our lives and negatively affected the wildlife system. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it made me feel bad to read that cats are among the 100 worst invasive species. Since house cats are hypercarnivores that require three times more protein than dogs, they can’t survive on plant-based diets alone. However, I was surprised at how much we love them even though we put many other animals at risk with them.

This book was full of interesting facts about the history and behavior of cats as pets and invasive species. It gave me a better understanding of how behavior and ecosystems work and a greater appreciation for cats.

The best part is the way it’s written. The author talks about her cat-like pets, along with crazy stories of people who have gone to extremes to preserve their pet cats. More importantly, the best and worst part of the book is that it’s humorous, but there is much information on how cats can be harmful to ecosystems.

There were also sections on territorial marking and biological instincts (such as stomachs and body systems that cannot digest plant matter) as well as other pieces of house cat behavior that you will enjoy learning.

House cats don’t fit these patterns, though. They’re social and gregarious where other small wild cats are not, and they’re capable of living in even the most condensed urban areas. While many different species decline as humans encroach on their habitat, house cats thrive.

Highlights

  • Some readers may not like the way she negatively presents cats.
  • Cat lovers with an open mind will appreciate this book.
  • Full of facts about the behavior and history of the domestic cat.

Don’t Shoot the Dog

by Karen Pryor

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Dog trainers, animal behaviorists, college students, teachers, managers, CEO, and more.

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Don't Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training
  • Pryor, Karen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 12/03/2019 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

Great for anyone who doesn’t just want to learn ABOUT animal behavior but WHY specific teaching methods are better than others.

In her illustrious career as a dolphin trainer and behavioral biologist, Karen Pryor learned that positive reinforcement is even more effective than previously thought. Don’t Shoot the Dog appears to be one of the finest on the subject—a full-scale mind-changer.

To summarize Don’t Shoot the Dog is a fantastic book about animal training and behavior. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t use the old-fashioned yelling, threats, punishment, guilt trips. Instead, Karen Pryor teaches animal behavior and how to use this best animal behavior book and positive reinforcement to modify your behavior goals.

Don’t Shoot the Dog is a scholarly work in that it references psychology and concepts that the author assumes her reader already understands. But, it is still approachable and easy enough to read that it makes the techniques she is teaching accessible and attainable for just about any reader. In addition to being a great read, the book has practical advice as well as case studies.

Animal Behavior Book for Dog Lovers!

This book is a beautiful resource for trainers, and while it has been around a while, it’s still one of the best animal behavior books on the market. Undoubtedly, Karen Pryor believes that “the only way to teach an animal anything is with reinforcement.” I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about training and modifying behaviors.

Learn why pet owners exclaim, “This book has changed our lives!”. More importantly, learn how these innovative techniques will help you. There is also a reason why this book is a must-read for any successful dog trainer/behaviorist.

The Don’t Shoot the Dog book unleashed the training phenomenon and forever changed how we interact with dogs, cats, teenagers, and other animals. It’s a semi-new approach to living successfully with other creatures in any situation—a delightfully rewarding read!

Each chapter has practical exercises, detailed case studies, and firsthand accounts from many people—from kennel owners to horse trainers to parents.

Highlights

  • Learn about the various types of behavior modification methods.
  • The book will not teach you how to train an animal but why specific methods work better.
  • It’s a great scientific theory book for any aspiring college student interested in animal behavior or psychology.

Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats

by Thomas H Kunz; Stuart Parsons

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Researchers, graduate students, or anyone wanting to learn about bats and how best to study them.

Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 920 Pages - 11/09/2009 (Publication Date) - Johns Hopkins University Press (Publisher)

“This volume provides researchers, conservationists, and consultants with the ecological background and specific information essential for studying bats in the wild and captivity.” It is a beneficial book for those wanting to study bats and those who work with them.

It is a good book for biologists, researchers, conservationists. It has information on bat behavior science or science-related to bats. The information provided in this animal behavior book is clear and straightforward, so it’s easy to read. It also goes into detail about different types of bat behaviors. The book is beneficial for someone who wants to research bats and looks more into how they interact with their environment.

Primarily people who enjoy reading about animal behaviors, bats, or biology will benefit from this book. Scientists who want to know information on bat behavior or science related to studying bats. It is a good book for those wishing to learn about bats and how best to study them.

Animal Behavior Books for Bat Lovers!

This book is very detailed and easy to understand. There are also many examples and examples of different experiments. The language is simple enough for a novice to understand yet complex enough for someone who already knows the subject. It also lists several examples of methods and what to expect when using them, which would be helpful to those just starting or doing research.

This book offers an introduction to everything you need, such as how Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats shapes bat studies, introduces methods used to study them and provides advice on how to interpret research. To summarize I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in bats.

Highlights

  • There are several examples of experiments that researchers have done
  • Fully illustrated
  • Explains many different methods for studying behavior
  • There are a variety of authors, with each bringing a new perspective to the study of bats
  • Although this is one of the best animal behavior books, it can be difficult for some readers. It is science-heavy at times, and there are also quite a few scientific terms that you will have to be looking up.

Domestic animal behavior for veterinarians and animal scientists

by Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., DACVB

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Veterinary students who want to get board certified as veterinary behaviorists.

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Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists
  • Hardcover Book
  • Houpt, Katherine A. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 03/09/2018 (Publication Date) - Wiley-Blackwell (Publisher)

Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists, Sixth Edition is a fully updated revision of this popular classic text offering a thorough understanding of the expected behavior of domestic animals. It covers all critical aspects of animal behavior, with images to support the concepts. It has been revised and updated to cover the latest thinking in animal behavioral genetics, animal cognition, and learning.

This book is excellent! Most importantly it contains lots of pictures and graphs to help you understand the behavior of animals. I believe that animal behavior is best explained in pictures, not in words. This book does a great job showing you the behavior then talking about it in detail later in the chapter. For example communicating with animals and learning how to understand them better is paramount to your success as an animal behaviorist. You will discover many things about each animal, like, for instance, how they see. One question often wondered is if all animals see in color or not. This book will go into details on this topic and many more throughout the book.

A veterinary behaviorist reference book is there to help you throughout your entire career in animal behavior. Whether you are an animal trainer, a veterinary student specializing in behavior, or a research scientist, this book will become your go-to reference throughout your career. If you have an interest in animal behavior, this is a must-have book for your collection.

To demonstrate, If you choose to become a veterinary behaviorist you will have a long road ahead of you.

How long it takes to become a veterinarian depends on your desire to specialize.

This book covers the basics of behavior but also explores the more advanced topics as well. This book is user-friendly and is great for anyone who wants to learn about dog, horse, goat, and cat behavior. Reading this textbook, you will feel like a professional animal behaviorist after having finished it! After reading this entire book, it will equip you with the knowledge to solve any problem related to behavior in the domestic animal.

Highlights

  • It’s a must-have textbook for those students wanting to become veterinary behaviorists.
  • This In-depth veterinary behaviorist textbook covers all kinds of issues a person will encounter if they choose to live with a domestic animal.

What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing–What Birds Are Doing, and Why

by David Allen Sibley

Who would benefit from this book on animal behavior? Since we humans live in this world with birds all around us, this book is excellent for any curious mind. Great for kids as well.

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What It's Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing--What Birds Are Doing, and Why (Sibley Guides)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Sibley, David Allen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 04/14/2020 (Publication Date) - Knopf (Publisher)

What It’s Like to Be a Bird is an excellent book about birds by author David Allen Sibley. Even those without a great deal of interest in birds will find this book entertaining. Secondly, it’s also informative due to its balance of amazing facts and beautiful illustrations. To note this large-format coffee-table book explores a wide variety of bird species. The animal behavior book focuses on more common species that we see most often highlighted in the text. For example, this book does an excellent job of exploring why birds do what they do, giving me new insight into their behavior and a better understanding of different bird species. I would recommend this book to anyone curious about why this animal behavior is happening or who enjoys looking at interesting facts with beautiful illustrations.

2 Hyacinth macaw parrots study animal behavior with out top books

In addition, the book contains an impressive amount of information presented as lists that you can read individually or together. Furthermore, the book has a mix of facts, trivia, and illustrations. Indeed What It’s Like to Be a Bird is an excellent informational book. A book with beautiful images that will leave you wondering about the lives of birds everywhere.

This animal behavior book focuses on bird behavior, physiology, and evolution rather than bird identification and geographical ranges. Sibley explores how birds think and make decisions. He compares it to people and the various pressures that influence their behaviors and appearances. Sibley discusses their thinking and decision-making several times.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in biology and have taken two ornithology classes in graduate school. I’ve volunteered at a rescue facility in Oregon that frequently got birds. Indeed all of this is to say that I have been studying birds for years. Finally, I’d like to say that while reading this book, I discovered at least twenty concepts about which I was previously unaware.

Highlights

  • Be aware of the somewhat random but ordered layout. There is a reason for the madness.
  • without doubt the artwork is quite stunning.
  • Even a scientist who studies birds will learn a few things from this anthology.

Conclusion on the Best Animal Behavior Books

When it comes to understanding animal behavior, many factors need consideration. What is driving the animal’s actions? How does genetics factor in? Do other animals influence their social interactions? Some books on our list will help learn more about how your favorite pet behaves. On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning new information like what makes a particular species of birds behave differently than another one, then this list should be perfect for you! In fact, the ten best books on animal behavior cover these topics and more.