In the words of Houghton Mifflin senior editor Susan Canavan, “There’s no mistake about it: people have more thoughtful relationships with their pets than ever before.” And thereby hangs a tail: dogs and cats have taken up residence in American homes in record numbers, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Its 2007—2008 National Pet Owners Survey found that 63% of U.S. households—71.1 million homes—own a pet. Households with dogs number 44.8 million, while felines can be found in 38.4 million homes. Though the cat populace, 88.3 million, outnumbers the 74.8 million dogs, that’s because, explains T.F.H. publisher Christopher Reggio, “pet parents with cats are more likely to have more than one.” He adds, however, that “in spite of the larger cat population, dog-related books still outsell any other category.”
And don’t publishers know it. Dog books are rapidly becoming as ubiquitous as—well, as the pooches themselves. And it’s not just the pet-specific publishers who are freighting the doggie bookshelves. As Reggio notes, “With the success of general interest pet titles such as Marley and Me and The Dog Whisperer, mainstream trade houses are publishing projects that supplement the traditional pet care titles that were once the exclusive terrain of specialty publishers. The success of these books has really 'woken up’ these houses to the opportunities in this category.”
Given the rapidly rising dollar amount spent on canines and felines, the price of a hardcover pet book is a mere drop in the doggie water dish. According to the APPMA survey, total annual U.S. pet industry expenditures have climbed from $29.5 billion in 2002 to an estimated $40.8 billion this year. Says Fair Winds Press publisher Will Kiester, “We are finding that the concept of our pets being family members—they are perceived as more important and therefore more valuable—is driving an increase in consumer spending, especially on dogs.”
Looking over publishers’ recent and forthcoming pet titles, it appears that business is going, shall we say, to the dogs. The number of dog-related titles we received for this feature outnumbered cat tales by about six to one. (Lest we be accused of Fido favoritism, however, we’ve spotlighted several new titles for Fluffy; see sidebar, p. 36.)
Health and Wellness
One area being addressed in a growing number of titles is pet health care. According to a 2004 American Animal Hospital Association survey, 94% of pet owners take their pet for regular veterinary checkups to ensure their pet’s quality of life. As Doubleday Broadway associate editor Christine Pride notes, “When it comes to animal medicine, like its human counterpart, the information and options available in terms of treatment and diagnoses have become vastly more complicated over the last decade. People are, therefore, looking for resources that will help them make sense of it all.” One such title is Tell Me Where It Hurts (Broadway, Jan. 2008), in which Nick Trout, a staff surgeon at Boston’s Angell Memorial Animal Hospital, writes of such now commonplace procedures for dogs as organ transplants, joint replacements and cancer treatments. In addition to its medical expertise, the book is also, says publicity director David Drake, “very much in the tradition of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.”
Just out from Fair Winds Press is What’s Wrong with My Dog? A Pet Owner’s Guide to 150 Symptoms and What to Do About Them, which covers a broad spectrum of treatments, from home remedies to cutting-edge alternative therapies. Author/vet Jake Tedaldi makes house calls in the greater Boston area via Vetcall, his mobile veterinary practice. Homeopathic treatments for common ailments are covered in Natural Remedies Dogs and Cats Wish You Knew: A Holistic Care Guide (Ulysses Press, Jan.) by Viv Harris, president of the New Zealand Holistic Veterinary Society.
And a noted name in medical care is turning its attention to the animal kingdom for the first time with The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health:The Complete Health Resource for Your Dog, Cat, Horse or Other Pets—in Everyday Language (Oct.); 100,000 copies of a 150,000-copy announced first printing have already been sold in.
Much has been written about the aging of baby boomers, but what about their pets? The Living Well Guide for Senior Dogs: Everything You Need to Know for a Happy and Healthy Companion (T.F.H., Oct.) offers instructions on maintaining an older dog’s quality of life and helping to ease the transition into old age. In Eternal Puppy: Keeping Your Dog Forever Young (BowTie Press/Kennel Club Books, Sept.), Janice Willard offers practical strategies for keeping mature dogs young and healthy in mind and body. Among her findings is that only 20%—25% of a dog’s longevity is determined by its genes; the owner can influence the remaining percentage by how he or she cares for the animal.
While no dog parent cares to admit that Rover is less than a paragon of perfection, the fact is that training is generally de rigueur. But today’s approach, says Wiley publisher Cindy Kitchel, “is becoming more friendly, and positive methods are proven successes.” Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan made dog training fashionable with his 2006 bestseller, Cesar’s Way (see sidebar at left), as did Tamar Geller’s The Loved Dog: The Playful, Nonaggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior, which spent three weeks on PW’s list this spring.
Houghton Mifflin, in a publishing partnership with Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, just published Puppy’s First Steps: The Whole Dog Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, Well-Behaved Puppy by Nicholas Dodman with Lawrence Lindner. Says HM’s Canavan, “Books in this category are approaching the owner/dog relationship not just from the aspect of training but from a more holistic outlook. Most notable is the fact that this idea of a dog’s emotional life—in other words his 'happiness’ and not just his health and behavior—is now part of the conversation.” Paul Owens and Terry Cranendonk exemplify that trend in ThePuppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Guide to Early Training and Care (Adams Media, Jan.).
According to Patricia Burnham, author of Treats, Play, Love: Make Dog Training Fun for You and Your Best Friend (St. Martin’s/Griffin, Feb.), “Obedience training does not have to resemble boot camp, nor does it have to be work. It can be playful fun for both the dog and its human, with a few rules thrown in to shape the game into an obedience exercise.” Among the topics Burnham covers: house manners (no whining or barking); preventing dog bites; dealing with shy or fearful dogs.
Colleen Paige, the author of the recently published The Good Behavior Book for Dogs: The Most Annoying Dog Behaviors... Solved! (Quarry) holds a special place in the canine world—she’s the founder of National and International Dog Day, which was yesterday, August 26.
One of the important topics addressed in Barron’s third edition of Barbara J. Wrede’s Civilizing Your Puppy is the all-important selection of a dog, with focus on acquiring a breed that best fits individual personality types and family routines. Barron’s marketing director Lonny Stein notes that the book’s previous editions have sold “well over six figures” since the original 1992 publication.
Among the many other titles that stress today’s more humanistic approach are Getting inTouch with Your Puppy: A Gentle Approach to Training and Influencing Behavior by Linda Tellington-Jones (Trafalgar Square, Sept.); The Whole Dog Journal Handbook of Dog and Puppy Care and Training by Nancy Kerns (Lyons Press); and Christine Dahl’s Good Dog 101: Easy Lessons to Train Your Dog the Happy, Healthy Way (Sasquatch, Oct.).
You don’t need to be a dog parent to know how comical—often unintentionally—these quadrupeds can be. They provide inspiration for a wide variety of forthcoming humor titles, such as Scribner’s What Pets Do While You’re at Work, a photo essay that blows the cover off the furry set’s daily hijinks with a revealing photo and caption on each page, and Dog-ku, St. Martin’s canine take on the Japanese poetic form (“I found Nirvana./It was right here all along/In the kitchen trash”).
From the folks who created the bestselling Dog Is My Co-Pilot comes Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit from the editors of the Bark (Crown, Oct.), a collection of essays, stories, drawings and cartoons by such writers as Roy Blount Jr., Merrill Markoe, Al Franken, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho and Dave Barry.
ECW promises 60 of the “best, funniest and most embarrassing” photos in Dog Trick or Cat Treat: Pets Dress Up for Halloween (Sept.) by Archie Klondike; readers will be comforted to learn that “no animals were harmed in the making of this book.”
In all fairness to felines, it should be noted that many publishers offer pet books in pairs: matching titles for dog and cat, like 1950s salt and pepper shakers. Two notable examples come from HCI Books—Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul: Stories of Canine Companionship, Comedy and Courage and Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul: Stories of Feline Affection, Mystery and Charm. Published in fall 2005, this duo has sold more than half a million copies—dogs in the lead with 280,000 copies, cats with a (still respectable) 240,000. A new pair coming from HCI in October is bowWOW: Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales and Trivia Even Your Dog Won’t Know and meowWOW... Author Marty Becker is the house vet on Good Morning America and the host of the new PBS series The Pet Doctor.
Just out from Storey is The Cat Behavior Answer Book by Arden Moore, which combines useful info (tail swishing is part of a cat’s predatory positioning) along with such intriguing trivia tidbits as the fact that Sir Isaac Newton invented the cat door. Similarly, last summer’s The Dog Behavior Answer Book explains Fido’s many behavioral mysteries—tail-chasing and repeatedly fetching the same stick become even cuter once the reasons behind each are understood.
Wiley’s Howell Book House offers two successful backlist pet cookbooks: The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook and The Ultimate Cat Treat Cookbook by Liz Palika; any resulting obesity can hopefully be remedied with T.F.H.’s October twosome, 50 Games to Play with Your Dog and 50 Games to Play with Your Cat.
A November Quirk title, 100 Dogs Who Changed Civilization: History’s Most Influential Canines by Sam Stall, follows the author’s May paean to 100 Cats—canines and felines who raced ahead of the pack to alter world events. Read about Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in U.S. history; Biche, the Italian greyhound who started a war between France and Prussia; and many more heroic hounds and tough-minded tabbies. Cats has sold around 15,000 copies, says publisher Dave Borgenicht, adding, “We published 100 Dogs not only because it was a logical follow-up, but also because we didn’t want dogs to feel insulted—they’ve done as much if not more for the world as cats have.”
Dogs Never Lie About Love
That sentiment—the title of a book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson published exactly 10 years ago—is dear to the heart of every dog parent. As St. Martin’s associate editor Daniela Rapp puts it, “While the practical [pet titles] tend to backlist very well, the inspirational and personality-driven books get more attention and garner more sales in the short term.” St. Martin’s lists no fewer than five new dog books for the coming months, including The Leash That Binds: My Life with the World’s Toughest Dogs by Harrison Forbes. Forbes, a dog behaviorist, has trained more than 600 police dogs across the country and has hosted the syndicated radio show Pet Talk for 14 years.
Published last month by Harcourt, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote carries a ringing endorsement from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, megaselling author of The Hidden Life of Dogs—“It is no exaggeration to say that Merle’s Door could be the best book ever written about a dog or dogs. [It] works on many levels, emotional as well as intellectual, and there isn’t a false note in it. It is beautifully written, a real page turner, often funny, always fascinating, and very moving. It’s a book you will never forget.” According to publicity director Michelle Blankenship, Merle boasts 120,000 copies in print after three printings.
Patricia McConnell, author of Ballantine’s For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, will set out next month on a nine-city tour for the book’s just-released trade paper edition. Following the success of such titles as The Hidden Life of Dogs and the aforementioned Masson book, McConnell’s work explains the similarities and dissimilarities in dog and human brains and provides practical advice about understanding and responding to emotions in both people and dogs. McConnell, an associate professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin, owns Dog’s Best Friend Ltd. (dogsbestfriendtraining.com), a company that specializes in family dog training and the treatment of canine aggression.
In Your Dog Interpreter: How to Understand Man’s Best Friend (Reader’s Digest, Nov.), David Alderton serves up more than 150 photographs that capture variations in facial expressions and stances in a wide variety of breeds, while the accompanying text provides insights into learning what our dogs are telling us. Among the topics covered: how to understand a dog’s vocalizations and how to recognize each breed’s emotional characteristics.
Portraits are key, too, in The Nature of Dogs (S&S, Oct.), in which Mary Ludington’s striking b&w photos are grouped by type of dog (hounds, terriers, sporting, etc.), with each breed introduced by entertaining and informative essays. We learn that the greyhound “is one of the most ancient and venerated dog breeds” and that the beagle’s name “most likely derives from the French beguele, which means 'open throat,’ or, more informally, 'loudmouth.’ ”
Finally, if cats, dogs et al. are just too mundane—or require too much upkeep—there’s always the phoenix, the nine-headed hydra or other choices to be found in Running Press’s How to Live with aUnicorn: The Fantastic Guide to Keeping Mythical Pets.