Skip to Main Content

Tender Paws

How Science-Based Parenting Can Transform Our Relationship with Dogs

Published by Health Communications Inc
Distributed by Simon & Schuster


See More Retailers

About The Book

Tender Paws takes a deep dive into the practical benefits of applying therapeutic parenting best practices to dogs in our care.

When Wendy Lyons Sunshine got her first puppy—abandoned behind a gas station, struggling with worms and anemia—she was in over her head. As puppy training guides failed to help her with the out-of-control, traumatized bundle of teeth and claws rescue pup, she turned to her work helping world-class child development experts. Could strategies for raising happy, well-adjusted kids transfer to a puppy?

As it turns out, yes, they can! From the first try, parenting wisdom transformed Sunshine’s relationship with her challenging little one. Soon enough, Sunshine’s view of her puppy shifted from one of adversity to one of compassion and understanding, and she was able to bring patience and therapeutic concepts to meet her dog’s needs. When Sunshine reached out to experts, they affirmed that science-based principles used with at-risk children align well with best practices of holistic, positive, and progressive dog handling. Exploring parallels between human and canine research, attachment styles, history of trauma, parenting styles, and her own “inner child” proved a mindful path for pet parenting.

Far from a standard dog training manual, Tender Paws explicitly applies parenting wisdom and best practices used with special needs kids to a cross-section of scenarios, from recognizing developmental trauma and unmet core needs, to making decisions about appropriate equipment, to responding to difficult behavior, to understanding the parenting style from which we approach our dogs.

Sunshine empowers you and your dog by offering:
  • A synthesis of the fields of child development, attachment, trauma, sensory integration, neurobiology, learning, animal behavior, and ethology.
  • A problem-solving framework that makes dog training decisions clearer and behavior frustrations easier to resolve.
  • Parenting wisdom to help your dog move beyond trauma and into wellness.

Borrowing the principles of parenting for dogs feels obvious to some people: instinctive and ordinary and inevitable. But that’s not true for everyone, especially those of us who had a less than ideal childhood and bear the scars of early harm, loss, trauma, or deprivation. Tender Paws provides an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, evidence-based guide for readers who want to honor the needs of—and improve outcomes for—puppies and dogs they care about.

About The Author

Award-winning journalist Wendy Lyons Sunshine writes about the human-animal connection for and is content coordinator at She co-authored Raising the Challenging Child and The Connected Child, a bestseller recommended by child welfare organizations and adoption agencies. Wendy is FDM® certified in L.E.G.S.® Applied Ethology Family Dog Mediation® and volunteers at her local animal shelter. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Health Communications Inc (May 28, 2024)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780757324956

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

Tender Paws will be especially helpful for people who are getting new puppies or adopting traumatized rescue dogs. This book offers lots of positive, gentle methods for working effectively with dogs.”

—Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make us Human and Visual Thinking

"I love this book! Not only will it help transform the relationship the reader has with their dog but it has the potential to change how they relate to other humans and even with themselves. This is no ordinary training manual! Tender Paws gives an insight into the importance of understanding the individuals' lived experience, with a heavy focus on safety (physical and emotional) and the importance of fostering secure social attachments. We are seeing a much-needed move away from compliance-based approaches to ones that seek to put the individual dog’s care and support needs front and centre. By doing this, the book will encourage the reader to give their dogs the best gift of all—a voice! I highly recommend this book, and I know dogs everywhere will too. "

—Andrew Hale, founder of Dog Centred Care

“I’m so glad Wendy Sunshine—a best-selling child development author—suddenly began to wonder about dogs. In her new book Tender Paws, she pulls off something extraordinary: an exploration into parenting and dog-raising techniques that is both wonderfully readable and fully grounded in well-cited science. The author focused her considerable research skills on the topic, and dozens of poignant case studies and examples of hard-won wisdom shared by thoughtful fellow travelers (including some famous names!) really give Tender Paws its powerful emotional punch. I’m so grateful this book now exists!”

—Kathy Callahan, author of Welcoming Your Puppy from Planet Dog and 101 Rescue Puppies

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images