Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution

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9780684855301: Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution

Marking the first time that dogs have been explained in such detail by eminent researchers, Dogs is a work of wide appeal, as absorbing as it is enlightening.

Drawing on insight gleaned from forty-five years of raising, training, and studying the behaviors of dogs worldwide, Lorna and Raymond Coppinger explore the fascinating processes by which dog breeds have evolved into their unique shapes and behaviors. Concentrating on five types of dogs—modern household dogs, village dogs, livestock-guarding dogs, sled dogs, and herding dogs—the Coppingers, internationally recognized canine ethologists and consummate dog lovers, examine our canine companions from a unique biological viewpoint. Dogs clearly points the way for dog lovers, dog therapists, veterinarians, and all others who deal with dogs to understand their animals from a fresh perspective.

How did the domestic dog become a distinct species from the wolf? Why do different breeds behave differently? Most important, how can we improve the relationship between humans and dogs?

The authors show how dogs' different abilities depend upon the confluence of their nature and nurture—that both genetics and the environment play equally key roles. They also reveal that many people inadvertently harm their canine companions because they fail to understand dogs' biological needs and dispositions.

Dogs is a highly readable biological approach by noted researchers that provides a wealth of new information about the interaction of nature and nurture, and demonstrates how unique dog behavior is in the animal world.

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Review:

There are dog lovers, and then there are dog lovers. Behavioral scientists Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger have raised hundreds of dogs of various breeds, raced sled teams, and published professional and popular works on canine behavior. Dogs is their manifesto of canine evolution and treatment by humans, and it offers deep insight, provocative theories, and controversial ideas regarding our relationship with them. Though some of the material is most appropriate for readers with some zoological background, much of it is written for a general audience--one that cares about dogs not just for what they offer humans, but for their own sake.

Arguing that much of current thinking about dogs' evolutionary history is misguided, the authors share their own complex story of wolflike animals coevolving with permanent human settlements and only recently being subject to directed breeding and artificial selection. This is interesting enough, but they go on to take issue with the use and treatment of dogs, some of which they claim is bad for dog and human alike. Pure breeding, making companion animals of inappropriate breeds, and even some uses of disability assistance are assailed for neglecting genetic and other hardwired aspects of canine life. Surprisingly little is known for sure about dogs' lives and behavior, so the Coppingers' contribution is a welcome, if occasionally unsettling, eye-opener. --Rob Lightner

About the Author:

Raymond Coppinger is professor of biology at Hampshire College and the author of Fishing Dogs. A former sled dog racing champion, he now lectures widely about dogs.

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