If Dogs Could Talk: Exploring the Canine Mind

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9780865477292: If Dogs Could Talk: Exploring the Canine Mind

"This book is endlessly enlightening and entertaining . . . will appeal to all dog owners." ―Ann LaFarge, Taconic News

How do dogs think? Short of breeding a talking dog (not as impossible as it sounds), the best we can do is to carefully observe and record their behavior. And after a decade of research, the internationally renowned ethologist Vilmos Csányi has brilliantly captured the high degree of mutual understanding and empathy that exists between humans and their proverbial best friends.

Drawing in part on close observations of his own dogs, Flip and Jerry, Csányi argues that the long-standing alliance of dogs and humans arose from the problem-solving and communications skills evident in wolves, from which all modern dogs are descended. These basic intellectual skills were refined and enhanced as dogs and humans evolved together over tens of thousands of years. And because dogs were bred to be mankind's helpmates, the dog owner who knows what to look for can interpret their thoughts, desires, and motivations.

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About the Author:

Vilmos Csányi is a professor and chair of the department of ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. He has written extensively about his work for both professional and general audiences. If Dogs Could Talk is his twenty-third book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

If Dogs Could Talk
Part One The Alliance of Two Minds Humans have coexisted for tens of thousands of years with a peculiar social predator descended from wolves, namely the dog. During this time we have accumulated much knowledge about dogs. Some of this knowledge is available in well-written and practical dog books, while some is the subject of the oral history of dogs, of anecdotes and beliefs; only a very small portion of this knowledge has found its way into the scientific literature about dogs. If we examine the practical and theoretical literature about dogs, we find much on breeding dogs, on owning and training them, and on the characteristics of particular breeds. But we will find precious little about their behavior and the functioning of their minds, and there are hardly any works that deal expressly with canine ethology. Why Is There No Canine Ethology? Ethologists are guided by numerous motives when they select a particular species for special examination, and some of the relevant considerations may appear to be contradictory. It is useful if the animal selected for study is easily approached and observed, but it is also useful if its habitat is far away, in exotic regions, and if it is difficult to observe. Itserves our purposes well if the chosen animal has a simple nervous system, but it is also appropriate for answering our scientific questions if its nervous system is among the most highly developed, and it is even better if the animal is closely related to humans. The extent to which earlier scientists have already dealt with the animal in question is also relevant: if they have studied it extensively, we no longer have to concern ourselves with observing the simplest features, but if they have hardly considered it at all, then practically every observation we make about the animal is a novel contribution to science. These contradictory considerations are particularly valid in the case of dogs: they are simultaneously extremely desirable as well as unsuitable subjects for ethological observations. Dogs live among us and their natural environment is human society. Consequently they are readily available for observation; but at the same time, they are very difficult to observe, because to do so requires us to penetrate a wild jungle, namely the family home. Being mammals, their nervous system is quite well developed, but does not reach the level attained by the apes. These contradictions are undoubtedly the reason that except for a dozen or so learned articles there are no books on canine ethology. The reluctance of ethologists to deal with dogs is further reinforced by the fact that there is much more variation in canine behavior than within particular species that live in the wild. There are two exceptions to the uniform rule of invariant behavior within species: humans and dogs. The reason for the variability of behavior among dogs is not only that there are many hundreds of genetically different breeds among dogs, but also that their individual development can be influenced by learning, teaching, discipline, and the development of habits.1 2 Ethology offers the scientific researcher two principal opportunities for observation. The first one is the observation of the animal's behavior in its natural habitat. If a dog is a family dog, it clearly lives in the human environment. But it will also have close human contacts if it is a working dog or if its job is only to guard the house. Hence the domain of observations can be highly variable. Anyone who wants to pursue canine ethology has to have some familiarity with human ethology, as well as with psychology, because any evaluation of canine behavior must be coupled with an understanding of human behavior. It follows that we must adopta new methodology, which is to require in our experiments that dogs and their owners both participate in them. An alternative approach would be to examine the animal in an entirely artificial, laboratory setting. We did not seriously contemplate keeping dogs in a kennel and periodically selecting one for an experiment or for observation. Isolated dogs sooner or later become psychologically disturbed and become unsuitable as experimental subjects for behavioral observation. On the other hand, dogs kept in groups avidly observe the course of events and this again impedes objective study. For example, we examined bonding among dogs kept by an animal protective organization, which employed a common run for dogs. We soon learned that dogs vied for the honor of being selected for an experiment, and dogs that were picked more frequently were soon punished by the others' aggressive behavior. Dogs do not like exceptions. The reader will discover many facts and data in this volume: among them the results of tests and experiments of ethological significance performed with my collaborators, as well as those of other experiments that may not be directly related to ethology but are undoubtedly of scientific importance. We shall also discuss observations that I made over a ten-year period on my own dogs. These are, of course, individual observations, but their scientific value derives from the fact that they helped us to carefully design and control experiments. Finally, I shall also provide some firsthand anecdotes that enrich my story. The reader should consider my views on the canine mind as the hypotheses of a scientific theory, the proof of which remains the task of future research. But absent more research, these are my views here and now and I shall try to support them the best way I can. Those readers with a particular bent for science will find a long chapter near the end of the book about scientific investigations into the animal mind and what the stumbling blocks are. These stumbling blocks are obviously relevant for my theories as well. For this reason the reader must resist the temptation to believe that dogs are exactly the way I see them. Let us begin. How did the wolf turn into the dog? Chapter 1 The Wolf The Evolution of Canids I shall provide convincing evidence in chapter 3 that the ancestor of the dog is the wolf and only the wolf. Until then, let us devote some detailed attention to it.1 The scientific name for the wolf is Canis lupus, gray wolf (the American black wolf is also known as the timber wolf), and it is a predator. Predators can be classified into several families: the bears ( Ursidae), the cats ( Felidae), the hyenas ( Hyaenidae), the civets ( Viverridae), the weasels ( Mustelidae), the raccoons ( Procyonidae), and the dogs ( Canidae) (see figure 1). These families can be traced back to an ancestral predator, the creodont, which lived more than a hundred million years ago in the Northern Hemisphere. Its descendant was the miacis (see figure 2), which lived forty million to fifty million years ago. Some of the predator families living today descended from this animal. The miacis was a tree-dwelling animal of weasel size, with short legs and a long tail. The canids' lineage descends from this to the cynodictus, which appeared in the pliocene era about twenty million years ago (see figure 3). This latter spent most of its time on the ground and its limbs were better suited for running than those of the miacis. It was after the miacis that the cat family separated from the canids, which descended from the tomarctus (see figure 4). The tomarctus rather resembled our contemporary dogs, although it was much inferior in intelligence. Today, the canids comprise some ten or so different genera and approximately thirty-nine species. The genus Canis comprises, beside the dog ( Canis familiaris ) and the wolf ( Canis lupus), the prairie wolf ( Canis latrans), the golden jackal ( Canis aureus), the silverbacked jackal ( Canis mesomelas), the sidestriped jackal ( Canis adustus), as well as various fox species. Additional caniform predators belong to various other genera; among these the best known may be the African wild dog ( Lyacaon pictus). Scientists recognize some thirty to forty subspecies of wolf, the precise number depending on which taxonomy is accepted as valid. The members of various subspecies differ among themselves in their body weight, fur, and the average size of certain bones. The Wolf Among the canids, the wolf is the largest, weighing 40 to 50 kilograms (88 to 120 pounds), although individuals weighing more than 60 kilograms (144 pounds) have been found. The wolf hunts in cooperative packs for prey larger than itself Its habitat extends throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with the exception of tropical forests and arid deserts, and includes the tundra, taiga, steppe, savanna, and forests, unless it is displaced by human activity. It is superbly adapted for sustained running, and over short distances its speed can reach 60 to 70 kilometers per hour (37 to 43 miles per hour). According to some observers, when chased it is capable of jumping 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16 feet). At a moderate speed it is able to pursue prey for 15 to 20 minutes. After such an exertion it needs to rest for a comparable period of time. Its ability to swim is outstanding and wolves have been observed to tread water while killing their prey. In contrast to other canids, wolves eat only meat and bones. They have an exquisite sense of smell and hearing. Pack members can detect the smell of elk from a distance of 2 to 2.5 kilometers (1.25 to 1.55 miles) and tame wolves have been known to reply to the imitation of a howl by a familiar human from a distance of 6 kilometers (3.75 miles). This means that they can probably also hear a genuine wolf howl from this distance. Wolves' vision is particularly good in perceiving motion. It is no exaggeration that wolves are the most intelligent predators. The volume of their brains is between 150 and 170 cubic centimeters (9.2 to 10.4 cubic inches). They acquired their ex...

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Book Description North Point Press, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. This book is endlessly enlightening and entertaining . . . will appeal to all dog owners. --Ann LaFarge, Taconic News How do dogs think? Short of breeding a talking dog (not as impossible as it sounds), the best we can do is to carefully observe and record their behavior. And after a decade of research, the internationally renowned ethologist Vilmos Csanyi has brilliantly captured the high degree of mutual understanding and empathy that exists between humans and their proverbial best friends. Drawing in part on close observations of his own dogs, Flip and Jerry, Csanyi argues that the long-standing alliance of dogs and humans arose from the problem-solving and communications skills evident in wolves, from which all modern dogs are descended. These basic intellectual skills were refined and enhanced as dogs and humans evolved together over tens of thousands of years. And because dogs were bred to be mankind s helpmates, the dog owner who knows what to look for can interpret their thoughts, desires, and motivations. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780865477292

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Book Description North Point Press, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. This book is endlessly enlightening and entertaining . . . will appeal to all dog owners. --Ann LaFarge, Taconic News How do dogs think? Short of breeding a talking dog (not as impossible as it sounds), the best we can do is to carefully observe and record their behavior. And after a decade of research, the internationally renowned ethologist Vilmos Csanyi has brilliantly captured the high degree of mutual understanding and empathy that exists between humans and their proverbial best friends. Drawing in part on close observations of his own dogs, Flip and Jerry, Csanyi argues that the long-standing alliance of dogs and humans arose from the problem-solving and communications skills evident in wolves, from which all modern dogs are descended. These basic intellectual skills were refined and enhanced as dogs and humans evolved together over tens of thousands of years. And because dogs were bred to be mankind s helpmates, the dog owner who knows what to look for can interpret their thoughts, desires, and motivations. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780865477292

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Book Description North Point Press. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 352 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.3in. x 0.9in.This book is endlessly enlightening and entertaining . . . will appeal to all dog owners. --Ann LaFarge, Taconic NewsHow do dogs think Short of breeding a talking dog (not as impossible as it sounds), the best we can do is to carefully observe and record their behavior. And after a decade of research, the internationally renowned ethologist Vilmos Csnyi has brilliantly captured the high degree of mutual understanding and empathy that exists between humans and their proverbial best friends. Drawing in part on close observations of his own dogs, Flip and Jerry, Csnyi argues that the long-standing alliance of dogs and humans arose from the problem-solving and communications skills evident in wolves, from which all modern dogs are descended. These basic intellectual skills were refined and enhanced as dogs and humans evolved together over tens of thousands of years. And because dogs were bred to be mankinds helpmates, the dog owner who knows what to look for can interpret their thoughts, desires, and motivations. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780865477292

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