Dogs: Man's best friends-or canine con artists? For centuries dogs have stolen our hearts, our homes, and our wallets. Just how do dogs get otherwise reasonable adults to feed them sirloin, let them occupy easy chairs, and generally allow them to regulate our every waking hour? In this provocative, entertaining, and wholly admiring reappraisal of our canine companions, Stephen Budiansky calls upon the latest research on dog behavior, genes, and evolution to explain why dogs do what they do, think what they think, and feel what they feel-and how they have come to occupy such a remarkable place in our lives and affections. Challenging many of our accepted ideas about canine intelligence and emotions, Budiansky shows how the very strange things that dogs so often do-fiercely guarding pairs of shoes, barking incessantly at the UPS man, rolling in really foul-smelling things-are the product of a rich blending of their ancient wolf ancestry, their subsequent dramatic evolutionary changes in the company of man, and their ever-so-peculiar modern social environment, neither wolf nor human. This original and insightful reexamination of an animal at once so familiar and so mysterious tells us, for the first time ever, what it truly is to be a dog.
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Prepare to have any illusions about your canine companion totally shattered. In writing The Truth About Dogs, author Stephen Budiansky (The Nature of Horses) is determined to uncover the true nature of our beloved beasts, and it's not always a pretty picture. The introduction presents a basic question: why on earth have we allowed these disease-carrying, biting, destructive, and expensive animals into our lives? We know why--it's because we love them, warts and all. So does Budiansky, and once you read past his inflammatory introduction, you'll find a book that presents a new way of looking at old behaviors.
His insistence on the recent evolution of separate breeds, even those generally considered to have originated centuries ago like the Mexican hairless, is sure to be controversial. His interpretation of recent behavioral research may raise some hackles as well, and begins with an examination of pack behavior in wolves. While wild packs have only one dominant male and female, we often expect our dogs to behave submissively to an extended family of dominants--not only can that be difficult, but some of their natural "submissive" behavior can be extremely frustrating. Face-licking is an easy example of this poor conduct; Rover thinks he's showing submission, but Grandma's not thrilled with having an 80-pound shepherd jumping on her. In discussions of more general behaviors, Budiansky's examinations of the motivation levels present in different breeds seems to explain much about the success or failure of obedience training. While you may raise your eyebrows and frown through a few of his assertions, this fresh look at old assumptions makes a fascinating read for anyone who's ever loved a dog. --Jill LightnerAbout the Author:
Stephen Budiansky, scientist, author, journalist, and dog lover, is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of five highly acclaimed books about animals, nature, and science, including The Nature of Horses.
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