The Truth About Dogs: The Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits and Moral Fibre of Canis familiaris

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9780297646501: The Truth About Dogs: The Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits and Moral Fibre of Canis familiaris
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Stephen Budiansky holds that virtually everything previously written about dogs is either wrong or misguided. Instead he maintains that to understand the true nature of dogs we need to stop interpreting their behaviour in the human terms of loyalty and betrayal. We think we understand how our dog makes sense of the world, that we know what he feels, what he wants and why he wants it because so much of what he does is familiar. But this familiarity can fool us. The truth is far more complex and surprising. Canine behaviour has its roots in the wolf pack, so a society that places a premium on staying out of trouble. Wolves - and, by extension, dogs - know their place in the social order and give way to superiors to avoid conflict. In other words, they are very good at working out what is necessary and doing it. But there is more to canine behaviour than evolution and survival. The Dog Genome Project is currently laying the groundwork for identifying the genetic basis of why our dogs behave in the way they do. Other research investigates canine intelligence, and some remarkable experiments reveal what dogs can and cannot see. Budiansky brings together the disciplines of behavioural science, genetics, neuroscience and archaeology to show us how wrong we have been about man's best friend.

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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 will find a book that presents a new way of looking at old behaviours.

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 behavioural research may raise some hackles as well and begins with an examination of pack behaviour 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" behaviour 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 behaviours, 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 Lightner

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The first scientific look at the world of dogs: why they do what they do, why they are what they are and how they got to be that way in the first place.

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9780753813225: The Truth About Dogs: The Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits and Moral Fibre of Canis familiaris

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