An Inquiry into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits and Moral Fiber of Canis familiaris
by Stephen Budiansky
Just as The Character of Cats explores how cats have evolved to live alongside humans (while still keeping their independence) The Truth About Dogs examines what makes dogs such a perfect fit with people, how they might have first become domesticated, and what is going on when the modern human-dog companionship has issues (think behavior problem dogs). In this book Budiansky talks about dog evolution, genetics, behavior, physiology and much more. Sometimes I got lost in the details of exactly how their senses work or why genetic evolution and breeding have shaped them into the forms we know today. But overall it was pretty interesting. I kept getting the idea that the author was implying that everything a dog does- from his favorite game of chase to begging for food or snuggling near a person for petting- is simply instinctual behavior hardwired by their genes. That all the endearing things dogs do as well as their more annoying habits, are caused by how domestication has mixed up the behavior patterns they inherited from wolves. Budiansky makes it pretty clear though, that even as he can pick apart a dog's motives and demonstrate that they don't have ESP or really love us unconditionally, he still loves and admires them. One thing is sure, I never realized how very differently a dog sees the world- not only in his perception of color, scent and sound but his perspective on social nuances and priorities. Dogs really are amazing creatures, not the least because even being so utterly different from us, they have ways of relating so well that they have become our closest animal companions. Any dog owner is sure to appreciate this book. It will open your eyes!
I borrowed this book from the public library.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 263 pages, 2000
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