Truth About Dogs Paperback – Oct 4 2001
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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 Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Budiansky, a scientist, former editor of Nature, correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, and author of six books on animal behavior, including If a Lion Could Talk, debunks many commonly held beliefs about the dog: "most if not all of the conventional explanations of where dogs come from, how they ended up in our homes, and why they do what they do just have to be wrong." No B.F. Skinner behaviorist, he is a firm believer in the influence of genes. Citing scholarly sources and using a sense of humor that allows him to transform some difficult concepts into lay reader's language, Budiansky explains natural selection and the genetic basis of appearance, behavior, social interactions, sensory abilities (i.e., sight, smell, and hearing), aggression, and communication. He questions whether dogs are capable of love and loyalty or whether their behavior is strictly expedient. His answers will satisfy passionate dog lovers and serious scientists alike. Recommended for undergraduate collections serving students of animal behavior and public libraries with intellectually sophisticated patrons. [Budiansky is also the author of The Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II, reviewed on p. 92.DEd.]DFlorence Scarinci, formerly with Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.
-DFlorence Scarinci, formerly with Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
"F SOME ADVERTISER or political consultant could figure out just what it is in human nature that makes us so ready to believe that dogs are loyal, trustworthy, selfless, loving, courageous, noble, and obedient, he could retire to his own island in the Carib" Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
I'd rate this book a five, but I don't follow Budiansky's argument that dogs are wolves in arrested, or altered, juvenile development. He suggests that a genetic by environment interaction took place, but he doesn't lay out the mechanism for such an interaction clearly. His assertions may well be correct, but I would have liked to see more evidence on this point.
Overall, however, I found the science to be concise and engaging. I recommend this book to people who wish to have a humane relationship with a dog and who want a dog to have a canine relationship with a human.
Another reason people seem to hate this book is Budiansky's twisted Gary Larson-ish humor, which is evidently not to everyone's taste.
A third is probably the fact that he advocates hitting, but only in cases where dominance is an issue between dog and owner. I can understand readers being angry about this, because I think with most dogs a much gentler, albeit still firm, approach is all that is needed. Also, I would think that getting into a dominance battle with a very large dog will likely end with you being sent to the emergency room. Other than that, his advice on training and punishment make a lot of sense, and are NOT the thoughts of a dog hater.
Still, this is probably the best overall book on canine psychology that I have read.
Budiansky starts by comparing wolves and the scavenger dogs from which modern dogs evolved. He discusses the structure of the wolf social-heirarchy and how it's been altered, but is still relevant in domestic canines. One of the most surprising and controversial assertion he makes is that humans probably didn't consciously domesticate dogs. Instead, it was a case of dogs exploiting humans. Individual dogs that were able to illicit a beneficial response from humans had a survival advantage over less-docile individuals. Humans were (and continue to be) a comparatively easy source of food (and other necessities) and thus certain dogs took advantage of this resources, thrived, and passed on these beneficial traits to their offspring.
After setting the foundation, Budiansky procedes to debunk many of the myths most of us have (had) about canis familiaris. He argues, quite convincingly, that it's an anthropomorphic misconception to project human characteristics on dogs: They aren't loyal, selfless, or posses any number of human-defined attributes. Instead, canine behavior (like the behavior of all animals) is a combination of instinct and environmental conditioning. For instance, when a dog licks your face, it isn't out of love, but instead a show of submissiveness towards someone the dog perceives as a more dominant pack member.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is not a dog training manual but if you love dogs it's a must read. The Truth About Dogs provides a fascinating history of dogs; where they came from, their relationship with... Read morePublished on May 7 2004 by PC Mountain
But Budiansky really does not understand dogs very well. You don't learn about dogs from the abstract. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2004 by Frank S. Kalich
I gave up trying to find any useful information from the book about one-third of the way through.
This book is recommended to people who hate dogs --- it will confirm their... Read more
As someone who cares for dogs but doesn't live with one full-time, I was hoping to learn from this book. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2003 by Linda Felaco
I have 2 Airedales,Whiskey(Male)and Jazz(Female).I've never experienced so much love given to me by these beutifull Dogs.I wanted to know more about my BEST FRIENDS. Read morePublished on Aug. 20 2002 by Bob Waskiewicz
This book has some very thought provoking information in it, and much of it differs greatly from main stream thought. Read morePublished on May 12 2001 by Nunya Business
This isn't a book filled with cute animal stories; it's a serious examination of the evolution and social structure of dogs. Read morePublished on April 27 2001 by mirope
If you are looking for warm and fuzzy stories about the mystic bond between man and dog, don't look for them in Stephen Budiansky's excellent, scientifically oriented book on the... Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2001 by David Straub