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Truth About Dogs [Paperback]

Stephen Budiansky
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 4 2001
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 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.

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"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
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The truth about this book July 8 2004
There are a lot of lousy books about dogs, dog training, dog heroics, dog antics, etc., out there. This book is NOT one of them. Budiansky's thesis is simple: Dogs are dogs; they are not people. Dogs behave like dogs; they do not behave like people. Nonetheless, dog owners persist in thinking of their dogs as people and trying to understand dog behavior in human terms. This type of thinking is detrimental to dog and person alike--canine/human interactions are at their most rewarding when humans treat dogs as dogs. Budiansky goes on to explain dog behavior from an evolutionary perspective. That is, how does (or did) behavior X serve the survival and/or reproduction of the species?
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the Rosetta Bone of canine behavior May 18 2004
This offbeat, even controversial, book resists the urge to anthropomorphise, which is probably one reason why so many people are upset with this book. To me, his explanations make a lot of sense. He even effectively refutes Rupert Sheldrake's belief that many dogs are psychic.
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.
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By A Customer
I am the proud owner of two very well trained standard poodles. Proudly they have never been to a training class and I have trained them solely by applying the methods I found in numerous books. The corner stone of training is understanding dog behavior........ After seeing the PBS Nova episode "Dogs and More Dogs" I was intrigued, did a little bit of reasearch and found this book. The author of this book apparantly wrote the episode or something. All I have to say is this book is just entirely outstanding. While the theories about dog behavior maybe be slightly shocking to those of us who flagrantly anthropomorphitize their canine pets (I am just as guiltly as anyone else) it is never the less very true. It should also be said that the theories presented are not groundbreaking or entirely new. With an open mind I believe this book will help you understand the (WHY) of dog behavior. The why being: "Why does your dog act the way they do?" It may help you understand how your dog percieves you and how you may be reinforcing bad habits. But be advised this is not any sort of the training book and will not directly give you help with the (HOW). The how being the how to get them to do what you want and act the way you want them to act. For help in this department check out How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar ...... Also check out Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson (a little bit elitest but good none the less). In fact How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar and Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson I believe should be required reading for dog ownership. We would probably have less euthanization and adoption from behavior problems as a result...... Anyway enjoy the book, I think it is worthwhile.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A BRUTAL READ!! Jan. 9 2004
I was given this book as a gift and was really shocked to find all these positive reviews on Amazon. I have been trying to read this book for months and have decided to throw it out with about three quarters of it read. I have never not finished a book before.
Brutal-diansky's writing style is terrible. I was amazed at his ability to take interesting topics, for example the aggressive behavior in dogs, and make me just not care about it. The amount of pages wasted on his so called scientific rhetoric was just absurd. Was he trying to write a science book or a fun fact finding book with anecdotal opinions? He approaches the subject of dogs in a clinical manner but after pages and pages of meandering just ends up being boringly opinionated. This would be fine if this was the intention of the book but let's be straight about it from the start. The author is not being very honest in this regard.
On top of his horrific writing style and flip flopping between science and opinion the information given by him seemed like common sense. If you don't realize your dog is a dog and you are a human then for pete sake you need more than The Truth About Dogs from Stephen Brutal-diansky to read.
I own two dogs and really thought I would learn more about them by reading this book. I was wrong. Very little of the information in this book was interesting and/or useful. A lot of it was just stuff you would already know if you owned a dog. I found this book a brutal read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars dog lovers must read this
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 more
Published on May 7 2004 by PC Mountain
3.0 out of 5 stars i like any dog book
But Budiansky really does not understand dogs very well. You don't learn about dogs from the abstract. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by Frank S. Kalich
4.0 out of 5 stars Debunks Common Misconceptions about Dogs.
In The Truth About Dogs, Budiansky offers an objective, insightful, and concise analysis of canis familiaris. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by Alan Koslowski
1.0 out of 5 stars The denigration of dogs
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
Published on Jan. 14 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Confirmed all my observations
As someone who cares for dogs but doesn't live with one full-time, I was hoping to learn from this book. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2003 by Linda Felaco
1.0 out of 5 stars TheTruthAboutHATING Dogs
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 more
Published on Aug. 20 2002 by Bob Waskiewicz
3.0 out of 5 stars Some really good information, but disturbing writing style..
This book has some very thought provoking information in it, and much of it differs greatly from main stream thought. Read more
Published on May 12 2001 by Nunya Business
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing your dog in a whole new light.
This isn't a book filled with cute animal stories; it's a serious examination of the evolution and social structure of dogs. Read more
Published on April 27 2001 by mirope
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul"
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 more
Published on Feb. 16 2001 by W. Straub
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