by Stephen Budiansky
Dogs have stolen our hearts, our homes, and our wallets, not necessarily in that order. Theirs is an impressve accomplishment for a species that just a few thousand years ago was cringing by the edge of campfires dodging brickbats. How do dogs get grown men 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, 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.
Budiansky shows how the very strange things that dogs so often do—fiercely guarding pairs of shoes, barking incessantly at the UPS man, quivering at thunderstorms, rolling in really foul-smelling things, even “faking” ailments—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. He draws upon new psychological and neuroscience research to show that the seeming intelligence differences between different dog breeds have much more to do with temperament and training than true differences in brainpower.
The Truth About Dogs also explores the way dogs see, hear, and smell—and social rules that they have evolved to obey and understand—to create for them a world-concept that is beyond anything in our everyday experience. 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.
Viking, 2000, 263 pages, hardcover
From Science News
Scientist-turned-science-writer Budiansky explores canines' heritage with the verve usually reserved for studying people. The author of The Nature of Horses applies scientific data as wide-ranging as the archaeological record and the canine genome to assess why dogs behave as they do. As relevant as any other factor in his analysis is how humans relate as their best friends. Budiansky believes that these crafty creatures have suckered us into believing that they seek loyalty and love, when in fact, their behavior is merely a genetically programmed mechanism of survival. In detailing how canines evolved from wolves into our trusty companions, the author also addresses those conundrums that fascinate all dog lovers: What are dogs really doing when they seem to smile? Why are they afraid of thunderstorms? Why do they like to roll in really smelly things? Why is it that dog owners are most often the cause of their pet's neuroses?
Viking, 2000, 263 p., illus., hardcover
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Copyright 2001, Science Service