There are dog lovers, and then there are dog lovers
. Behavioral scientists Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger have raised hundreds of dogs of various breeds, raced sled teams, and published professional and popular works on canine behavior. Dogs
is their manifesto of canine evolution and treatment by humans, and it offers deep insight, provocative theories, and controversial ideas regarding our relationship with them. Though some of the material is most appropriate for readers with some zoological background, much of it is written for a general audience--one that cares about dogs not just for what they offer humans, but for their own sake.
Arguing that much of current thinking about dogs' evolutionary history is misguided, the authors share their own complex story of wolflike animals coevolving with permanent human settlements and only recently being subject to directed breeding and artificial selection. This is interesting enough, but they go on to take issue with the use and treatment of dogs, some of which they claim is bad for dog and human alike. Pure breeding, making companion animals of inappropriate breeds, and even some uses of disability assistance are assailed for neglecting genetic and other hardwired aspects of canine life. Surprisingly little is known for sure about dogs' lives and behavior, so the Coppingers' contribution is a welcome, if occasionally unsettling, eye-opener. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Too often books about pet species are larded with anthropomorphic sentimentality. Not so the current offering by Raymond (Fishing Dogs) and Lorna Coppinger (The World of Sled Dogs). This is a literate scientific treatise that has much to offer dog owners and readers with a general interest in animals. With 35 years of experience breeding different types of dogs, and a strong background in biology, this couple offers new insights into dog behavior and evolution. Contrary to the current evolutionary theory that dogs are the same species as wolves, the authors postulate a common (archaic) ancestor for domestic dogs and wolves. Building on the work of earlier ethologists, they assert that modern dogs and modern wolves are as distinct from each other as modern humans are from modern apes. Accordingly, they contend that the idea of using wolf pack protocols to alter the behavior of dogs as prescribed by some popular manuals is absurd. Additionally, the authors note that because of selective breeding for patterns of behavior, some dog breeds are unsuitable as pets (e.g., sled dogs such as huskies, hunting breeds such as bloodhounds). In the managed evolution of dogs, which has produced a remarkable range of working and hunting breeds, the writers perceive both environmental and genetic factors. Through these new perceptions regarding the mechanics and tenacity of inbred and enhanced behavioral traits, humans can better understand the primal biological motivations of their canine companions. Chock full of both scientific studies and personal experiences, this fast-paced, absorbing book deserves a wide audience. Photos and charts. (May)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.