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Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution Paperback – October 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226115631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226115634
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Biologists, Breeders and trainers, and champion sled dog racers, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have more than four decades of experience with literally thousands of dogs. Offering a scientifically informed perspective on canines and their relations with humans, the Coppingers take a close look at eight different types of dogs—household, village, livestock guarding, herding, sled-pulling, pointing, retrieving, and hound. They argue that dogs did not evolve directly from wolves, nor were they trained by early humans; instead they domesticated themselves to exploit a new ecological niche: Mesolithic village dumps. Tracing the evolution of today's breeds from these village dogs, the Coppingers show how characteristic shapes and behaviors—from pointing and baying to the sleek shapes of running dogs—arise from both genetic heritage and the environments in which pups are raised.

About the Author

Raymond Coppinger is a professor of biology at Hampshire College. He is the author of Fishing Dogs and coauthor of Wheelchair Assistance Dogs.

Lorna Coppinger is the award-winning author of The World of Sled Dogs. Together they founded Hampshire's Livestock Dog Project.

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Customer Reviews

The book covers a lot and is well written.
M. Santos
So I understand their strong aversion to breeding many working dogs for the household pet market.
J Chadderdon
This is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in humans, dogs, science, and the planet.
Will Barratt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bukkene Bruse VINE VOICE on July 16, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Coppingers in "Dogs" try to say a few different things. The main topics are how wolves became selected as dogs, what this implies for their behavior and training, and the ethics of pure-breeding and using working dogs as pets. In these core topics, this book is generally well argued and supported in the main, but suffers from hiccups of poor reasoning. In one example, when arguing why bigger dogs are better for the transhumance, the authors state "to cover the distance with half the steps means a longer lasting dog." Well, the bigger dog also takes heavier steps and big dogs are notorious for structural problems. However, these hiccups are minor distractions.
The first core topic that dogs evolved first as scavengers of human waste dumps is interesting. While still largely a speculative hypothesis, this idea is shown fairly well in the book to be more reasonable than the idea that humans got a hold of enough wolves to domesticate them by selecting the tamest ones and tossing the others. This has implications for training in that essentially sedentary dogs foraging at a dump are not going to have wolf behaviors, particularly the widely assumed pack hierarchy.
Another major topic is the discussion on why working dogs, with strongly ingrained motor patterns of behavior, are not going to be well suited for living in a house - unless you like being herded by your border collie. This too is well done and promoting the option of a more "generic" dog as a better household companion will do much good. There is also a section on how assistance dogs suffer by being bred and developed in manners inconstant with what makes for a good working dog.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Crysania on November 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was divided into four sections, each detailing the various ways that people and dogs live and work together. I have very mixed feelings about the book so I'll organize this review (which does have some spoilers though as it's not fiction that may not matter so much) by the section.

Section 1 discussed a concept called commensalism - a symbiotic relationship that is good for one species but does nothing for the other. This is, ultimately, how the author believes dogs developed from wolves. The common idea is that humans took wolf pups from the wild, tamed them, and made them pets and working dogs. But Coppinger sites a lot of evidence to the contrary. He believes that dogs basically domesticated themselves once human beings turned to more agricultural pursuits be becoming the sort of village dogs you see in some cultures (he studied the island of Pemba, off the coast of Africa) feeding off the dump. The wolves who had less of a flight response to humans could feed more often and were able to produce while the others did not. Eventually they ended up as these 30 lb village dogs. In some ways, it makes sense. People have tried taming and domesticating wolves in sanctuaries and it never really works. They have to tame each generation and they're only just barely habituated and definitely not domestic. I thought this was really the best section of the book.

Section 2 discusses a concept called mutualism -- a relationship where both members benefit. He discusses three major "jobs" dogs can have: livestock guarding, sled pulling, and herding. He seems to have the most respect for the livestock guardians, who are bred to do nothing more than stay with the sheep and bark when an intruder (usually a coyote or wolf) begins to stalk the sheep.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Will Barratt on July 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a book about dogs as a species, not dogs as pets. This is a science book, and a really good one. The author is a full-time biologist who knows genetics, environments, dogs (Canines), and field work. Starting with the question "Why are dogs different from wolves, coyotes, and jackals when they are genetically the same?" the author takes the reader along for field work, studies, and a look at working dogs, pet dogs, and village dogs. The work reads like a collection of after-dinner stories told to regular people, all woven together around the central point.

The reader will have to set aside bias about dog 'breeds' as canine genetics takes front seat. Further, some issues about 'breeds' run counter to what many people believe about their fine registered pet. This is often what happens when science bumps into belief.

This is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in humans, dogs, science, and the planet. It just happens to be about dogs.
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88 of 117 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Let's see now--a dozen dogs eating their heads off so that you can run them in sled races for sport is mutualistic while one pet dog eating its head off in your home is parasitism. A shepherd culling all non-white puppies or a sportsman breeding sled dogs to be faster and faster is beneficial, but the AKC doing the same kind of selection is evil. If you like this kind of logic, you will love this book. I am always amused by the sanctimony of the "working dog" enthusiasts who fail to see that inbreeding is inbreeding, whether for working behavior or looks. Anybody who thinks that the working dog people aren't just as fanatical as the AKC is invited to surf puppy-for-sale websites where we see the same emphasis on pedigree that we see among the AKC purists. The only difference is that one group is selecting for behavioral characteristics and the other for aesthetic ones. You will note that although the authors condemn inbreeding, it appears that most of the dogs they have owned belong to a breed, as we hear about Border Collies, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Alaskan Huskies, Marammano-Abruzzese, etc. Indeed, they consider themselves to be quite daring in having crossed a couple of exotic herding breeds. So, if mongrels are so great, why aren't they talking about their black-and-white dogs, or their shepherd mixes?
Speaking of behavior, the discussion of the genetics of behavior in this book is nearly incomprehensible, and I'm still not sure what the point was. That behavior has a genetic component cannot be denied. Their examples of why certain breeds aren't good for particular jobs continually confuse physical limitations with behavioral ones.
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