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The Truth about Dogs: An Inquiry into Ancestry Social Conventions Mental Habits Moral Fiber Canis fami Paperback – Bargain Price, October 1, 2001


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Paperback, Bargain Price, October 1, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • ISBN-10: 014100228X
  • ASIN: B000IOES1A
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,149,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

More About the Author

Stephen Budiansky is a writer, historian, and journalist, the author of 14 books about military and intelligence history, science, and the natural world. He is a former editor and writer at U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic and the former Washington Editor of the scientific journal Nature. He lives on a small farm in northern Virginia.

Customer Reviews

And, I must admit, the gene-therapy at the end, I could only skim... it was a little too boring.
Yolanda S. Bean
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.
Alan Koslowski
Not only is it a great read--funny and well written--but it is packed with well documented information.
GingerT63

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Jussi Bjorling on October 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Budiansky has written the smartest book about dogs to come out in years. Rather than simply make observations about the relationships he has witnessed between people and their pets, he assembles decades of scientific research and archaeological evidence to explain how the deep bond between people and animals came about, how dogs and their owners have helped each other for tens of thousands of years. Although the story is not always warm and fuzzy (people have put dogs to many unsavory uses over the millennia), Budiansky still makes the strongest case I've seen for the unique nature of the human-dog bond. A terrific read, and incredibly informative.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Budiansky has written good books on various aspects of nature before, and he brings nature into the home in his most recent one, _The Truth About Dogs: An Inquiry into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits, and Moral Fiber of Canis Familiaris_ (Viking Press). This is a fine book about viewing dogs in a scientific light, but as such, it will offend those who love dogs because they think that dogs provide unconditional love or because they view dogs as people or because they are convinced that dogs understand the thoughts of humans and can equally with humans experience such things as guilt and affection. Dogs, Budiansky says, do what dogs do because they are their own species, not because they are "almost human." Dogs get along with us because dogs are parasites.
Now, Budiansky says he keeps dogs, and it is obvious he loves and appreciates them and that his dogs have a perceptive and caring owner. But he points out that as dogs, dogs are wonderful, but if they were humans, they would be jerks: they compete for our food and other resources, they spread disease, they bite and cause injuries, they relieve themselves where we do not want them to, they chew up valuable items, and they behave in countless other ways that would turn humans who so behaved into enemies very quickly. Dogs exploit the "Awww Effect" and we can't help but look at them as something like human. Dogs have our number. Dogs are on our side just as tapeworms are.
That's a bit too strong, of course, since we do get something back from dogs. I think we get more than the cool scientific appreciation of a living, breathing bundle of conditioned reflexes which Budiansky encourages, but even if it is only that, dogs and we have more of a symbiotic rather than parasitical relationship.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lee Charles Kelley on February 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Partial kudos to Stephen Budiansky for this look at the supposedly true nature of man's best friend. On the one hand he easily dispels many of the common myths that most (if not all) of the famous so-called dog experts out there still cling to. On the other hand he should take a harder look at the real causes of aggression (it's always based on fear). And he should especially re-examine the alpha theory, which he's totally in love with.

Don't get me wrong. It's great that he's put the Bar Harbor experiments into perspective. Too many breeders are now sending puppies home way to early. And far too many puppies and dog owners are still suffering from the myth of the "critical socialization window" by putting their dogs into training before the pups are emotionally developed enough for learning. Even though the idea that there are "critical windows" has been thoroughly de-bunked (as Budiansky rightly reports they're now called "sensitive periods"), puppy classes continue to be a bustling business, and the trainers who run them either don't see the disservice and potential harm they're doing to these lovely little animals, or they just don't care because such classes make for a good, steady flow of revenue.

For the most part Budiansky does a first-rate job of whittling down canine intelligence to its actual level, particularly when it comes to the kinds of "signals" dogs deliver through vocalizations and body language (Budiansky, who's careful not to mistake these signals as use of actual language, calls them hints, which I think is still too anthropomorphic). It's very helpful for dog owners to know that the so-called signals their dogs make aren't about what the dog MEANS, they're about what the dog wants to ACCOMPLISH.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal gave this book rave reviews and I couldn't agree more. Calling on the latest scientific studies on dog genetics, evolution, and psychology, The Truth About Dogs is both fascinating for its insights into what makes your dog tick as well as (VERY unusually for dog books) extremely humorous and well written. Though Budiansky does not set out to write a training manual, and tries to stick to what we really know from science, no dog owner can read this book without coming away with many practical insights into how to better handle--and better understand and enjoy--his or her dog. I especially liked the sections dealing with why dogs bark, whether some breeds are really smarter than others, and why dogs invent the incredible variety of attention getting devices that they do. Reviewers often say that this or that book is a "must" but this one REALLY is a must for all dog owners and dog lovers.
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