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The Truth About Dogs: The Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits and Moral Fibre of Canis familiaris [Paperback]

Stephen Budiansky
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Feb 2002
Stephen Budiansky holds that virtually everything previously written about dogs is either wrong or misguided. Instead he maintains that to understand the true nature of dogs we need to stop interpreting their behaviour in the human terms of loyalty and betrayal. The truth is far more complex and surprising. The Dog Genome Project is currently laying the groundwork for identifying the genetic basis of why our dogs behave in the way they do. Other research investigates canine intelligence, and some remarkable experiments reveal what dogs can and cannot see. Budiansky brings together the disciplines of behavioural science, genetics, neuroscience and archaeology to show us how wrong we have been about man's best friend.


Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (7 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075381322X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753813225
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon 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 will find a book that presents a new way of looking at old behaviours.

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 behavioural research may raise some hackles as well and begins with an examination of pack behaviour 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" behaviour 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 behaviours, 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.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IF 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 Caribbean in about a week with what he'd make peddling that secret. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a totally comprehensive guide to dogs that's as fresh as its cover. The evolution of every episode of a dogs life is reviewed in a serious but deviously humourous manner. Reading it is like slipping into the dogs skin and living his life for a few hours - an eye opening, earth shattering experience. Many human-dog misunderstandings are exploded so if like me, you love dogs but know little about them you'd better hold on to your hat. I've read many books on animal behaviour but never before have i read one about dogs so this certainly sets the benchmark. After the authors equally colourfull and scientifically accurate book on horses, "The nature of horses," I believe i've made a good choice. If you're a student of animal behaviour or just love dogs, this is a must have, informative read which won't cure insomnia.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Contrary to (only) one of the reviewers of this book and in my capacity as dog owner, breeder, trainer and judge, I found this to be one of the most thoughtful and rigorous attempts to define the relationship between dogs and people I have read. This is a serious, scientific and analytical approach, which clashes with many other more 'touchy feely' books which are around.
I have leant this book to friends and people in the dog club where I train and all of them have really enjoyed it.
If your dog is your 'little princess', you may not appreciate this book!
If, like me, you live with dogs, spending hours of time in their company and sharing your home with them, you will laugh out loud at times, but you will also almost certainly learn some new things about your canine friends, in a positive way.
I thoroughly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
An engaging, thought-provoking and witty book. The author tackles both sentimental anthropomorphic cliche and animal activists' opinions about the dog/human relationship head on.
In a book which a scientist may read as a polemic but which never patronises a lay reader, he constantly entertains. Like any good communicator he makes complex scientific theory simple but never simplistic. He does it not to pontificate but to help answer those questions which bug any thoughtful dog lover - Where do dogs come from? Why does my dog wolf his dinner as if he won't eat for another 4 days? What's with the floppy ears? What do I have to do to get him to come? Why do dogs smell each other behinds when they meet? Why are some breeds so doolally?

The strong framework carries a fascinating narrative. Above all, this book is witty. A perfect gift for any dog lover, even those who don't make a habit of reading non-fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book contains some outdated discredited theories. 6 April 2011
Format:Hardcover
I am suprised that a book written reasonably recently is so dated. He really doesn't understand the idea of training a dog using positive reinforcement. He also talks downright old fashioned discredited nonsense about dominant behaviour in dogs towards humans. He has some dreadful treatments for so called aggressive dominant behaviour, these are outdated and downright cruel and potentially dangerous for all involved. I would suggest dog owners should read something by Turid Rugaas or Scholz and van Reinhardt.I would absolutly not recomend this book to anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 19 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am reading this book at the moment and really like the style. The scientific bits are not too daunting and are explained really well. It came recommended on a reading list for a qualification I am doing and I am very glad I bought it; the sort of book you can dip into over and again.
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