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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 June 2017
As a lifelong believer in the genius of dogs, I looked forward to getting stuck in to this one. Sadly, I found myself puffing my cheeks out more than I should have. The writing is tiresomely long-winded (I don't need to know where and on what street the author was having dinner when a thought struck). Often, I'd find myself skim-reading just the first line of a paragraph. Large chunks of this book are irrelevant with lots of the authors tedious autobiography and wearisome meandering getting to the point, for example, which should have been omitted or drastically shortened without loss of factual content but with a huge gain in clarity and getting to the heart of the matter - not to mention a thinner book. Perhaps more disappointingly, there were no 'Aha!' moments, at least for me. Needed a good editor. OK if you're new to dogs and have lots of time, but not one to plough through a second time.
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on 25 April 2014
I've been a dog trainer and behaviourist for more than thirty years and thought I knew about dogs - well, I was amazed and intrigued by this book. I read it all in one day on my kindle whilst on holiday last week and everyone around me had to suffer me reading out paragraphs to them....."ere, listen to this"......."well I never!"...."I never knew this!" Could have done with it being twice as long, it would have kept me out of trouble for 2 whole days!
Thank you Brian Hare. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in dogs.
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on 24 May 2017
Absolutely brilliant, fascinating. informative and interesting, without being too technical and it's so easy to read couldn't put it down, cant wait to read it again.
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on 19 June 2017
So much I didn't know
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on 11 June 2017
Good read
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Not only gives explanations about dogs and its origins, but also about other animals like bonobos and chimpanzees. I really recommend it for animal lovers who want to go a little bit deeper about its knowledge.
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on 17 May 2017
A good book - interesting read
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on 20 January 2014
AUDIENCE: You won't need to know scientific/technical jargon to follow the book, but it goes waaaaay beyond what a the average dog owner is looking for. So I would position it more as an education tool for dog professionals who want to brush up on dog cognition research.


Giving credit where it's due:

The book is written so damned well it's impossible to put down. It is sharp, informal and precise in just the right doses.

And it's exploded a few intellectual bombs in me, giving me these delightful `ha haaa' moments where the last few obscure pieces of the puzzle click together.

The authors integrate the results of each study they review into:

1/ The big picture: fascinating philosophical discussions about the limits of a dog's cognitive abilities; and
2/ The mundane: shedding light on everyday dog behaviour.

They also approach controversial societal topics like breed-related legislation with wit and balance.

Pointing the finger at pointing gestures:

The book excessively stresses the importance of Dr Hare's own research (dogs interpreting human pointing gestures) in my view. The authors nearly present the work as revolutionary. But the studies' design has come under criticism by cognitive researchers. My humble opinion, being familiar with the research, is that it could be overreaching for conclusions. Criticism is an everyday occurrence in science, but it should encourage you to take the chapter's conclusions with a pinch of salt.

Soapboxing about the behaviourism witch hunt:

The authors talk of the `cognitive revolution,' a current in behaviour research which focuses on animals' cognition and emotions. It has become all the rage lately to position cognition research as the opposite of applied behaviourism (the study of the mechanics of animal learning.) Behaviourism forming the cornerstone of dog training, the authors present trainers as pure behaviourists. In my experience, this takes a reductionistic, ill-informed, and antiquated view of dog training.

As a trained zoologist and dog trainer, and as a postgraduate student in an applied animal behaviourism program, I am `a child of both schools' (if you accept the dichotomy in the first place.) But modern trainers, zoology background or not, integrate biological predisposition, emotions and cognitive abilities into their protocols. Systematically so. Long gone are the days of arrogant behaviourists claiming they could change any behaviour in any animal. When faced with a behaviour problem, the modern trainer asks himself the four questions of ethology, not just the one about learning.

Rejecting behaviourism entirely is tantamount to throwing the baby with the bathwater. Applied behaviourism techniques have irreplaceable practical value, and are founded on science every bit as much as cognition research is - more so, I would argue. So, whilst it is is all the rage to reject behaviourism as pseudo-scientific, unethical, and opposed to cognition research, I find that this false dichotomy bears no more value than the Prince-Michael Jackson marketing war. I want to help dogs, and I will do so using all the tools in my arsenal until they fail to meet my standards of evidence.

The authors' superficial take on behaviour modification techniques was evident in discussions of common behaviour problems like separation anxiety. Typical protocols use learning theory to revert the dog's underlying emotional state. In tough cases, we use drugs, but drugs alone won't address the root cause. So, of course, the biochemical markers of a depressed dog will be out of whack, and his welfare can be improved by using drugs, but that improvement says nothing about the efficacy of behavioural intervention.

Let's conclude my soap boxing moment with Martin and Batesman's observation (in "Measuring behaviour") that all the sub-disciplines of behaviour research are merging, and that they are complementary to each other. I hope to see the day where neuroscientists, cognition researchers, and behaviourists play together nicely and share their toys without resorting to name calling.


I whole-heartedly recommend this book, but, as with every book, do keep your critical thinking hat on.

So, aside from a couple of dark clouds in the sky it read well, it was chock-full of new did-you-knows, and, above all, it made me think... What more can I ask?
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on 27 September 2013
An excellent book, recommended in Scientific American magazine. Written by a scientist with lots of experimental results, it's easy to see why it may disappoint people who were expecting the usual. But it's well worth making the effort, which is not excessive since the writing style is good popular science writing. Apart from being about dogs, it's a good book to introduce people not trained in science to the way scientists think and work. There are excellent short sections about the psychology of human beings and a lovely debunking of crude (but still popular) behaviourism. Dog lovers need not fear that it's all science and no love of dogs; there are plenty of Hare's dog-lover experiences with his own pet dogs, all told because they shed unexpected light on how dogs' minds work, and all heart-warming.
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on 30 December 2013
It is a very useful book for dogs lovers and owners. With lots of advices and more updates on the last findings about man's best friend and its needs and tastes.
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