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Review of a Dog Behavior Book, continued [ Top ]
A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution
by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger
The Coppingers admit that there is "no appreciable
differences" in the genetics of coyotes, dogs, jackels and wolves, and note that
these species can interbreed. Still, they say, "dogs have diverged, changed,
transmutated from their wolflike ancestors."
Thus, training programs that say the
owner/trainer should be the "alpha wolf" and the dog a subordinate member of the
pack is wrong, because dogs are not wolves.
of Canine Origin,
Behavior & Evolution
The brains of dogs are different from
the brains of wolves, just as the brains of humans are different from the brains of
chimpanzees, a close relative, they argue. Dogs dont think and react to signals as
Ray Coppinger, who has trained hundreds of sled dogs and
sheepdogs, says it is wrong to treat our best friends like wolves. "Asserting
dominance over one of my favorite working dogs by pressing it on the ground and snarling
at it is preposterous." He stresses that he doesnt want his sled dogs to roll
on their backs and urinate like a subordinate wolf every time he shows up.
This is just one of the ideas presented in
"Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior &
Evolution," published by Scribner of New York, 2001.
Dogs Tamed Themselves -- for the
The second key idea in the book is the
concept that dogs evolved from a wolf ancestor in order to feed at human waste dumps. In a
sense, they partially tamed themselves, for those that adjusted to eating near the
presence of humans were able to make full use of the waste food resources and reproduce,
while those more fearful could not. Domestication likely started with these partly tamed
canines, not from the capture of wolf pups.
The Coppingers make the case for these novel
ideas through detailed exploration of the worlds village dogs, as well as through a
look at sled dogs, livestock protection dogs, assistance dogs and more. People who love
working dogs will find the book fascinating, if at times disturbing. The Coppingers
examine the human-canine bond with a critical eye, asking if the relationship is truly
good for human beings and for their dogs.
While sections of the book are technical in
nature, overall this book is easily read by dog lovers interested in the origins and
evolution of the dog, and how that development effected canine behavior. This is certainly
the most important book on dogs of the new century, and is essential reading for anyone
who breeds and trains dogs. Weve read it once, and expect to read it again more than
once. We recommend it highly.
Review by Barbara B. Petura,
Member, Dog Writers Association of America
AUTHOR: Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have
a combination of real life dog experience coupled with scientific knowledge and expert
writing skills that makes this book a truly exceptional one. A professor of biology at
Hampshire College, he has raised hundreds of both sled dogs and sheep dogs. She is the
author of The World of Sled Dogs. Toether they founded Hampshire's Livestock Dog Project.
PUBLISHER: Scribner, New York, 2001.
Click here to order this book
Read an interview with
authors Ray & Lorna Coppinger
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