October 03, 2006

If Dogs Could Talk

I've been reading Vilmos Csanyi's book If Dogs Could Talk : Exploring the Canine Mind and would recommend it highly. He is a professor and head of a department of ethology (the study of animal behaviour) at a university in Budapest, and the book has a strong scientific base, but it is enlivened with anecdotal stories about his own two dogs.

Unlike those books that see dogs' evolution from the wolf as a reason for imposing pack hierarchies on pets, Csanyi's research shows that we have created the domestic dog in the course of living with them for tens of thousands of years. In this long process dogs lost many of the characteristics of their wolf ancestors, and in their place gained "the ability to love, a well-developed social intelligence, the human tools of collaboration, and the ability to understand human behaviour."

His experiments suggest that dogs do not see their housemates as a pack, but rather as a team that functions collaboratively.

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