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Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior Evolution

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Marking the first time that dogs have been explained in such detail by eminent researchers, "Dogs" is a work of wide appeal, as absorbing as it is enlightening. Drawing on insight gleaned from forty-five years of raising, training, and studying the behaviors of dogs worldwide, Lorna and Raymond Coppinger explore the fascinating processes by which dog breeds have evolved ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 27th 2001 by Scribner (first published 2001)
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Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Contained some useful information, but was written with an extremely biased, snobby attitude towards pet owners.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This must be the most interesting and most important dog book I've ever read. I can't recommend this book enough to anyone who owns a dog. It's written by Raymond Coppinger, a professor in biology, something that makes this book even better.

Too much of dog literature are written by people with no education in biology, zoology or dog behaviour. So this is one of the few dog books that is actualy rooted in science, and it effectivly strips away a lot of old myths about dogs relations to wolves,
Mark Buell
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Coppinger has written an exceptionally important work, and I have rated it highly for the ideas it contains, not for the writing. In my opinion, Coppinger frequently reverts to a difficult and obtuse style, which seems to me perhaps more academic than general audience.

In spite of the sometimes annoying nature of the writing style, the ideas that Coppinger has brought forward through decades of research have already revolutionized how we think of and look at dogs. Since it was published, in
stephanie suh
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We claim to love dogs, and yet we know so little about them. We long for their unconditional affection, but we are ignorant of their needs and our faults altogether. Moreover, we like to think dogs as wolves and believe that by law of atavism dogs reverse to their ancestral traits of predatory nature in a matter of time when they become forever off-leash. Since I am a kind of person who says hello to a dog I encounter in the streets, this book captured my eyes and mind to know more about dogs, a ...more
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hardened scientists
"A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution."

Marking the first time that dogs have been explained in such detail by eminent researchers, "Dogs" is a work of wide appeal, as absorbing as it is enlightening.
Lorna and Raymond Coppinger explore the fascinating process by which dog breeds have evolved into their unique shapes and behaviors. Concentrating on five types of dogs - modern household dogs, village dogs, livestock-guarding dogs, sled dogs, and herding dogs -
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting to me, because I always like reading hard science about dogs, but the Coppingers are SO intense about them, often in unreasonable ways. For example, although I agree with them that dogs are best bred if they still preserve a working line, I disagree that dogs are just worthless "parasites" (their words) if kept as household companions. They seem to believe that dogs are only worth having if you can use them for a working purpose. This conclusion is obviously NOT the conclusion that ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots of great science based information for anyone interested in dogs. Recommended, but I do feel some of the information may already need to be updated. My book was copyrighted 2001, but the information seemed dated.
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in the evolution of the domestic dog.
I read this book for a class I was teaching on the evolution of the human-domestic dog relationship. I was worried it might be too specialized for me, but it was really accessible. And informative.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book asked more questions then providing answers. I did not like this book and would not recommend it.
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dogs
This book gets a lot of points for, in several chapters, some of the most fascinating writing on dogs Ive encountered. It also brought a different perspective compared to my usual fare. Overall, however, the writing is muddy and in many chapters I struggled to follow the logic. In some cases I even doubted the logic. Still well worth the read for hard-core dog people with an interest in science. Caveat: there has been a lot of research since 2001, when this book was published. ...more
Todd Kale
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
The section on dog evolution was very, very interesting. Other parts were (as others noted) very dry and a tough, textbook-like read. I feel like it could have been the basis of two better books one a shorter and more concise version (in some places it gets drawn out and redundant) and one a longer and more in depth textbook (in other places the assertions seem to deserve more evidence). ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dog, animalzzz
This is easily one of the most enjoyable books I've read about dogs. Very thorough, fascinating, and often hilarious. It was really interesting to look at humans' relationship with dogs through a biological lens.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dogs
Opens your mind to much more! A must read! The title is quite appropriate.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, well written book that every dog owner should read. Turned some of my ideas on their head entirely.
Lauren Miller
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a lot different than your regular dog book. I was able to get a much clearer understanding of how dogs became dogs!
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-ficton
Excellent summary of current scientific understanding of dogs and their origins. The Coppingers believe dogs evolved from wolves as scavengers around early human settlements. The ideal dog for a companionship that works both ways, in their opinion, is the village, feral, or street dog, a kind of dog that has long fascinated me. They admire the true working dogs and have little respect for dog shows, which they believe are both disrespectful and harmful to the a dogs true nature. I loved the ...more
Pam Coon
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is more of a technical book about the origin of dogs. I kind of slogged my way through it; definitely not a fast read. The authors have a depth of love, appreciation, and knowledge of dogs that is eagerly shared. Although not a fast read (so much information to digest), it is full of fascinating theories. The authors have traveled extensively and have viewed village dogs up close (which they believe were the first dogs). The book delves into the origin of dogs (not tamed wolves), but more ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Raymond & Lorna Coppinger are not only biologists, but they are also former sled dog racers and have worked extensively with herd guarding dogs and village dogs along with herding dogs. Their book looks at 5 types of dogs-herding, guarding, sled, village and pets.
It has some controversial statements like assistance dogs are slaves, dogs are not directly evolved from wolves or trained by early humans but evolved to take advantage of village, and breeding for show (looks alone) is criticized
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not meant for answering questions. It's more about raising new ones.
It proposes a new hypothesis about the origin of dogs, a more humble one that the one we're used to know: dogs come from dumps, from human ones. At the same time these canids were attracted to human waste, they became domesticated and used to human contact, by a matter of natural selection and adaptation to a new niche.
Another of the highlights of this book is how the authors explain the different relationships
May 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm not exactly sure what to say about this.

I really I enjoyed how well-researched the ideas about dogs are and found them very interesting. But it does turn how we think about dogs on its head.

Coppinger discusses the dog's biology as village dogs rather than early humans domesticating dogs. He talks about how different breeds became what they are and tries to get across the point that behavior and shape are related. We damage dogs by trying to breed them so they have the same shape of a
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
The Coppingers present here a theory about the evolution of dogs from a canid ancestor, but also include their strong opinions about the current use of pet dogs in the Western world. This is a good book to read if you are interested in dog behavior and morphology. However, the Coppingers become offensive (to most of us) when they talk about assistance dogs as slaves. Their discourse on the cost to the environment and the national economy of maintaining a large population of pets is ...more
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dog lovers, behaviorists, trainers
Recommended to Shawndra by: Bark magazine
Somewhat rambling and repetitious in spots, but the message is fascinating - a biologist's summation of how dogs evolved differently from wolves and the impact this fact has on how to interact with dogs. Goodbye pack mentality and tired old "alpha" business. By turns refreshing and alarming - I definitely had my buttons pushed by the biological assessment of the family pet as parasite. Overall quite readable at least for a dog geek like myself.
"To be descended from a wolf is not to be a wolf"

This is a must read for all dog lovers and trainers. The title is perfect. I gained a new understanding of origin, evolution and behavior.

Trish King gave a great lecture in our Marin Humane Society Canine Behavior Academy class illustrating many theories from this book.
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010, dogs
I'd been hauling this one around forever. It's about dogs from an evolutionary biologist's perspective. Occasionally fascinating, it's also very dry and academic, and yes, often preachy. I'd rather read Temple Grandin's books five more times than slog through this again.
Apr 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Eminently readable history of dogs by a biologist. Proposes the most plausible explanation yet for how dogs and humans co-evolved.
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book. Made me look at dogs in a whole new way!
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the most important dog book ever. Since it isn't on very many reading lists it gets overlooked.
Dev Scott Flores
Sometimes sophomoric, but more often informative - excellent jumping off point for those who haven't been exposed to canine ethology (good revisit for those who have)
Sep 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. Would have prefered to hear more stories about the six animals he adopted. Very dry and textbook-ie.
Feb 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dog-training
I don't think he understands hounds and hunting, but good for the rest.
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