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Blog: Guest Posts
A Proposal to Stop Breeding Dogs
On the whole, human breeders have not improved on nature.
On a flight last year, I sat next to a woman from India on her way to London from New York, where she had been visiting her first grandchild When she heard I wrote about dogs, she turned her attention to the one aspect of her daughter and son-in-law’s life she could not understand—their dog. On her walks around Central Park with the dog and her granddaughter, the dog drew the most attention and...
Blog: Guest Posts
Home-Schooling for Dogs Could Be Catching On
“Do As I Do” scores high
A rambunctious five-year-old Labrador Retriever who until a few months ago knew not a word of any language, obeyed no command, charged around the house or zipped through any hole in the fence before one could utter the name he didn’t seem to recognize has become my 91-year-old mother’s great and constant companion. He sits or lies by her when she is sitting or lying down. He moves with her when...
Blog: Guest Posts
Herding Sheep with a Border Collie and Your Stetson Hat
A fine memoir of a road trip with dogs to the World Sheepdog Trials
Not far into Mr. and Mrs. Dog, Donald McCaig says of himself and his talented “Blockhead” of a Border Collie, Luke, the male of the title: “I’ve never done as well with Luke as a better handler might have, but Luke adores me. When I go out at 2 a.m. to check lambing ewes, Luke comes too. When I wake with the night sweats, Luke wakes. He thinks I am a better man than I am.  If I sold him, his...
Blog: Guest Posts
Why the Transformation of Wolves to Dogs Remains a Puzzle
The more I consider the continuing debate over the “time” and “place” for the transformation of wolf into dog, the more I become convinced that the puzzle remains unsolved because of human devotion to a simplistic, clever-sounding idea that never made sense in the first place. As first put forth by Raymond Coppinger, that idea was that wolves feeding on the garbage piles of quasi-permanent...
Blog: Guest Posts
Remains of a 33,000 year-old dog found in Siberia
I had watched the dog origin wars as a chronicler of the dog-human relationship for several decades when in 2009 I was approached a young editor The Overlook Press about writing a book on the origins of the dog.  I readily agreed, and the result was How the Dog Became the Dog. Pondering the conflicting dates, places, and theories associated with the emergence of the dog, I concluded that as soon...
Dog Culture: Science & History
Darwin’s Dogs
Celebrating the bicentennial of the father of evolution
Early in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin uncorks a passage to illustrate the capacity of dogs to love that is guaranteed to break the heart of all but the most unfeeling cad, and one that should hang over the door of every laboratory engaged in experiments with animals. “In the agony of death a dog has been known to caress his master,” he says, “and everyone...
Dog Culture: Science & History
Decoding the Dog Genome
A female Boxer provides the DNA for the first complete sequence of the dog genome—what will it mean to the health of man and dog?
“The dog is everywhere what society makes him,” wrote Charles Dudley Warner in the January 1896 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Elaine Ostrander and Heidi Parker update that message in the November 2005 issue of the online journal, Public Library of Science—Genetics: “The domestication of the dog from its wolf ancestors is perhaps the most complex genetic experiment in history, and...
Dog Culture: Science & History
Fala, the Presidential Dog
How a special little dog made America’s house his home
Arguably the most important dog in World War II never saw combat; in fact, he was one of the breeds deemed unfit for duty by virtue of his stubby legs and long coat. But he was also of a breed that had been considered suitable for a gentleman to keep in town since the mid-19th century, and in President Roosevelt he met the perfect human companion. Roosevelt’s cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Suckley,...
Dog Culture: Science & History
The Wolf Who Stayed
A domestication that went both ways
That the dog is descended from the wolf—or more precisely, the wolf who stayed—is by now an accepted fact of evolution and history. But that fact is about all that is agreed to among the people who attempt to answer fundamental questions about the origins of the dog—specifically, the who, where, when, how and why of domestication. Dates range from the dog’s earliest appearance in the...
Dog Culture: Reviews
The Emotional Lives of Animals
New World Library, 248 pp., 2007; $23.95
During a long research trip in the middle of the final decade of the last millennium, I was talking with a wildlife biologist about coyotes and dogs when Marc Bekoff’s name popped up, logically enough, since over the past quarter of a century, he already had contributed significantly to the understanding of both. “I’ve seen him at meetings,” the biologist said. “He’s a bit out there on the animal...