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The Dog: A Natural History

Book Review and Excerpt
By Ádám Miklósi
Reviewed by The Bark Editors, July 2018, Updated June 2021
dog running, photo credit: shutterstock

Ádám Miklósi is one of the world’s leading authorities on dogs and co-founder of the research group, Family Dog Project in Budapest. He has a new, beautifully designed reference book, The Dog: A Natural History, that provides a comprehensive introduction to most things dog. This appealing overview includes dogs’ ecology, anatomy, physiology, biology, cognition, behavior, personality and connections to humans, all artfully presented with lovely photographs and illustrations. The Dog is filled with surprising facts and insights, and will delight anyone who wants to understand our best friends better.



Breeds vary in their preferred gait. For example, greyhounds do not normally trot—they either walk or gallop, and their foot placement depends on leg length and angulation, too.

A walking dog usually has three feet on the ground at the same time. The front feet take the larger share of carrying the body and the rear legs’ role is moving the dog forward. Front legs are also more involved in making the dog stop. Typically, a slowly walking dog places its rear foot in the print left by the front foot on the same side to save energy when walking in sand or snow.


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Dogs are said to trot when the diagonal pairs of legs move synchronously, and generally only two legs at a time touch the ground. Some trotting prints almost appear to be a single line. Dogs with longer legs or a shorter backbone have difficulties in trotting because the movement of the rear legs interferes with the movement of the front legs.

A pacing dog moves by swinging the front leg and the rear leg on one side while the weight is carried by the other two legs standing on the ground. Pacing, or an ambling gait, is more common in dogs that have difficulties with trotting. Tired, exhausted dogs or dogs that have orthopedic problems may display this type of locomotion.

A gallop is employed if the dog needs to move with high speed. During the gallop dogs may have no or only one leg touching the ground. The galloping dog gains speed by decreasing the duration of the stance phase, and increasing the duration of the swing phase in comparison with the walk or trot. Dogs can gallop at two speeds, the slower of which is called a canter. Dogs can maintain a fast gallop for only a limited time.

Excerpted from THE DOG: A NATURAL HISTORY by Ádám Miklósi. Copyright © 2018 by Quarto Publishing plc. First published in the US and Canada by Princeton University Press. Published in the UK by Ivy Press Limited. Reprinted by permission.