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Date: 2010
Page count: 418 pages
Format: B/5
ISBN: 978-963-2792-88-0
Series: The idea of evolution

Original price: 4500 Ft

Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition

This is the first book to collate and synthesize the recent burgeoning primary research literature on dog behaviour, evolution, and cognition. The author presents a new ecological approach to the understanding of dog behaviour, demonstrating how dogs can be the subject of rigorous and productive scientific study without the need to confine them to a laboratory environment.
Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition starts with an overview of the conceptual and methodological issues associated with the study of the dog, followed by a brief description of their role in human society-almost a third of human families share their daily life with the dog! An evolutionary perspective is then introduced with a summary of current research into the process of domestication. The central part of the book is devoted to issues relating to the cognitive aspects of behaviour which have received particular attention in recent years from both psychologists and ethologists. The book's final chapters introduce the reader to many novel approaches todog behaviour, set in the context of behavioural development and genetics.
Directions for future research are highlighted throughout the text which also incorporates links to human and primate research by drawing on homologies and analogies in both evolution and behaviour. The book will therefore be of relevance and use to anyone with an interest in behavioural ecology including graduate students of animal behaviour and cognition.

 

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This book is about the biological study of dog behaviour, based on the programme summarized so clearly by Tinbergen in 1963. He, Lorenz and others have always pointed out that the main contribution of ethology is the biological analysis of animal behaviour based on observations in nature. Unfortunately, however, only a handful of mainstream ethologists have applied theseconcepts to dog behaviour. In contrast to sticklebacks, honeybees or chimpanzees, not to mention a few tens of other species, dogs received relatively little attention from ethologists or comparative psychologists. It seems that these creatures ('man's best friends') have somehow become outcasts from mainstream science, for reasons that are not obviously clear but which may be guessed. Dogs are often referred to as 'artificial animals', probably because their history of being 'domesticated'. Here the image is that of a 'savage' stealing a wolf cub from its mother (e.g. Lorenz 1954), which then 'became' dog after many years and generations in the hands of humans. Today most researchers disagree with this simplistic view of dog domestication (e.g. Herre and Rohrs 1990), and it is much less clear on what grounds the evolution of such 'real' and 'artificial' animals can be differentiated.The kind of goal-directed selective breeding implied by the category of 'artificial animal' probably started much later than has been assumed. Logically, an 'artificial animal' cannot have a natural environment, so in order to allow the dog into the club of 'real' animals we would have to find a natural environment for it (Chapter 3, p. 42).
The study of dogs did not fit well with the increasing influence of behavioural ecology, which was partially initiated by the call for a more functional approach to behaviour by Tinbergen (1963). Obviously, dogs are not the best candidates for studying survival in nature, mainly because most present-day dogs live with humans and have access to vets, and we do our best to save our companions from the challenges of nature. In this sense dogs can be regarded as being special (but not necessarily 'artificial'). More surprisingly, interest in the study of dogs
did not emerge with the cognitive revolution in ethology. Griffin (1984), one of the initiators of this movement, seems to have carefully avoided reference to dogs in most of his works on this subject. We are introduced to miraculous behaviour of ants, starlings or dolphins, which we look at with admiration, but similar behaviour in dogs is often regarded as suspicious. To some extent this attitude is understandable, as early workers were often tricked by so called 'dog artists' who showed remarkable skills for 'talking' or 'counting' (e.g. Pfungst 1912, Grzimek 1940-41). (Figure 1.1) After it was found out that such apparently clever behaviour could be explained by the dog responding to minute bodily cues produced either consciously or unconsciously by the owner or trainer (the Clever Hans effect, see Pfungst 1907 and Chapter 2.5, p. 37), dogs were banished from laboratories for being unreliable subjects. However, it seems that dogs are showing signs of making a real comeback. Ethologists, comparative psychologists, and many others are now working hard to find a place for dogs in the biological study of behaviour. This is difficult, but the steep increase in research papers over the last 10 years already shows the fruit of this work. Thus there is every chance that dog ethology will revive.

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