Dog Behavior, Evolution, and Cognition

“Dog Behavior, Evolution, and Cognition,” (second edition), by Ádám Miklósi, Oxford University Press, $104.50

If yoDog Behavior, Evolution and Cognitionu think you know dog(s), this brilliant academic project in the best sense will leave you shaking your head.

It probes deeply into the science-based title subject while serving up a thought-provoking mix of information for serious dog enthusiasts.

Meticulously researched with a dizzying insight, “Dog Behavior” is not a walk-in-the-park read, rather a deeply probing examination of what makes our dogs behave like they do. But the author leaves no doubt there is plenty of uncharted turf ahead.

“Despite their practical usefulness, we know still very little about perceptual abilities of dogs in general. This is unfortunate, not only because an improved understanding would enhance the chance of obtaining dogs that are better at specific working tasks, but also because a deeper knowledge about dogs’ sensory and perceptual skills is indispensable to improving our understanding of their mental skills.”

The author argues, “In considering the methodological problems outlined, it is important to realize that we know (in terms of scientific validated knowledge) much less about dogs than many of us suppose. There is an urgent need for more standardization, more ethologically oriented research. Further research should clarify the relationship between phenotype measures using questionnaires and direct behavior observations, including their reliability.”

This isn’t a resource for dog owners, rather biologists, psychologists, veterinarians, sociologists and possibly trainers.

Miklósi both compiles and analyzes research performed on the domestic dog, focusing chiefly on the title subjects — behavior, evolution and cognition. The final chapter addresses the genetic contribution to behavior. As any serious dog enthusiast knows genetics have been in the forefront of canid research since the turn of the century.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking overview to dog behavior, this is it. Written in a waltz-like rhythm, it serves up a rich nourishment of behavioral studies from both a cultural and historical perspective. Reflecting a tough realism, Miklósi writes clearly with conviction while challenging researchers throughout.

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