Domestic Dogs: A New Book Beautifully Covers All Things Dog

James Serpells' edited book called "The Domestic Dog" is an essential read

Posted Jan 30, 2017

A few months ago I was asked to write an endorsement for a forthcoming book edited by University of Pennsylvania dog expert Dr. James Serpell called The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behavior and Interactions with People (second edition). I was extremely pleased to do so, and now that the book has been published, I want to call attention to what is likely the most up-to-date and comprehensive summary of all things dog, or all things dogs. This encyclopedic book's description reads:

Why do dogs behave in the ways that they do? Why did our ancestors tame wolves? How have we ended up with so many breeds of dog, and how can we understand their role in contemporary human society? Explore the answers to these questions and many more in this study of the domestic dog. Building on the strengths of the first edition, this much-anticipated update incorporates two decades of new evidence and discoveries on dog evolution, behavior, training, and human interaction. It includes seven entirely new chapters covering topics such as behavioral modification and training, dog population management, the molecular evidence for dog domestication, canine behavioral genetics, cognition, and the impact of free-roaming dogs on wildlife conservation. It is an ideal volume for anyone interested in dogs and their evolution, behavior and ever-changing roles in society.

With permission
Source: With permission

The 20 chapters in this book, most written by experts in the field, are organized into four sections titled Origins and evolution, Behavior, cognition, and training, Dog-human interactions, and Life on the margins. Details about the sections and authors can be seen here, along with sample text. 

My longish endorsement for Dr. Serpell's new book covers much of what this book is all about. It reads: 

The Domestic Dog is an outstanding and comprehensive collection of original and up-to-date essays to which everyone around the world who is interested in dogs should have easy access. It is inarguably the go-to reference on dogs. There also is a lot of very useful comparative information on wild canids that will help come to a greater appreciation and understanding of just who dogs are and why they do the things they do. And, the references are a gold mine of information. While we know a lot about these amazing beings, there still is much more to learn. One very clear message is that dogs are an incredibly variable mammal and talking about 'the dog' can be highly misleading. I hope all dog trainers/teachers will carefully study this book because the ideas and data that are discussed are essential ingredients for teaching dogs to live harmoniously with other dogs, with other animals, and with us, a win-win for all. Now, it's time for yet another read.

Numerous aspects of dog behavior, physiology, and senses are covered in great and readable detail, and readers learn an amazing amount about the origin of dogs, the process of domestication, genetics, the role of early experience, social behavior and communication, aggressive behavior, their cognitive and emotional lives, training methods, and applied animal behavior. There also are essays on dogs as helping partners and companions for humans, dog welfare in human care, cross-cultural perspectives on dogs, variation in dog societies, feral dogs, and dogs and wildlife. Dr. Serpell's concluding epilogue called "The tail of the dog" is a detailed summary of what we know and don't know about these amazing beings.  

The Domestic Dog sets the standard for edited volumes on dogs for many years to come

I highly recommend The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behavior and Interactions with People to everyone who is interested in learning about dog behavior and dog-human interactions. While I fully realize that the title The Domestic Dog might suggest that there is little variation among dogs, this is not the case, as clearly shown in many of the essays. So, when I view the title and certain chapters, I simply substitute "dogs" for "dog." I also realize that people who are keenly interested in dogs might not be all that interested in some of the chapters. However, this really isn't a problem because there is so much in this volume on all matters of dogs. And, while some of the essays fall outside some of my own interests, when I read them I was amazed not only by their scope but how relevant they really were to some of my own interests.

I've read through various chapters countless times and always learn something new. What continually impresses me is that whenever I'm thinking about dogs, and it seems I do so countless times daily as I put the finishing touches on a book on dog behavior, whenever I go to Dr. Serpell's book I find something of interest about whatever topic is floating through my brain. Shortly, my copy will be a multicolored kaleidoscope of yellow, orange, green, and blue highlights. The Domestic Dog is that comprehensive and certainly sets the standard for edited volumes on dogs for many years to come. 

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in April 2017 and Canine Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to the Best Lives For Dogs and Us will be published in early 2018.

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