What Is a Dog?

University of Chicago Press
1
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Of the world’s dogs, less than two hundred million are pets, living with humans who provide food, shelter, squeaky toys, and fashionable sweaters. But roaming the planet are four times as many dogs who are their own masters—neighborhood dogs, dump dogs, mountain dogs. They are dogs, not companions, and these dogs, like pigeons or squirrels, are highly adapted scavengers who have evolved to fit particular niches in the vicinity of humans. In What Is a Dog? experts on dog behavior Raymond and Lorna Coppinger present an eye-opening analysis of the evolution and adaptations of these unleashed dogs and what they can reveal about the species as a whole.

Exploring the natural history of these animals, the Coppingers explain how the village dogs of Vietnam, India, Africa, and Mexico are strikingly similar. These feral dogs, argue the Coppingers, are in fact the truly archetypal dogs, nearly uniform in size and shape and incredibly self-sufficient. Drawing on nearly five decades of research, they show how dogs actually domesticated themselves in order to become such efficient scavengers of human refuse. The Coppingers also examine the behavioral characteristics that enable dogs to live successfully and to reproduce, unconstrained by humans, in environments that we ordinarily do not think of as dog friendly.

Providing a fascinating exploration of what it actually means—genetically and behaviorally—to be a dog, What Is a Dog? will undoubtedly change the way any beagle or bulldog owner will reflect on their four-legged friend.
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About the author

Raymond Coppinger is professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College. Lorna Coppinger is a biologist and science writer. Their books together include Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 19, 2016
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226359007
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / General
Pets / Dogs / General
Pets / General
Science / Life Sciences / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Raymond Coppinger
If you’re familiar with the world of hunting, you know how important dogs are in the field. Less known, however, is how vital these canines are to fishermen. For many anglers, packing your tackle and wading through the river without a trusted fishing dog is a recipe for disaster.

In Fishing Dogs, Raymond Coppinger sheds light on the true value of fishing dogs of every size, shape, and color. Monsoon dogs, for example, lay in the bilge of boats until they are disturbed by the shipping of water. At that point, they rise up out of the bilge and unleash with tremendous power a series of epicentric rotational reciprocations, thus expelling inches of boat-threatening water. Coppinger also introduces readers to the Maine bowplunk dog, which received its name from its deeply ingrained habit of standing, proud and brave, on the bow of his master’s boat as it moves through the choppy waters off Maine’s coast.

As a biologist, distinguished fisherman, and a known storyteller and fan of satire, Coppinger is more than qualified to discuss the various breeds of fishing dogs, in addition to topics as the evolution of dogs from wolves, the dangers of crossbreeding, and finding a fisherman’s perfect fishing dog.

Skyhorse Publishing is proud to publish a broad range of books for fishermen. Our books for anglers include titles that focus on fly fishing, bait fishing, fly-casting, spin casting, deep sea fishing, and surf fishing. Our books offer both practical advice on tackle, techniques, knots, and more, as well as lyrical prose on fishing for bass, trout, salmon, crappie, baitfish, catfish, and more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to publishing books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked by other publishers and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
Raymond Coppinger
How well do we really know dogs? People may enjoy thinking about them as “man’s best friend,” but what actually drives the things they do? What is going on in their fur-covered heads as they look at us with their big, expressive eyes? Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein know something about these questions, and with How Dogs Work, they’re ready to share; this is their guide to understanding your dog and its behavior.

Approaching dogs as a biological species rather than just as pets, Coppinger and Feinstein accessibly synthesize decades of research and field experiments to explain the evolutionary foundations underlying dog behaviors. They examine the central importance of the shape of dogs: how their physical body (including the genes and the brain) affects behavior, how shape interacts with the environment as animals grow, and how all of this has developed over time. Shape, they tell us, is what makes a champion sled dog or a Border collie that can successfully herd sheep. Other chapters in How Dogs Work explore such mysteries as why dogs play; whether dogs have minds, and if so what kinds of things they might know; why dogs bark; how dogs feed and forage; and the influence of the early relationship between mother and pup. Going far beyond the cozy lap dog, Coppinger and Feinstein are equally fascinated by what we can learn from the adaptations of dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, and even pumas in the wild, as well as the behavior of working animals like guarding and herding dogs.

We cherish dogs as family members and deeply value our lengthy companionship with them. But, isn’t it time we knew more about who Fido and Trixie really are? How Dogs Work will provide some keys to unlocking the origins of many of our dogs' most common, most puzzling, and most endearing behaviors.
Jessica Pierce
A life shared with pets brings many emotions. We feel love for our companions, certainly, and happiness at the thought that we’re providing them with a safe, healthy life. But there’s another emotion, less often acknowledged, that can be nearly as powerful: guilt. When we see our cats gazing wistfully out the window, or watch a goldfish swim lazy circles in a bowl, we can’t help but wonder: are we doing the right thing, keeping these independent beings locked up, subject to our control? Is keeping pets actually good for the pets themselves?

That’s the question that animates Jessica Pierce’s powerful Run, Spot, Run. A lover of pets herself (including, over the years, dogs, cats, fish, rats, hermit crabs, and more), Pierce understands the joys that pets bring us. But she also refuses to deny the ambiguous ethics at the heart of the relationship, and through a mix of personal stories, philosophical reflections, and scientifically informed analyses of animal behavior and natural history, she puts pet-keeping to the test. Is it ethical to keep pets at all? Are some species more suited to the relationship than others? Are there species one should never attempt to own? And are there ways that we can improve our pets’ lives, so that we can be confident that we are giving them as much as they give us?

Deeply empathetic, yet rigorous and unflinching in her thinking, Pierce has written a book that is sure to help any pet owner, unsettling assumptions but also giving them the knowledge to build deeper, better relationships with the animals with whom they’ve chosen to share their lives.
Raymond Coppinger
If you’re familiar with the world of hunting, you know how important dogs are in the field. Less known, however, is how vital these canines are to fishermen. For many anglers, packing your tackle and wading through the river without a trusted fishing dog is a recipe for disaster.

In Fishing Dogs, Raymond Coppinger sheds light on the true value of fishing dogs of every size, shape, and color. Monsoon dogs, for example, lay in the bilge of boats until they are disturbed by the shipping of water. At that point, they rise up out of the bilge and unleash with tremendous power a series of epicentric rotational reciprocations, thus expelling inches of boat-threatening water. Coppinger also introduces readers to the Maine bowplunk dog, which received its name from its deeply ingrained habit of standing, proud and brave, on the bow of his master’s boat as it moves through the choppy waters off Maine’s coast.

As a biologist, distinguished fisherman, and a known storyteller and fan of satire, Coppinger is more than qualified to discuss the various breeds of fishing dogs, in addition to topics as the evolution of dogs from wolves, the dangers of crossbreeding, and finding a fisherman’s perfect fishing dog.

Skyhorse Publishing is proud to publish a broad range of books for fishermen. Our books for anglers include titles that focus on fly fishing, bait fishing, fly-casting, spin casting, deep sea fishing, and surf fishing. Our books offer both practical advice on tackle, techniques, knots, and more, as well as lyrical prose on fishing for bass, trout, salmon, crappie, baitfish, catfish, and more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to publishing books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked by other publishers and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
Raymond Coppinger
How well do we really know dogs? People may enjoy thinking about them as “man’s best friend,” but what actually drives the things they do? What is going on in their fur-covered heads as they look at us with their big, expressive eyes? Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein know something about these questions, and with How Dogs Work, they’re ready to share; this is their guide to understanding your dog and its behavior.

Approaching dogs as a biological species rather than just as pets, Coppinger and Feinstein accessibly synthesize decades of research and field experiments to explain the evolutionary foundations underlying dog behaviors. They examine the central importance of the shape of dogs: how their physical body (including the genes and the brain) affects behavior, how shape interacts with the environment as animals grow, and how all of this has developed over time. Shape, they tell us, is what makes a champion sled dog or a Border collie that can successfully herd sheep. Other chapters in How Dogs Work explore such mysteries as why dogs play; whether dogs have minds, and if so what kinds of things they might know; why dogs bark; how dogs feed and forage; and the influence of the early relationship between mother and pup. Going far beyond the cozy lap dog, Coppinger and Feinstein are equally fascinated by what we can learn from the adaptations of dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, and even pumas in the wild, as well as the behavior of working animals like guarding and herding dogs.

We cherish dogs as family members and deeply value our lengthy companionship with them. But, isn’t it time we knew more about who Fido and Trixie really are? How Dogs Work will provide some keys to unlocking the origins of many of our dogs' most common, most puzzling, and most endearing behaviors.
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