Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: The Genius of Dogs

This excellent book is an examination of recent theories and breakthroughs in the study of canine cognition (or "dognition"), written by Brian Hare, the founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University, and his wife, Vanessa Woods, who is a research scientist at the Center. It details the fascinating history of this field of study, as well as the ways in which it grew out of, and continues to inform, the study of human cognition. Hare and Woods touch on a variety of current hot button issues in the dog community, including BSL (Breed Specific Legislation), dog fighting, and whether dogs of some breeds are inherently smarter than dogs of other breeds.

While the detailed explanations of the behavioral experiments and studies conducted with dogs is interesting, I most enjoyed Hare and Woods' demonstration of the intricate connection between the human and canine species and the ways in which, over hundreds of thousands of years, each species has influenced the other. As the authors note, "despite the abuse dogs can suffer at our hands, no other species is as loyal to the human race as a dog" (265).

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