You know, this book is truly deceptive, but in the long run, really interesting. I got to page 23 and was getting very angry with the author, but I persevered and discovered his way of writing wasn’t what I expected,he was actually taking his readers on his journey of discovery, rather than just presenting the information and then discussing the findings that lead to the information.
We, as author and reader, didn’t really get off to a great start, Coren was (in my opinion) far to quick to brand all dogs within a breed by his own limited exposure to a breed. For example, he decried President Regan’s Cavalier for not being big enough to jump up into someone’s lap – well the Aussie ones certainly can, in fact I know a kennel of them that climb all over you and the furniture like monkeys. So my hackles started to lift.
I certainly got the impression Coren had more experience with people than dogs, but was rather satisfied to see him speak vehemently against considering the domestic dog as a wolf. But then, Coren’s statement, “Trying to predict the behavior of one animal species based upon the behavior of another species is speculative at best – even if these species have a substantial degree of genetic overlap.” which he cites to argue against considering the domestic dog as a modern day wolf (p13) yet you will find from one end of the book to the other that Coren falls for this ‘whim’ himself. So that got my logic and reasoning stirred.
From a scientist’s point of view I even found some of his language sloppy, from an educator’s perspective that is dangerous, one needs to be clear and concise to avoid confusion. Coren says, p21, “Only when selective breeding has been used to modify an animal …” you can’t in essence genetically change the animal once it is born, but by selective breeding (whatever the parameters) you can change the genetic makeup of the breed.
So the book was really starting to grate, but I kept on as I had promised to review the book, and I will only do so if I have studied a title from cover to cover.
From now, it all came into place. Coren was giving background, discussing research and findings and building from that. Rather than giving his findings first and then using arguments and research to support his views.
Coren covers a lot of past research, much I found rather repeated, but it is also essential for such to be included in a study like this. And tucked among things and research I knew of, there was other material too. For the average dog owner, I should think most of the material would be new, and Coren presents it in a relatively easy to read fashion for the everyday dog owner.
He reviews the Russian Silver Fox experiments, discusses the wild dog-dog cross in domestic situations (and apparently there is a hard core in the USA offering such ‘dogs’ to buyers), domestication experiments, leaves the ‘old’ way of thinking dogs don’t have personalities (which all who own dogs actually know, even if scientists were in denial for decades – I have seen frogs with greater personalities than some scientists). I found Coren’s attempt to categorize breeds into personalities flawed, or I am going to have to admit the American Clumber is a dunce, certainly the Australian ones aren’t and my American Clumber wasn’t, but he was only one of a much bigger population of course.
This lead to a review of personality testing, based on humans and then expanded to assessing service dogs; now my ears started to prick up. The material was brief, may be scanty, but it started to give an interesting picture of how service industries were screening. Then the book got very interesting to me as a breeder – puppies. Mind you, and it is fun to do, here you get a chance to try out Coren’s own dog personlity test. And no my breed results did not tally with the summary for Clumbers at the end of the book, what is so different between the Australian Clumber and the USA? I wouldn’t have said a heap, but may be, the sample Coren has used is at fault, he has surveyed in the greater part, trainers rather than owners; Clumbers are not German Shepherds, they learn best by mimicry, show them an example, they will take it on board, boot camp them and drill them and they will turn off.
Then, now here it is, the best part of the book, the sections in particular that all breeders should take on board, Creating a Superdog. From the effects of the environment before the pup is born, to early handling, to teenagers, and moving to a new home. Just about everything that should be included in a breeding tome and so often isn’t.
There is still a third of the book beyond this, it is an extensive read, and amongst the real gems on raising and selecting are the horror stories of dog fighting for sport, and the rather startling fact that up until the mid 1940s show judges were endorsed to hit a ‘working’ dog in the face to test it’s work-worthiness; it was expected to ‘fight’ back – great if a child hits your dog in the face! Of course children shouldn’t, but they will, it is part of their learning to be a valued member of society, some are just innately smart and kind enough not to try it, many are not.
The tail end of the book is a review of heroic dogs, some great tales in there, sometimes I felt poor reasoning, but still it proves what we do know, dogs are great.
This is an excellent book, had me guessing to start with, but there is a lot of information on a range of subjects. I would urge all breeders to read this title, and can recommend it to anyone interested in learning about dogs and the wealth of information owners can thank the scientific world for.