About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution

I'm back again with a pathbreaking book to recommend. Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, authored by biologists Raymond and Lorna Coppinger.

This is not just a book, it's a voyage of discovery.

The Coppingers look at dogs from the point of view of biologists, but don't let that scare you. The science is presented so clearly and beautifully, even I understood everything. Important gaps in our knowledge - how did dogs evolve from their wild ancestors, how did breeds develop, the link between nature and nurture, and much more - are all filled with very credible explanations. The authors infect us with their curiosity, and just in case you are one of those thousands who love dogs but aren't really interested in them, this could be a turning point for you.

"Love dogs but aren't really interested in them" may sound like a paradox, but it isn't. Thousands and millions of people love dogs, but not many (at least in India) will take the trouble to invest in even a basic dog care or training book let alone anything more detailed. Many will do a net search when some specific problem arises (e.g. My dog has started snapping, what could be the reason?) But a few good books could prevent so many canine health and behaviour problems. The general belief seems to be that we can find out all there is to know simply by living with dogs or working with them. NOT true. It's a terrible mistake to not do one's homework before bringing a dog home.

This was the first species to become domesticated, perhaps way back in the "middle" stone age. And yet there are so many unsolved mysteries about dogs, and so many astonishing errors in our assumptions about them. Sometimes I feel more is known about the rarest species than about Canis familiaris. Familiarity breeds contempt?

Anyway, if there is one book every dog lover should read, it's this one. The Coppingers shatter all illusions about dogs being "like humans," something most humans (strangely) seem to think an enormous compliment. They show how canine behaviour is shaped, and what leads dogs to behave the way they do. If we can respect and love dogs for what they are, without illusions about their intellectual and emotional capacity, that, to me, is true love.

The book also explains, in hard-hitting terms, the appalling wrongs we do to dogs through modern breeding practices and also through warped, exploitative human-dog relationships.

So please, if you want to appreciate what a dog really is, don't miss this one. Order it through any good bookstore, or through Amazon.


Veera said...

I read the book in April and agree totally: every dog owner should read it! It seems there are so few good dog books out there but this is really important. And Coppingers' style is fantastic, so despite the scientific approach, it's not dry or difficult to read at all.

ambrosia said...

Hi there,
I am glad to find your blog on the internet. I am desperately looking for some information about laws governing human behavior towards stray dogs. Could you please let me know whether a law exists to bring to books any human who tries to stone a stray dog? There is someone trying to do the same in the locality in Bangalore where I live. This person is not understanding through dialogue, although dialogue is on. He has not been successful in killing any dog so far (by God's grace) but tries to at every available opportunity. Looking forward to your response.

Rajashree Khalap said...

@ Ambrosia: It's absolutely illegal to ill-treat dogs in any way. Please contact CUPA Bangalore, contact details in their site http://www.cupabangalore.org/
These are Bangalore animal lovers who can help: http://adoptstrays.blogspot.com
Achala Pani: http://letslivetogether.wordpress.com/

ambrosia said...

Thanks a lot Rajashree. I have contacted CUPA and they have given me information about the laws. Yet I am still feeling uneasy - in a city like Bangalore where stray dogs are cruelly treated anyways, how will the police take my complaint....

Rajashree Khalap said...

There are many dog-lovers in Bangalore and I'm sure some of them will help you. You don't have to do this alone. Contact Yasmine Claire through the Adoptstrays blog, or Achala Pani. They are extremely active in campaigning for animal protection.

ambrosia said...


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