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The Hidden Life of Dogs

The Hidden Life of Dogs

3.7 14
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

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Long before the Dog Whisperer, anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas revealed to readers the nature of pack dynamics, leading to a completely new understanding of dogs and their desires. 
In this fascinating account, based on thirty years of living with and observing dogs, we meet Misha, a friend’s husky, whom Thomas followed on his daily rounds of


Long before the Dog Whisperer, anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas revealed to readers the nature of pack dynamics, leading to a completely new understanding of dogs and their desires. 
In this fascinating account, based on thirty years of living with and observing dogs, we meet Misha, a friend’s husky, whom Thomas followed on his daily rounds of more than 130 square miles, and who ultimately provided the simple and surprising answer to the question What do dogs want most? Not food, not sex, but other dogs. We also meet Maria, who adored Misha, bore his puppies, and clearly mourned when he moved away; the brave pug Bingo and his little wife, Violet; the dingo Viva; and the remaining dogs and pups that constitute the pack.
“Instead of training and obedience, [Thomas] offers as an alternative a world of ‘trust and mutual obligation’” (Los Angeles Times Book Review). When it was first published in hardcover, The Hidden Life of Dogs spent over a year on the New York Times Bestseller list. This Mariner paperback edition will include a new afterword by the author.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thomas's multifaceted discussion of canine life was a 28-week PW bestseller. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This is a recording of Thomas's much-publicized book that purports to be a scientific study of dog behavior. The author makes much of the many hours of observation and contact she has had with this least elusive of species, as if she were the only owner of multiple dogs to have watched and noted canine habits and relationships. Additionally, Thomas's assumption that the behavior of her dogs is representative of all dogs is unwarranted. She endangers her dogs by allowing them to roam free, cross highways, and violate local laws. She often uses anthropomorphic language, and many listeners will find this either annoying or endearing. Swoosie Kurtz is an absolutely marvelous narrator, but the incidental music at times intrudes upon her talented reading. While the scientific pretensions of the author are irritating, the audiobook does contain some extremely interesting anecdotes about the lives and habits of Thomas's dogs and will likely circulate well. For most popular collections.-- Stacy Pober, Manhattan Coll. Libs., New York
Caroline Paulison
Discovering that no study existed on dogs' activities when they are "left undisturbed in normal circumstances," Thomas set forth to investigate what it is that her dogs, who came to number 11 over the years, wanted out of their lives. Misha, a free-roaming male husky who was often left in Thomas' care, allowed the author to travel with him during his excursions through the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area. Through Misha's activities and through the author's silent observation of a wolf pack in the Yukon, she comes to the conclusion that what all dogs really want is to be together in a settled social order. This is the basic explanation for all dogs' activities, including marking to send messages and the ritual of mating, fighting, and even playing. Thomas' observations are fascinating and truly open up the secret lives of dogs to humans. This book is for any person who has ever asked the family dog, "What do you really want?"
J. Moussaieff Masson
....No book I have read has taught me more about the inner lives of dogs than this one....Some readers might feel that the author has turned her dogs into impossibly wize Zen masters. But canine wisdom, whether hers or theirs, is more benign and persuasive and certainly less pretentious and manipulative than the wisdom claimed by most members of our species. -- The New York Times Books of the Century, August 1, 1993
Kirkus Reviews
An astonishing work of ethology that asks—and answers clearly—a question about dogs that's so simple that, apparently, no one has ever tackled it before: "What do dogs want?" Thomas—a trained scientist and novelist who brings her storytelling skills (The Animal Wife, 1990, etc.) fully to bear in this beautifully written study—explains that, years ago, she realized that "despite a vast array of publications on dogs, virtually nobody...had ever bothered to ask what dogs do when left to themselves." And so she set out to ask just that, first by unobtrusively bicycling along with a two-year-old husky, Misha, as the dog went about its daily roamings in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area. Thomas's findings about Misha and ten other dogs (including a dingo) that followed him into her life—supplemented by her fieldwork with wolves—cause this report to be about "dog consciousness" as, through an elegant recap of her observations, the author convinces us that dogs can, among other skills, create customs; adopt human mannerisms; choose between alternatives; play games; and exhibit a moral sense (this made clear through the amazing incident in which a tiny pug stops a much larger dog from terrorizing some pet parakeets and mice). Just as impressively, Thomas depicts—without anthropomorphizing—a dog world bound by rules like hierarchism but one nonetheless in which each canine is a complex individual. Particularly fascinating is her account of the "romantic love" between Misha and his mate, Maria, in which the female remains monogamous even while in heat, as well Thomas's story of how her dogs, left wholly to their own devices, secretly dig a wolflike denbehind a woodpile. What, then, do dogs want? "They want to belong, and they want each other." Popular science of the highest order: revelatory, impeccably observed, and a joy to read. A four-woof salute to Thomas and a vigorous tail-wag to boot. (Drawings—not seen)

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Meet the Author

One of the most widely read American anthropologists, ELIZABETH MARSHALL THOMAS has observed dogs, cats, and elephants during her half-century-long career. Her many books include The Social Lives of Dogs, The Tribe of Tiger, and The Hidden Life of Deer.  She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very disturbed by this book. There are two things that bothered me greatly about this book. First, the author allows her dogs and dogs that she was fostering roam the streets, all day and night. She stated that she lived in an East Coast city. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to care and protect your pets at all times. I was shocked to read how time and time again she let the dogs roam free. On some of these 'roamings' she, herself, would follow and watch her dogs cross busy streets. What was she trying to learn? The author mentioned she spent time observing wolves in the wild. Was she trying to see if domestic dogs would do the same? The second thing that bothered me about this book is how she chose not to have her dogs fixed, so there were several litters of puppies brought into the world. This is unfortunate because shelters around the country are filled with unwanted dogs, young and old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed. The author was an irresponsible dog owner. Letting dogs roam. Not spaying or neutering dogs. What did she learn? This was for her personal knowledge not a scientific study. Sorry I purchased this Nook book. Was expecting so much more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree completely with the reviewer who was disturbed by the actions, or lack thereof, of Ms Thomas in regard to the care of her dogs. In the city where I live, there are laws regarding the freedom of dogs to run free: they must be leashed. Period. Not only for the safety of the dogs, but also for the safety of the driving public, who just might cause an accident trying to avoid an animal not so intelligent as hers. And I, as well as many other people, am not fond of the sight of dead animals on the roadway. As to not neutering her dogs, please. Has she not ever been to a public animal shelter and seen the heartbreaking sight of dogs, some of whom will be adopted, but more who will not, and who will be put to death. Some may be as intelligent as hers and will have some inkling of their fate, as they see a few of their number taken away, wagging their tails, and others taken away to be heard crying out of sight, not to be seen again. If I could give this book zero stars, I would, altho I admire her writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an incredible book; a truly enlightening read. I recommend this to all dog lovers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Far and away, one of the most insightful books on animal behavior - period. This book will open doors that you never knew existed for you, your pet, and for the world to better understand our best friends. I cant say enough about this book - read it! -j
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Thomas has done what no other person I know has done, and with a style impossible to resist. Countless millions have been spent on studying wild animals, yet this woman for years studied (as well as their wild cousins) an animal so many of us never bother to observe closely--domestic dogs--and wrote the most poignant account of 'four-legged people' I have experienced in years. She plucks the heartstrings and jerks the reader to tears without the slightest attempt to do so. I quite literally could not put it down until I read every single word! Like a classic movie one can savor over and over, I intend to read this book again! and again, and again...
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I am thoroughly enjoying the book "Hidden Life of Dogs." It is a great eye opener to how dogs behave with other dogs and also with people. Your service and products are for everyone.
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Amazing story