What's a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man's Best Friend

What's a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man's Best Friend

4.3 3
by John Homans
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

As dogs take their place as coddled family members and their numbers balloon to over 77 million in the United States alone, it’s no surprise that canine culture is undergoing a massive transformation. Now subject to many of the same questions of rights and ethics as people, the politics of dogs are more tumultuous and public than ever—with fierce moral

See more details below

Overview

As dogs take their place as coddled family members and their numbers balloon to over 77 million in the United States alone, it’s no surprise that canine culture is undergoing a massive transformation. Now subject to many of the same questions of rights and ethics as people, the politics of dogs are more tumultuous and public than ever—with fierce moral battles raging over kill shelters, puppy mills, and breed standards. Incorporating interviews and research from scientists, activists, breeders, and trainers, What’s a Dog For? investigates how dogs have reached this exalted status, and why they hold such fascination for us humans.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Smart, insightful, and engrossing—a wonderful field guide to the heart and soul of dogs and our intimate and enduring connection to them."
—Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief

"[An] engaging, informative book that is both a survey of the latest research on canine cognition and a memoir of [Homans's] years with his Lab mix, Stella... perfect and poignant."
The New York Times Book Review

"A remarkable chronicle of the domestic dog’s journey across thousands of years and straight into our hearts, written with equal parts tenderness and scientific rigor... Beautifully written and absolutely engrossing."
Brain Pickings

"[An] artful exploration of human-canine relations... Homans travels around the country, exploring various dog cultures and speaking to scientists, aid workers, lawyers, and breeders to discover how dogs have achieved this 'honorary personhood.'"
The New Yorker

 “A remarkable chronicle of the domestic dog's journey across thousands of years and straight into our hearts, written with equal parts tenderness and scientific rigor… Beautifully written and absolutely engrossing, What's a Dog For? goes on to examine such fascinating fringes of canine culture as how dogs served as Darwin's muse, why they were instrumental in the birth of empathy, and what they might reveal about the future of evolution.”
The Atlantic
 
"Through careful observation and analysis, New York executive editor Homans opens the door into the world of dogs, from the scientific to the humorous... illuminating nuggets of information on the ever-changing and complex world of people and their pets."
Kirkus

"If you've ever pondered the lump or fluff on your rug and wondered what he's thinking—and why you care—this wonderful look at dogs' increasingly central place in our lives will strike a chord."
People

"Writing in an engaging, straightforward manner, Homans combines great personal charm with an intense interest in his subject matter."
Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating tour through ever-changing perceptions of dogs as pets."
New York Post

"Retraces [the] journey from Darwin's study of canine emotions to puppy mills to a canine-science conclave in Vienna... covers doggie consciousness and evolution... Homans hits his stride on topics like the read-state (pro)/blue state (con) divide over euthanasia and the aristocratic origins of canine pedigree. Sprinkled throughout are charming anecdotes that will delight dog lover and even likely appeal to die-hard cat people."
Mother Jones

"John Homans has written an intensely readable, thoughtful look at man's best friend and its place in our world. Factually fascinating and emotionally satisfying, What's a Dog For? is a great gift for dog lovers and those who wonder what they're about."
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof and Friendkeeping

"John Homans's What's a Dog For? is a romp across time and space and evolution that ends right up right in our own living rooms—a book as winning and companionable as the canines snoozing on our sofas. It's a fresh and amicable look at dog science, history, and training, both an indispensable guide for dog lovers and a terrific read for anyone looking for an enlightening glance at the world we live in."
—Melissa Fay Greene, award-winning author of Praying for Sheetrock and No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

"A few years ago, John Homans and his family walked into a Long Island animal shelter petless and emerged, fortunately for readers, with a lovable, slightly skittish mongrel named Stella. Her almost instant transformation from stranger to a family member with 'honorary human' status inspired Homans to plum the mysterious, age-old bond between humans and canines—a quest that takes him from Darwin to Updike and from New York City dog runs to a Vienna conference on 'canine science.' The result is a beautifully written natural history of the complex and evolving relationship between dogs and their owners and a sort of thinking man's Marley & Me. It will enlighten pet owners not just about their beloved animals but also themselves."
—Warren St. John, author of Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference

The New York Times Book Review - Walter Vatter
…[John Homans's] engaging and informative book…is both a survey of the latest research on canine cognition and a memoir of his years with his Lab mix, Stella.
Publishers Weekly
In his first book (inspired by his faithful canine companion, Stella), longtime New York magazine executive editor Homans examines the humble domestic dog, taking us on a trip that ranges thousands of years into the past and across the globe, examining how we shaped dogs and dogs shaped us. The competing models of how the partnership between human and dog was forged are presented, as are speculations on what exactly, if anything, is going on behind the friendly eyes of a dog. Homans ponders whether canines are as cognitively simple as Thorndike claimed or whether Darwin’s naïve anthropomorphism is closer to the mark. Writing in an engaging, straightforward manner, Homans combines great personal charm with an intense interest in his subject matter. Although the book is quite brief, Homans manages nevertheless to provide an impressive overview of his chosen subject. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Lots of books out there on the human-canine relationship. But Homans, executive director of New York magazine, references scientific studies as he homes in on a particular aspect of our love affair with dogs—our treating them as if they were human beings and just one of the family. (Um, they aren't?)
Kirkus Reviews
An intriguing look into the life of dogs. Through careful observation and analysis, New York executive editor Homans opens the door into the world of dogs, from the scientific to the humorous. The author explains that dogs are much more than man's best friend; they are faithful companions, sure, but also separate entities with their own personalities and personal histories to rival those of humans. Using his own dog, Stella, as a prime example, Homans explores the intertwined world of animal and person. For the author, Stella is definitely a family member, a concept that will be relatable to most dog owners (the author cites one study that found 81 percent of dog owners considered their dog a part of the family). How this love developed spurs Homans to examine how dogs evolved from wolves, how they became test animals under Pavlov and now are one of the most common pets in the world. Some researchers believe this stems from the proliferation of failed marriages and people living more isolated lives and having fewer children. To fill the void created by a lack of human companionship, dogs are taking up the slack. Homans also touches on pedigree pets and mongrels, the need for adoptions via rescue dog operations and the rights of dogs. From the Bible to Descartes to modern scientists, the author marshals evidence that shows dogs and humans have been linked for centuries, both physically and emotionally, and that this connection will continue for a long time to come. Although aimed primarily at dog owners and dog lovers, other animal enthusiasts will find illuminating nuggets of information on the ever-changing and complex world of people and their pets.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143124122
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/29/2013
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
432,479
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

What People are saying about this

Julie Klam
John Homans has written an intensely readable, thoughtful look at man's best friend and its place in our world. Factually fascinating and emotionally satisfying, What's a Dog For? is a great gift for dog lovers and those who wonder what they're about. (Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof and Friendkeeping)
Warren St. John
A few years ago, John Homans and his family walked into a Long Island animal shelter petless and emerged, fortunately for readers, with a lovable, slightly skittish mongrel named Stella. Her almost instant transformation from stranger to a family member with "honorary human" status inspired Homans to plum the mysterious, age-old bond between humans and canines—a quest that takes him from Darwin to Updike and from New York City dog runs to a Vienna conference on "canine science." The result is What is a Dog For?, a beautifully written natural history of the complex and evolving relationship between dogs and their owners and a sort of thinking man's Marley & Me. It will enlighten pet owners not just about their beloved animals but also themselves. (Warren St. John, author of Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and, One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference.)
Susan Orlean
Smart, insightful, and engrossing—a wonderful field guide to the heart and soul of dogs and our intimate and enduring connection to them. (Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief)
From the Publisher
"Smart, insightful, and engrossing—a wonderful field guide to the heart and soul of dogs and our intimate and enduring connection to them."
—Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief

"[An] engaging, informative book that is both a survey of the latest research on canine cognition and a memoir of [Homans's] years with his Lab mix, Stella... perfect and poignant."
The New York Times Book Review

"A remarkable chronicle of the domestic dog’s journey across thousands of years and straight into our hearts, written with equal parts tenderness and scientific rigor... Beautifully written and absolutely engrossing."
Brain Pickings

"[An] artful exploration of human-canine relations... Homans travels around the country, exploring various dog cultures and speaking to scientists, aid workers, lawyers, and breeders to discover how dogs have achieved this 'honorary personhood.'"
The New Yorker

 “A remarkable chronicle of the domestic dog's journey across thousands of years and straight into our hearts, written with equal parts tenderness and scientific rigor… Beautifully written and absolutely engrossing, What's a Dog For? goes on to examine such fascinating fringes of canine culture as how dogs served as Darwin's muse, why they were instrumental in the birth of empathy, and what they might reveal about the future of evolution.”
The Atlantic
 
"Through careful observation and analysis, New York executive editor Homans opens the door into the world of dogs, from the scientific to the humorous... illuminating nuggets of information on the ever-changing and complex world of people and their pets."
Kirkus

"If you've ever pondered the lump or fluff on your rug and wondered what he's thinking—and why you care—this wonderful look at dogs' increasingly central place in our lives will strike a chord."
People

"Writing in an engaging, straightforward manner, Homans combines great personal charm with an intense interest in his subject matter."
Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating tour through ever-changing perceptions of dogs as pets."
New York Post

"Retraces [the] journey from Darwin's study of canine emotions to puppy mills to a canine-science conclave in Vienna... covers doggie consciousness and evolution... Homans hits his stride on topics like the read-state (pro)/blue state (con) divide over euthanasia and the aristocratic origins of canine pedigree. Sprinkled throughout are charming anecdotes that will delight dog lover and even likely appeal to die-hard cat people."
Mother Jones

"John Homans has written an intensely readable, thoughtful look at man's best friend and its place in our world. Factually fascinating and emotionally satisfying, What's a Dog For? is a great gift for dog lovers and those who wonder what they're about."
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof and Friendkeeping

"John Homans's What's a Dog For? is a romp across time and space and evolution that ends right up right in our own living rooms—a book as winning and companionable as the canines snoozing on our sofas. It's a fresh and amicable look at dog science, history, and training, both an indispensable guide for dog lovers and a terrific read for anyone looking for an enlightening glance at the world we live in."
—Melissa Fay Greene, award-winning author of Praying for Sheetrock and No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

"A few years ago, John Homans and his family walked into a Long Island animal shelter petless and emerged, fortunately for readers, with a lovable, slightly skittish mongrel named Stella. Her almost instant transformation from stranger to a family member with 'honorary human' status inspired Homans to plum the mysterious, age-old bond between humans and canines—a quest that takes him from Darwin to Updike and from New York City dog runs to a Vienna conference on 'canine science.' The result is a beautifully written natural history of the complex and evolving relationship between dogs and their owners and a sort of thinking man's Marley & Me. It will enlighten pet owners not just about their beloved animals but also themselves."
—Warren St. John, author of Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference

Melissa Fay Greene
John Homans's What's a Dog For? is a romp across time and space and evolution that ends up right in our living rooms—a book as winning and companionable as the canines snoozing on our sofas. It's a fresh and amicable look at dog science, history, and training, both an indispensable guide for dog-lovers and a terrific read for anyone looking for an enlightening glance at the world we live in. (Melissa Fay Greene, award-winning author of Praying for Sheetrock and No Biking in the House Without a Helmet)

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >