The Modern Dog: How Dogs Have Changed People and Society and Improved Our Lives

The Modern Dog: How Dogs Have Changed People and Society and Improved Our Lives

by Stanley Coren


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Dogs are invented creatures — invented by humans, who have been shaping the lives of these four-legged companions for more than 14,000 years. However, we often forget that, just as dogs live in our world, we live in theirs. The Modern Dog is a look at our coevolution, interpreting both canine and human points of view, by Dr. Stanley Coren, the most consistently popular author of dog books ever. A fascinating treasure trove of information gleaned from science, folklore, religious writing, tradition, and politics, The Modern Dog explores not only how dogs behave, but also how we share our lives with our dogs. Much more a romp than a formal exposition, The Modern Dog's profiles and tales are funny, sweet, quirky, and reveal a lot about both species and our centuries-long partnership.

This book will show you how the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs might very well be the reason why early Homo sapiens evolved and survived while Neanderthals became extinct. You will see how dogs have played many prominent roles in human history, from ancient Egypt, where Pharaoh Ramses II was buried with the names and statues of four of his dogs, to modern American politics, where many U.S. presidents have derived comfort from canine companionship. Our modern dog is quite different from the dogs that existed even a century ago, its job having changed dramatically from the hunting, herding, retrieving, and guarding for which many were bred. In this book, you will see that it is often how people respond to and interpret the actions of dogs (and dog owners) that has a greater effect on the dog's life than the behavior patterns that have been programmed into the dog's genes. The Modern Dog will show you how some of your dog's strange and funny habits are his own and some come from you.

Illustrated throughout with Dr. Coren's own charming drawings, The Modern Dog chronicles the various aspects of how we interact with dogs, how society responds to dogs, how our relationships with dogs have changed over history, and where dogs fit into our personal and emotional lives. It does this by telling the stories of dogs that work, dogs that love, dogs that behave badly, and dogs that will make you laugh.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439152881
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Stanley Coren an international authority on sidedness, is professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog (2010), among other books.

Read an Excerpt


Dogs are invented creatures -- invented by humans in the sense that we have been continually shaping and changing them for at least 14,000 years. We are also continually shaping and changing the nature of our relationships to our dogs. We are always finding different ways to fit them into our lives and are also finding new jobs for them to do. This means that the modern dog, his world, and his involvements with humans are quite different today from what might have existed a century ago.

This is a book about the modern dog. It is meant to be a series of "snapshots" of the various ways that we interact with dogs, how society responds to dogs, how our relationships with dogs have changed over history, and where dogs fit into our personal and emotional lives. Dogs exist in our human world, which means that the only aspects of canine behaviors which are really important to the average person are those that affect the way that dogs and people interact. Often it is how people respond to and interpret the actions of dogs (and dog owners) that has a greater effect on a dog's life than the behavior patterns that have been programmed in the dog's genes.

Many sources of information tell us about the nature of human relationships with dogs. Obviously science has provided a lot of insight over the past few decades; however, folklore, religious writing, tradition, and even the actions of political bodies can all shed light on the dynamic interactions between humans and canines. Nonetheless, the exploration of the nature of the modern dog in this book has been designed to be much more of a romp than a formal exposition involving these sources of information.

Our look at the interactions of people and dogs will cover a broad range of topics. Here you will find the story of how certain types of dogs came to be, how dogs have become entangled in political and legal systems, and even how dogs may have influenced human evolution. Several chapters deal with some of the odd, compassionate, and even heroic behaviors dogs have been known to demonstrate. You will also meet a large collection of modern dogs and historic canines, including dogs that work, dogs that love, dogs that act reprehensibly, and dogs that will make you laugh. Alongside them you will see people who love, hate, work with, care for, and even obsess over dogs.

Since this is a book about how dogs fit into our society and culture as well as where they fit into our personal and psychological lives, it involves a lot of characters. There are some famous dogs, such as Strelka and Belka, the first living beings from Earth to go into orbit and survive, also dogs whose faithfulness or fighting spirit inspired statues to be erected in their honor, and you will hear about the real-life dog that was the basis for the much-loved story Lassie Come Home. Here you will also find heroic dogs, not so well known, but who have saved or protected human lives or more subtly mended the minds of people under stress. Along with the dogs come an array of humans with whom the dogs relate. They include kings and queens (Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Henry VIII), emperors (Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and Ming Ti of China), presidents and prime ministers (Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, both Roosevelts) and even a few gods, saints, and prophets (Anubis, St. Hubert, Buddha). There is also a collection of other interesting people who have had notable or unusual relationships with their dogs. They include scientists, generals, physicians, schoolteachers, children, revolutionaries, and others.

Although this book will provide some important information about dog behavior, it is really designed to explore our relationships with and our emotional bonds to our dogs. Along the way you will learn how dogs can improve your physical and psychological health and that of your children. You will also learn how your dog can affect the way that other people view you or judge your place in society.

Each chapter of this book is meant to stand alone; you can read them in any order since no chapter depends on what was previously covered. In keeping with the lighter tone that I wanted for this book, I illustrated it in a range of styles, from some that appear to be woodcuts or engravings to some more modern pencil or pen and ink. I tried to make the style of the pictures fit the words or mood the story conveys. The pictures also allow you to browse through the book; using them as a guide, you can decide which chapter fits your mood or interests at that particular moment and simply start reading there.

There is a bit of personal history associated with this book. Early in 2002 I had a conversation with Connie Wilson, a beautiful blonde woman with a lot of drive and intelligence. Over the telephone she told me that she was going to try to start publishing a magazine called Modern Dog that would involve lifestyles and, of course, dogs. I laughed and told her that I had always wanted to do a book with that title and that I intended it to be an exploration of the human-canine relationship. Connie wanted me to do some writing for the magazine. I turned down the offer of a regular column, opting to write regular articles instead, and I have had one in every issue since Modern Dog began publication. The magazine has gone on to be quite successful and is now internationally distributed. Connie's love of dogs is shown by the fact that, as the magazine has prospered, she has used her association with it to sponsor a number of dog-related events.

During the six years of my own association with Modern Dog magazine I got to try out a number of themes and topics involving the shared lives of humans and dogs. The advantage of writing regularly for a magazine is that an author gets lots of feedback from the readership, in letters and e‑mails (and a few bizarre telephone calls). These let him know which topics really interest dog owners and dog lovers. About one third of the chapters in this book actually started out as article ideas for Modern Dog, although all have been re‑edited, expanded, and updated to take into account scientific advances, new information uncovered about the issues, and -- most importantly -- the wants, needs, and desires of the many readers who took the time to correspond with me.

As always, a book involves many more individuals than the author, and each contributed in a variety of ways. I would like to thank Connie Wilson and Jennifer Nosek at Modern Dog magazine for their warm interactions with me over the years. I would also like to thank my longtime friend Peter Suedfeld, who inspired and challenged me to write the chapter "Semper Fido," as well as providing the title. As always, many thanks go to my wife Joan, who had to deal with my fussing, this time not only about the words I was writing, but also the drawings I was creating. I greatly appreciate that she has still not yet resorted to a shotgun or a divorce lawyer to silence me. Finally there are the three modern dogs piled up at my feet as I write. I doubt that Dancer, Darby, and Banshee would understand my thanks for their supportive companionship; however, I know that they would appreciate a dog cookie just about now, so I hope that you will forgive me for stopping at this point to give them one.... Copyright © 2008 by SC Psychological Enterprises, Ltd.

Table of Contents


How Dogs Fit into the World of People

1 The Modern Dog
2 Why Neanderthals Don't Rule the World
3 The Children of Anubis
4 The Patron Saint of Dogs
5 Cloning Rover, Fluffy, and Snuppy
6 Venus, Mars, or Pluto?
7 Do You Look Like Your Dog?

What Dogs Do

8 Dogs in the Witness Box
9 Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?
10 Why Dogs Sniff Each Other's Tails
11 The Laughing Dog
12 The Sport of Queens
13 Dogs That Wait and Dogs That Come Home
14 Can a Dog Really Love?

Talking with Dogs

15 What's in a Name?
16 The Universal Dog Language Translator
17 Are Dogs and Cats Incompetable?
18 What Dogs Can Teach Kids
19 Confidants to Kings and Presidents

Dogs and Modern Society

20 Medicine for the Mind
21 The Lion Dogs of Buddha
22 When a Marriage Goes to the Dogs, Who Gets Fido?
23 Wildlife and Bloody Murder
24 Astromutts
25 Semper Fido

Benefits of Dog Ownership

26 The Curse of the Vampire
27 Physicians and Psychiatrists with Paws
28 Best Friends and Bed Partners
29 Can Dogs Help Fight Cancer?
30 Guardian Angel
31 Are There Dogs in Heaven?

Endnotes Index

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