What Is a Dog?

Coppinger, Raymond & . What Is a Dog? Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2016. 245p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226127941. $30. PETS
Biologists and dog breeders Raymond and Lorna Coppinger (Dogs) make a case in support of the theory that modern dogs evolved in order to take advantage of the resource niche created by human discards. The Coppingers argue that the independent, free-ranging dogs who live on the margins of human society throughout the developing world best exemplify the species. These "village dogs," with their similarities in appearance and behavior, should be viewed as the archetypal standard, as opposed to the carefully cultivated breeds recognized by kennel clubs. Drawing upon field research with village dogs, personal experience, and the principles of behavioral ecology, the authors investigate the evolutionary history of dogs and their relationships to the other canis species. While the Coppingers' premise has merit, the employment of imprecise, colloquial language, unclear figures, and a high frequency of parentheticals, mixed metaphors, and rhetorical questions make the work uneven, repetitive, and occasionally difficult to follow.
VERDICT Undergraduate students in the areas of animal behavior and ecology, dog enthusiasts, and general readers interested in animal origins and behavior will find the theories set forth interesting—though the style of their narrative detracts from the work's overall usefulness.

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