WONDERDOG is about how the scientific research into dog behaviour influences research into human behaviour. This is a fascinating book – fascinating because of what’s in it, and because of what’s not in it. 

What’s not in it? For example, how the ancients bred dogs, how the behaviours of female dogs differ when in heat and how the behaviour of spayed and unspayed dogs differs. There is nothing about dogs that are bred to be eaten. 

What’s in it? Information about the serious study of street dogs, domesticated dogs, family dogs, hunting dogs, foxes, wolves (from whence dogs evolved) and a bit about dingoes. Some examples: The famous Pavlov sold saliva from the glands of his dogs to people with digestive problems; researchers have domesticated foxes within just a few generations; most dog owners crave to know if their dogs really love them; without human or the mother dog bonding immediately after the birth of a pup, the dog is likely to grow into an aggressive adult or suffer learned helplessness. The research clearly shows that nurture has far more impact on dog behaviour than does nature. 

Ah, that then leads to the question of how far you can go to extrapolate human behaviour from dog behaviour. It has been known for thousands of years that without immediate human contact and nurturing, human babies may suffer similar behavioural problems in adult life that dogs do under similar circumstances. Both dogs and people need play and love to learn. Dog trainers don’t need the academics to tell them that. If the trainer plays with a dog before the training session, they get a far better result than giving the dog a treat after the training. The fun of playing carries over into the training causing the dog to learn faster. For children, parents and teachers know this, too.

There are about 4.8 million dogs in Australia and that number is growing. The most common dogs across the world are the strays and ferals. The book includes some of the many heartbreaking stories of dogs that will wait for months or years for the return of their dead master. 

Dogs do love us, and we love our dogs. 

Jules Howard is a UK-based zoology writer and broadcaster. He writes with an engaging style.

WONDERDOG may be too dense or academic for your general dog lover, but it’s a fascinating read.


Published by Bloomsbury, 2022

ISBN: 978 1 4729 8426 5.

Hardback $31.50

eBook $24.50

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