Humans, Dogs, and Civilization – by Elaine Ostrach Chaika – Review

I won’t call myself an ‘animal lover’ per se, but lately, on the insistence of my partner, I have been thinking about adopting a couple of dogs. However, I was not exactly sure if I would be able to make a good ‘parent’ to my dogs or whether they would really get along with me. When I came across Elaine’s book it really gave me the encouragement needed to go ahead with the adoption. Especially the following passage from the very first page of her book is quite encouraging:

“Humans also interact with dogs, and dogs interact with humans. As we’ll see, both humans and dogs have coevolved to the point where each species has had adaptations to its brain structures for communicating with each other. Dogs have special ways of communicating with humans, and these are incredibly different from their communication with other dogs or nonhuman animals. What is even more compelling is that dogs seem to be the only nonhuman animal that can understand words and phrases spoken in human conversations, even when the conversations are not directed at them.” This book illustrates that dogs are one of the few animals who are closer to humans (than other animals) in so many ways. And speaking of which, the illustrations in this book are exquisitely beautiful and amazing!

Of particular interest to me is the chapter on DNA; the author tells you that how, just like humans, mutations have been found in dogs’ DNA too, and also how, even in spite of being related to wolves, dogs are yet so different:

“First, because they’re wary, they’re using up more calories than the dogs. Second, because the wolves’ flight distance is so short, they run away before they eat their fill. In contrast, dogs benefited from the WS mutation from the start. Because they didn’t run away from humans, they got more food with less trouble” You will learn why, in spite of their “fewest genetic differences from wolves” dogs are easier to domesticate than wolves.

Overall this is an excellent book if you want to learn more about dogs. Whether you are a scientist, researcher, a book lover or an animal lover you are going to benefit from this book. And if you are like me, hesitant on whether to adopt dogs or not, then this book is going to offer you with the much needed confidence and knowledge!

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