Wonderdog – Jules Howard

Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Released On: 12/05/2022

Almost everywhere there are humans on planet Earth, there are dogs. But what do dogs know and understand of the world? Do their emotions feel like our own? Do they love like we do? What do they think of us?

Since our alliance first began on the hunt and on the farm, our relationship with dogs has evolved considerably. And with the domestic dog population rising twenty per cent in the last decade alone, it is a bond that will continue to evolve. In order to gauge where our relationship with dogs goes from here, author and zoologist Jules Howard takes a look at the historical paths we have trod together, and at the many scientists before him who turned their analytic eye on their own four-legged companions.

Charles Darwin and his contemporaries toyed with dog sign language and made special puzzle boxes and elaborate sniff tests using old socks. Later, the same questions drove Pavlov and Pasteur to unspeakable cruelty in their search for knowledge, Since then, leagues of psychologists and animal behaviourists have built upon the study of dogs and their much-improved methods have fetched increasingly important results: dogs have episodic memory similar to ours; they recognise themselves as individuals; and, in addition to their expert sense of smell, dogs’ noses can even detect thermal radiation.

With the help of vets, ethologists, neurologists, historians and, naturally, his own dogs, Wonderdog reveals the study of dogs to be key in the advancement of compassion in scientific research, and crucial to making life on Earth better for all species.

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I’m always wary of people who don’t like dogs. If you’re scared of them or have an allergy, then fine. But if you have chosen not to like dogs then I’m already confused by you. Not only are they fluffy and snuggly and great friends, they’re also capable of doing amazing things, as this book explores. From sniffing out diseases or land mines to helping the chronically ill or disabled, they really never seize to amaze me.

There is, of course, a very human element to this book, but there is also a lot of science and history. At times this can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re not knowledgeable on scientific terms and whatnot, but I believe Jules has found a nice balance by making it informative, but understandable without being patronising.

I would have liked there to have been more images of the dogs in question, however I am aware I had an e-copy and there may be images in the physical copy which I would love to see.

This is a fascinating exploration of the history of man’s best friend that I had never even thought about. It’s hard to believe that domesticated dogs as pets is a relatively new experience, we’re talking a few hundred years; a blink of an eye in mankind terms.

It’s a fairly short book at under 300 pages, which makes it quick to read, with enough knowledge to be interesting, but enough wit to be fun and entertaining.

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