Dog Behavior: Modern Science and Our Canine Companions James C Ha, Tracy L. Campion (authors) 

ISBN-13: 978-0128164983
ISBN-10: 0128164980


An introduction to a man (Alec) and his dog (Ziva) and their relationship. Each chapter will relate back to this story and explain how the concepts in the chapter apply to them.

Keywords: Dog, wolves, partnership, animal behavior, hunting


The human-canine relationship is the longest and most successful interspecies relationship in documented history. This book introduces the modern science of animal behavior (ethology) by examining dog behavior using evolution, comparative genetics, communicative modalities, senses and sensory perception, brain structure and development, emotions, costs and benefits, social structure, and the natural history of the species. The book provides an historical overview of the human-canine partnership and how it changed over time. The authors also examine common misconceptions and questions about our canine companions using historical evidence, recent research, previously unpublished case studies, and the authors’ experiences as animal trainers and animal behavior researchers.

Keywords: Dog, wolves, partnership, animal behavior, hunting

Chapter 1: Dawn of the Dog: Evolutionary Theory and The Origin of Modern Dogs (Canis familiaris)

This chapter provides a brief history of evolutionary theory, including natural and artificial selection, with a focus on the origin of modern dogs (Canis familiaris) to understand the genetic history (“baggage”) and the constraints of the species. The authors examine how humans artificially selected domesticated dogs over many generations, creating almost 200 distinct breeds. This chapter also examines the differences in human co-evolution and social behavior between cats and dogs.

Keywords: Evolution, canines, evolutionary theory, dogs, genetic history, heredity, breeds, constraints, species, Darwin

Chapter 2: Why Tails Wag: Umwelts, Innenvelts, and Canine “Guilt”

This chapter introduces that concepts of “Umwelt und Innenvelt”, the outward and inward world of the animal, which are imperative for understanding the world from the animal’s perspective and not from an “anthropomorphic” view. The authors examine whether dogs feel “guilty,” what’s salient to a dog, and how the world is perceived for them. This chapter focuses on forms of communication between dogs and humans and how dogs rely heavily upon their sense of smell (olfaction) while humans rely primarily on their sense of sight. The chapter also provides an introduction to the field of ethology (animal behavior) and using the ethogram as a tool to decipher and understand another species’ perspective.

Keywords: Umwelt, innenvelt, ethology, animal behavior, ethogram, perspective, worldview, perception, salience, olfaction, vision

Chapter 3: Mapping the Mind: Brain Structure and Development

This chapter provides an examination of brain structure and development to understand the capabilities and limitations of mammals and dogs in particular. The chapter discusses how the dog brain is qualitatively different from many other mammalian species, but due to convergent evolution, also shares similarities with humans. The authors discuss important developmental milestones, including the development of inhibition around the age of two, and sensitive and critical periods of development. The authors also use case studies of dogs that missed out on early socialization and how this caused behavioral issues later on in life. The chapter also provides examples such as the confusion and anxiety that result from mixing positive and negative reinforcement.

Keywords: Brain structure, development, neurology, psychology, sensitive periods, critical periods, inhibition, convergent evolution, adaptation

Chapter 4: What a Dog Knows: Analyzing Sensory Perception to Interpret Behavior

This chapter provides an overview of sensory perception to interpret behavior and explains how certain sensory modalities are more important for dogs than they are for humans. For example, dogs have a superior sense of smell, and receive large amount of their information this way. Dogs have limited vision, though, so blind corridors in dog parks have a negative impact on them. With their keen olfactory sense, though, what does a dog park or a sick person “look” like to a dog? The authors discuss how dogs experience color, why whiskers (vibrissae) are important for them, and compare the sensory perception of dogs and cats.

Keywords: Senses, sensory perception, olfaction, vision, cats, hearing, vibrissae, sight, sound, taste

Chapter 5: The Emotional Animal: Using the Science of Emotions to Interpret Behavior

From Darwin to Descartes to the findings of modern ethologists, this chapter introduces the science of emotions (basal or biological, endocrine vs. higher-order or cognitive, and neocortical) to interpret animal emotional responses, behaviors, and social relationships. Emotion is important for communication and for maintaining relationships and this chapter provides an overview of the physiology of emotion. The authors also discuss the historical viewpoint of animals’ emotional lives and corresponding paradigm shifts in light of new evidence. For example, dogs are susceptible to many of the same emotional and psychological issues that humans can suffer with, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and grief.

Keywords: Emotions, physiology, basal, endocrine, cognitive, neocortical, depression, Darwin, Descartes

Chapter 6: Is it Worth the Risk: How Costs and Benefits Drive Decision-Making and the Evolution of Behavior

This chapter provides an introduction to the concept of costs vs. benefits and how these factors drive decision-making and the evolution of behavior. How do dogs view potentially “risky” behaviors, and what makes a choice “worth the risk” if there is a potential cost? The authors discuss Pavlovian Conditioning, proximate and ultimate explanations for behavior, and rules of thumb with risk-taking. This chapter provides an overview of mammalian risk-taking behaviors, including the potentially risky choices that both humans and canines make. The authors also discuss the roles of altruism, reciprocal altruism, and kin selection as they pertain to risk-taking behaviors and in particular, the human-canine relationship.

Keywords: Costs, benefits, decision-making, risk-averse, risk prone, proximate, ultimate, altruism, kin selection, Pavlov

Chapter 7: You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Costs and Benefits of Being Social

This chapter provides an examination of the costs and benefits of being social, including temperament and personality, at the species and the individual level. The chapter discusses how some species, like many feline species, are solitary, and the costs (such as less protection from predators) and benefits (such as not having to share resources with others) that result from this lifestyle choice. Canids, conversely, tend to live in social family groups, where they benefit from having more protection from potential predators and more assistance with hunting, but also having to share their resources. The authors discuss the costs and benefits of domestication and how canids’ social structure played into this. The authors also examine the importance of temperament and personality, the Encephalization Quotient (EQ), Hamilton’s Rule, altruism, and kin selection.

Keywords: Costs, benefits, sociality, temperament, personality, domestication, resources, Hamilton’s Rule, Encephalization Quotient (EQ)

Chapter 8: How I Behave Depends Upon How You Behave…Maybe: Game Theory and Our Canine Companions

This chapter introduces the concept of Game theory (conditional costs and benefits) as it applies to our dogs. The authors provide an examination of rules-of-thumb for behavior decisions, which may no longer be useful or “best”, but are deeply ingrained. The chapter provides a discussion of iterated vs non-iterated “games”: should I share or cooperate? The answer depends on whether I’ll interact with you again. If there is a small chance of interacting with someone again, the likelihood of cooperation is decreased. The authors discuss potential social strategies, including Tit for Tat (copycat, or the golden rule), grudger, always cheat, and always cooperate. The chapter provides an overview of inequity studies and also discusses the power of positive reinforcers and social pressure.

Keywords: Game Theory, Prisoner’s Dilemma, conditional, iterated, non-iterated, reinforce, cooperation, Tit for Tat, altruism, Axelrod, Hamilton

Chapter 9: Debunking Dominance: Canine Social Structure and Behavioral Ecology

Social structure, and hence social behavior, is largely based on limited resources. When resources are limited, a reasonable method for distribution is needed. Hierarchies are one solution, but when resources are not limited, there is no need for a social hierarchy. Species that evolved in different ecological niches have developed different social structures and have different strategies for the distribution of resources. The authors examine the “dominance theory” controversy, how it works, and whether or not it should be used with our dogs. The authors define “aggression” as it pertains to the field of ethology (and to dogs in particular) and the differences between aggression and dominance. The chapter also examines pack theory vs. punishment vs. positive reinforcement and introduces the resource holding model.

Keywords: Aggression, dominance, personality, resources, hierarchy, pack theory

Chapter 10: The Tale of our First Friends: The Natural History of Domesticated Dogs to Understand Their Behavior

This chapter provides an overview of the natural history of the species (e.g. carnivore vs. prey species, social vs. solitary) to understand behavior associated with mating and social structure based on limited resources. For example, dogs are social carnivores and opportunistic omnivores, and not grazing prey species (like horses) or small, asocial obligate carnivores (like cats). This dictates some of their behavior. Dog training methods may not apply as well to cats or to horses. This chapter provides an overview of the coevolution of humans and dogs, including shifting cultural and historical viewpoints, including the case of empathy with courthouse dogs. The authors examine the overall history of dogs and humans to determine who dogs adapted to become humans’ “first friend.”

Keywords: Natural history, heritability, carnivore, social structure, Smithsonian, wolves, cats, evolution


The book revisits the relationship between Alec and Ziva and relates back to the concepts that are addressed throughout the chapters. The authors discuss how dogs and humans shaped the trajectory of each others’ evolution, including how dogs helped Homo sapiens hunt megafauna and how their partnership likely provided a selective advantage for H. sapiens over other hominids, such as the Neanderthals, who did not appear to cohabit with dogs as much. The authors discuss how the human-canine relationship is both timeless in its simplicity and how it provides a timeline of human culture, behavior, and perceptions of the natural world.

Keywords: Evolution, canines, dogs, humans, Neanderthals