Sunday, January 27, 2008

canine geography

To take the tangent first: I would heartily recommend Donald McCaig's Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club. And endorse Pat the Terrierman's opinion that McCaig certainly seems to have written a more sympathetic book than the situation merited.

I was re-reading McCaig's Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men to find some of the phrases and sentences that made me realize that he really was a man who had spent a significant time with both words and the souls of dogs. As he says on the penultimate page: "When an eminent dog joins a dangerous man, they can create performance that is, by either standard -- dog's or man's -- beautiful. That's why the dogs do it: because it's beautiful. When a sheepdog meets a man able to help him create beauty, the dog will put up with almost anything." (p. 11)

"When Jack [Knox], or any other top dog trainer goes out with his dog, he becomes pure communication. The trainer's body and voice are the command. That this communication works for dog who never take their attention off their sheep, rarely look at the man and, over great distances, cannot possibly see him, extends the boundaries of communication or perhaps affirms the primacy of intention over fact." (p. 53)

Thinking about how man and dog communicate reminded me. in turn, of a very interesting post I'd seen a while back on the SmartDogs blog about how dogs communicate and experience their world around them.

As far as the olfactory world that dogs experience goes, I have found William Syrotuck's Scent and the Scenting Dog to be the most useful of the books I've read about scent work. It was originally published in 1972 and has not been updated (although is available in this modern re-print), but most of the newer books I've read rely heavily on it and felt as though they were written in such a way so's to mask how reliant they were. The book does detect significant portions to human tracking and detection, but it is a slim book scientific in content and tone, but relatively straightforward to read.

To take a final tangent, which is more of a coda: Steve Bodio has a nice discursive conversation with one of his regular readers on breeding, in-breeding, line-breeding, and the stakes involved in trying to preserve and solidify traits in a disparate genetic and geographical pool. (For those looking for a quick overview of these terms, try this.)

In the meantime here are a couple of pics of our boys exploring the environment: Jozsi in the park near our house right after he came to live with us; the other of Momo warming up for his hunt test out on Cape Cod this past fall.

1 comment:

smartdogs said...

Thanks for reading my blog on the umwelt. As an interesting aside, to yours - Donald is a good friend of mine. He and his dogs stayed with us for a week last summer while he and I attended a stockdog clinic. Donald does indeed have a deep, wonderful, innate understanding of dogs - and sheep. That's part of what makes him such a gifted writer.