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What your dog really means to you—and what you mean to your dog

Understanding Dogs

Living and Working with Canine Companions

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Clinton R. Sanders

Charles Horton Cooley Award, Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, 2000

"Understanding Dogs is a must-read. Dr. Sanders weaves personal experience with 'hard science' in this invaluable book about just how important dogs are to humans. Dogs emerge as thoughtful companions with very active minds. Truly our best friends, we are fortunate that dogs (and other animals) are willing to share their lives with us, and that Dr. Sanders has taken the time to share his broad experiences with us."
Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, Boulder

In Understanding Dogs, sociologist and faithful dog companion Clinton R. Sanders explores the day-to-day experiences of living and working with domestic dogs. Based on a decade of research in veterinary offices and hospitals, dog-guide training schools, and obedience classes—and colored with his personal experiences and observations at and outside home with his own canine companions—Sanders's book examines how everyday dog owners come to know their animal companions as thinking, emotional, and responsive individuals.

Linking animal companionship with social as well as personal identity, Understanding Dogs uses detailed ethnographic data in viewing human and animal efforts to understand, manipulate, care for, and interact with each other. From nineteenth-century disapproval of what was seen as irresponsibly indulgent pet ownership among the poor to Bill Clinton's caring and fun-loving image and populist connection to the "common person" as achieved through his labrador companion Buddy, Sanders looks at how dogs serve not only as social facilitators but also as adornments to social identity. He also reveals how, while we often strive to teach and shape our dogs' behavior, dogs often teach us to appreciate with more awareness a nourishing meal, physical warmth, a walk in the woods, and the simple joys of the immediate moment.

Sanders devotes chapters to the specialized work of guide-dog trainers, the problems and joys experienced by guide dog owners, the day-to-day work of veterinarians dealing with the healing, death, and euthanizing of their animal patients, and the everyday interactions, assumptions, and approaches of people who choose, for various reasons and in various ways, to spend their lives in the company of dogs.

Understanding Dogs will interest those who live and work with animals as well as those studying the sociology of human-animal interaction.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 2 (pdf).

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Reviews

"An important and lucid contribution. In looking at the human/canine bond Sanders makes a compelling case for canine intelligence and empathic abilities. At the same time, we gain a rich sociological insight into the importance of dogs and, by extension, other animals, in the lives of their human companions."
Janet M. Alger, Siena College

"...contains a wealth of sociological information about dog ownership and may be helpful in rounding out a dog or pet collection."
Booklist

"...insightful and delightful. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries."
Library Journal

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Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1. Introduction: The Relationship between People and Pets
2. The Everyday Dog Owner: Knowing and Living with Dogs
3. The Guide-Dog Owner: Dependence and Love
4. The Veterinarian: Caring for Canine Patients
5. The Guide-Dog Trainer: Understanding and Teaching Dogs
6. Animal Abilities and Human-Animal Interaction
Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Clinton R. Sanders is co-author of Regarding Animals (Temple) and Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut.

Subject Categories

Animals and Society
Sociology


In the series

Animals, Culture, and Society, edited by Arnold Arluke and Clinton R. Sanders.

Animals, Culture, and Society, edited by Arnold Arluke and Clinton R. Sanders, is concerned with probing the complex and contradictory human-animal relationship through the publication of accessible books that consider the place of animals in our culture, our literature, our society, and our homes.

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