BOOKS: Working Dogs: True Stories of Dogs & Their Handlers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

Working Dogs: True Stories of Dogs & Their Handlers
by Kristin Mehus-Roe
with photos by Keith May
Bowtie Press (3 Burroughs, Irvine, CA 92618), 2003.
240 pages, paperback. $21.95.

Kristin Mehus-Roe offers a thorough introduction to the use
of dogs in hunting, herding, helping the disabled, providing
emotional therapy, pulling sleds and other vehicles, performing as
entertainers, detecting contraband, guarding, tracking, and
Among these 12 common canine jobs, Mehus-Roe lists hunting
first, because it evolved first. Dogs probably hunted and scavenged
in loose partnership with other species for millions of years before
humans evolved, much as coyotes and jackals continue to hunt and
scavenge in partnerships of convenience with badgers, crows,
baboons, and big cats. Typically the canines help to corner the
prey, let the other species do the most dangerous part of the
killing, then share the remains.

The human/canine relationship developed from there. Until
the invention of firearms, dogs were still doing the cornering and
much of the eating, while the humans who closed in to dispatch
wounded animals were typically at the greater risk of injury.
Though Mehus-Roe acknowledges the role of dogs as hunting
assistants, and succinctly describes the many different forms of
hunting with dogs, she immediately acknowledges “ethical questions”
about it, and spends nearly as much page space on adaptations of
hunting skills to other pursuits as she does on actual hunting
The seven-page hunting dogs chapter appears to be the one
reluctant part of a book that otherwise bounces from page to page
with tail-wagging enthusiasm. Except for that chapter, Working Dogs
is a happy book about happy dogs, motivated by positive
reinforcement, who enjoy what they do and do it well.

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