Review: A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg

51dhyckpavl-_sx331_bo1204203200_The direction in which we look tells those who can read this signal something about our intentions. And here’s where dogs come in: it turns out that dogs can follow the human gaze, too, and they’re very good at it…Tellingly, dogs also understand our gaze far better than our closest relative in the animal kingdom, the chimpanzee. So why did modern humans evolve the white sclera, and when did it first develop? We don’t yet have the answer to the latter question, but dogs’ innate ability to read the human gaze suggests…something remarkable: in domesticating dogs, humans may have inadvertently evolved another feature that makes us unique among primates.


What happens: This is a book about the coevolution of dogs and humans. It tells the story from the very beginning of our recorded history with domesticated wolves and examines several aspects of the canine-human relationship throughout the book. Using scientific studies and scholarly opinions in genetics, biology, zoology, and anthropology, Frydenborg tells and compulsively readable and fact based tale of the interdependent relationships between humanity and our best friend.

The good: There is some real science here. Too often, books for the juvenile/ young adult set don’t get specific enough when it comes to a current scientific conversation. Frydenborg avoids the vagueness and conjecture that you might see in other texts for these age groups. She relies on classic research by people like Darwin while situating herself in the current scholarly conversation with new research and the opinions of current experts in the field.

The book flows nicely and doesn’t read like an article in a journal. This is readable, so much so that I intended to skim this puppy (ha) but ended up reading the whole thing. The chapters are nicely separated and the narrative moves from one point to another without feeling disjointed.

The not so good: I wish there had been just a bit more counter evidence presented here. A lot of what the author was propping up is pretty contentious. Where a hypothesis wasn’t proven, the author said so. That said, I wish there could have been, like, an end chapter talking about the different theories for some of her points–not to bog down the narrative but to let the readers know that there’s a wealth of information out there on this topic if they’re interested in exploring further.

Rating: 4/5 stars.


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