This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in April, 2014.
Without question, dogs play a major role in the daily lives of many of us. In the United States alone, there are 83.3 million pet dogs, and 47 percent of all American households include at least one dog.
Brian Hare finds the popularity of dogs far from surprising. In his book, “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” Dr. Hare and his co-author and wife Vanessa Woods describe how dogs evolved from wolves to become “man’s best friend.”
The book, now out in paperback, provides a thoughtful and entertaining account of the last decade’s explosion of research and understanding about where dogs came from, how they think and why they have become such cherished and beneficial companions. Starting with the discovery of a puppy’s seemingly innate and unique ability to understand human gestures and body language, “The Genius of Dogs” explains the research of recent years suggesting that the ancestors of our canine friends chose human companionship – not the other way around.
Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. He studies dogs and primates as a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, which is a division of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He has published dozens of empirical articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and his publications on dog cognition are among the most heavily cited papers on dog behavior and intelligence. His research has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Time, The Washington Post and many other major publications.