Course Description

The Coevolution of Dogs & Humans

The relationship between dogs and humans is an undeniable part of our human culture.  But where, when, how, and why did this relationship begin? How have humans and dogs changed each other over the course of our shared history? This course will seek to answer these questions by using a cross-disciplinary approach that covers areas such as anthropology, evolutionary biology, genetics, veterinary medicine, ethics, and cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. There are many prevailing theories about the origins of the dog and its split from the wolf, and this course will discuss the anthropological, archaeological, and genetic evidence behind these theories. In this context, domestication theory as well as the comparative anatomy and physiology of the Canidae family will also be discussed. It is obvious today that the artificial selection used by humans in the breeding of modern dogs has resulted in vast physical and behavioral differences between breeds. At the end of the semester, the genetics, health, and behavior of modern dog breeds will be covered, especially in the context of the ethics of purebreeding. The class will come to a close with a review of the most recent research being conducted in the cognitive neuroscience of dogs, with a focus on learning, memory, and social behavior. Each student will have to complete a final research paper about a dog breed of their choice, as well as a mid-term group project and class presentation entitled “Dogs in World Cultures” and various other short in-class and take-home writing assignments.

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