By November 16, 2010

NOVA’s Dogs Decoded

Sedagive? and I saw the Public Broadcast System’s Dogs Decoded NOVA television program this weekend. Dogs Decoded discussed how dogs and humans have evolved to interact over time. The program had a lot of interesting factoids, including:

  • How dogs have learned to study human faces to judge their temperament — and how dogs look at human faces completely differently from other animals.
  • The physiological effects of petting a dog, and how a dog reacts physically to being pet by a human.
  • Some ways that dogs and humans interact that are unique in the animal world.
  • How domesticated dogs are different from wolves and other dog-like animals, especially how it relates to interacting with humans.

There is a lot more there, and the show is very very interesting.

One of my favorite parts was an experiment where a scientist in Siberia started a program 50 years ago to experiment on domesticating wild foxes. The scientist separated “aggressive” from “less aggressive” foxes. At first, only 1% of the bred foxes were less aggressive to humans. Within three generations of breeding for tame-ness, the foxes began to be friendly towards the scientists. They would wag their tails and make happy noises when the scientists approached. As generations passed, the Friendly Foxes took on more physiological and behavior traits of domesticated dogs, and the Aggro Foxes continued to be cranky little fuckers.

Dogs Decoded is a fascinating show. It is still being broadcast on television, and you can watch it online on the Dogs Decoded Web page. If you would like to give the program as a gift, PBS sells it on their online store. You can also save about $7 or more if you buy it from

Strongly recommended.

Posted in: dogs, review

3 Comments on "NOVA’s Dogs Decoded"

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  1. Pete says:

    Sounds great, I will have to check it out. If you haven’t seen it, another good similar title is National Geographic’s “Science of Dogs” that talks about how most breeds of dogs are man-made breeds that didnt exist a couple hundred years ago.

  2. Pants says:

    It is also available on Netflix instant queue.

  3. DrFaulken says:

    Thanks for the comments! Pete, I’ll be interested to see how you feel about the segment about raising wolf cubs. I will definitely check out the Science of Dogs show.

    Thanks for the head’s up about the show on Netflix, Pants — did you watch it?