Working Dogs

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Elliot Humphrey & Lucien Warner
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Dogwise Publishing

Learn about early research on canine genetics and behavior.
Before there was Scott and Fuller's Genetic and Social Behavior of the Dog or Clarence Pfaffenberger's New Knowledge of Dog Behavior, there was this book. Working Dogs is the story of a pioneering study undertaken in the 1920s and 30s to selectively breed dogs that were not only physically sound but also behaviorally stable. Realizing the potential for dogs to help mankind in a variety of ways as police dogs, herding dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and search and rescue dogs the researchers wanted to improve the success rate of breeding that were able to work over an extended period of time with the minimum of fatigue and still fit into a family setting.
This ambitious project, named Fortunate Fields, was begun in 1924 on a farm in Switzerland. Conceived of and managed by Mrs. Harrison Eustis, who provided some of the original breeding stock, every step in the breeding, rearing and training of these working dogs was carefully planned, measured, recorded and analyzed. Working Dogs tells a story as fascinating as a novel, of how the intelligent application of scientific principles could produce more and more standard results and better working dogs.

Of special interest to
Dog Breeders
Dog Behaviorists
Service dog programs
History buffs
German Shepherd fanciers

Authors Elliot Humphrey and Lucien Warner were an integral part of the research at Fortunate Fields.

Click here to view an excerpt.

What reviewers are saying...


Students of dog genetics have long recognized the significance of Working Dogs, which was first published in 1934- well before other books that are considered forerunners. Dogwise has finally made this long-out-of-print classic available again. Working Dogs chronicles the pioneering adventure of one of dogdom's most ambitious breeding programs, known as the Fortunate Fields project, began in 1924 in Switzerland, attempted to apply scientific principles to create superior working German Shepherd Dogs for a variety of services, including work as police dogs, herding dogs, guide dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs, without sacrificing their role as family dogs. Individual finding regarding the inheritance of specific traits were recorded in scientific journals of the time, forming the foundation of canine behavioral genetics. Quoting from the book's foreword; Every step in the breeding, rearing, and training of these working dogs is as carefully planned, measured, and recorded as is the making of a fine piece of machinery designed to do a particular piece of work. Few, if any, sources document the process and progress of generations of breeding toward a specific goal as does Working Dogs. Although of special interest to German Shepherd owners, Working Dogs' relevance to breeders, behaviorists, trainers, and history buffs transcends breed interest. The writing is compelling, drawing the reader into the project. The text is liberally peppered with black and-white photographs of Shepherds of the time. Chapter topics include descriptions of dogs as workers, how breeders are selected, psychological traits, the inheritance of specific traits, the association of traits, and which traits are most vital to the dog's success as a worker, among others. If you have ever wondered how much of your dog's behavior is inherited, or how much progress you could make if you had every resource at your disposal, Working Dogs will go far to answer your questions. D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.

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  • 5
    Great piece of history

    Posted by GUERRERO on 14th Jun 2019

    An excellent piece of history. Although I wish more progress could have been documented. A few years of information is not enough to establish the outcome of their selectivity program. A good read overall.