The war animals are the pigeons who can keep a missile on track by pecking away at the image of a target, the dolphins who...

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THE WAR ANIMALS

The war animals are the pigeons who can keep a missile on track by pecking away at the image of a target, the dolphins who can rescue equipment lost at sea, or the true ""dogs of war"" trained to sniff out bombs or booby traps. Lebow is a behavioral psychologist (not a strict Skinnerian) who started his own firm, Behavior Systems, Inc., to train a variety of species for useful human service. He introduces his subject with a scholarly review of the history of psychology and an account of past uses of animals in warfare. From then on the book is a combination of training manual and personal memoir. Once Lubow set up in business he began to get queries from the army or the CIA. One of the funnier accounts describes his dealings with the CIA in the form of a Dr. Hoag, ostensibly with the Stuffed Animals Division of the Enjoyable Toy Company. (The mission: find a way that POWs could escape from a prison camp in Vietnam and elude detection by guard dogs.) As in several other cases, Lubow is coy about whether the method devised was actually employed. Where the mine dogs are concerned, however, the facts are clear. Dogs were used and performed very well in the jungles of Vietnam. Dogs were also used to detect buried dead Egyptian and Israeli soldiers in the Yom Kippur War. The training is, of course, behavior modification and you can learn a lot about the techniques of shaping, discrimination training, schedules of reinforcements, cues, sources of error, and so on from Lubow's detailed descriptions. You can also pick up did-you-know lore about the sensory sensitivities of animals (pigs still come off high with their truffle-sniffing ability). Or, you can enjoy the book for the simple pleasure (minus some points for bad puns) of reading stories about clever animals performing bravely and well.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1977