Ray Coppinger

Black and white photo of man in suit kneeling next to dog in front of kennels

Dr. Raymond Coppinger passed away in 2017. 

SPARCS was fortunate to have Dr. Coppinger speak at the inaugural event in 2013, and the following year in 2014.

Raymond Coppinger, professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College, majored in literature and philosophy at Boston University. His Ph.D. thesis in biology at the University of Massachusetts is on the effect of experience and novelty on avian feeding behavior. He joined the founding faculty at Hampshire College in 1969. He lectured around the world and organized research on animal behavior, especially the behavior of canines.

Coppinger’s first professional studies of dogs occurred on the runners of a dog sled. During a twelve-year mushing career, he progressed from a five-dog to a sixteen-dog team, won many races on the northeast (USA) circuits, and developed a new strain of fast, responsive sled dogs. Many of these went on to run in Alaskan championship races. His research projects with sled dogs include responses of racing dogs to the stress of heat retention, and the amounts of energy required to pull sled and driver.

In 1976, Ray and his wife Lorna founded the Livestock Guarding Dog Project at Hampshire College. This long-term investigation into the behavior of a new kind of dog for farmers and ranchers in the United States has resulted in greater understanding of early developmental behavior of dogs, and how early experience (or lack of it) can affect adult behavior.

In recent years, Ray turned his attention to assistance dogs. His first-hand knowledge of harnesses for dogs, the mechanics and physiology of pulling, and the relationship between experience, training and behavior gave him a unique insight into the lives of the dogs which are being asked to enhance the lives of people with special needs.

Ray (and his colleagues and students) have published over fifty papers on his dog research. His favorite publication, however, was the book Fishing Dogs, a humorous and iconoclastic look at dogs, fishermen, and professors.

His last published book, co-authored with Lorna Coppinger, is DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution, published by Scribner, NY, in 2001. It has been translated into seven languages.

Bio obtained and adapted from Dr. Coppinger's In Memoriam page at Hampshire College.