Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
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Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  5,852 ratings  ·  1,100 reviews
Temple Grandin meets Stephen Pinker in this engaging and informative look at what goes on inside the minds of dogs—from a cognitive scientist with a background at The New Yorker.

With more than 52 million pet dogs in America today, it’s clear we are a nation of unabashed dog-lovers. Yet the relationship between dogs and humans remains a fascinating myste...more
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2009)
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John
"Date I finished this book" should be "Date I stopped reading this book."
I kept hoping that it would become more interesting, but, on page 180 I finally gave up.

I wanted to like this book. She sets the groundwork that while we humans spend a lot of time with dogs, we actually know very little about them. So she tackled the research to actually learn about dogs (it implied that she was doing the research since she earlier said very little research had been done on dogs).

First annoyance: it seems...more
Sandy Tjan
Me: “Well, here’s the book I told you about, Molly, the one that will tell me everything there is to know about you.”

Molly: “Woof!”

Me: “Yes, that’s a good girl! Let’s see, this book is written by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist specializing in animal research. She must be one smart lady. And she’s also a dog person! This should be interesting. Let’s loll on the sofa and read it.”

Molly: (jumps up and looks expectantly)

Me: “The title is a part of a joke: “Outside of a dog, a book is...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
Alexandra Horowitz racked up major brownie points right from the beginning with this book. The title comes from one of my favorite quotes ever, from the mouth of Groucho Marx. Also, early on she heads complaints off at the pass by stating that she is using "owner" rather than "pet parent" or some other such silly phrasing because that's the legal term, and she will use "him" and "his" when referring to dogs in general because that's the English default, and, knowing dogs as she does, "it" is not...more
Rae
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx
Alexandra Horowitz has taken up Groucho's challenge and given us a book that at least we can read about the inside of a dog. Clearly a dog lover she has written a valentine to man's best friend.
What makes dogs uniquely suited to that special status? What's going on behind those big brown eyes? You will find answers to these and many more questions - such as why the swich to digital TV has made it...more
Mimi
I usually don’t include autobiographical information in a book review, but in this case I’ll make an exception! Like Alexandra Horowitz, I am and always will be a dog person and since the day I was born, a doggie has shared my world. It all started with Marshmallow, a lovely golden mutt who lived amongst us until I was 13-years old (she was 16 at the time). Then, to my wonderful pleasure, my parents first adopted Roxy, the quirky basset hound, and then came Maggie the English Bulldog…and this is...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
This is a lovely, unsentimental, fairly thorough, scientifically-grounded look at the dog-human bond: how it evolved, how the canine's sensory equipment shapes his (or her) world and relationship with us, and how a deeper understanding of that world - "the inside of a dog" (yes, from the Groucho Marx quotation) - should shape ours with them. Didn't so much change or illuminate, but anchored what I think I know about my dog and dogs in general in explanations of canine behaviour drawn from the au...more
Katrina Michie
This book totally changed how I see and interact with dogs. It seems like common sense to me now, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for dogs.

I was hoping this would be more like Radiolab's brand of science, or maybe a Mary Roach type of look at dogs, but it's not quite as much of a page turner--maybe because it's actually written by a scientist and not a journalist. This is a benefit in a lot of ways though. I would still really recommend it if you are all about your dog(s) like I am and...more
Andrew
This is a disappointing book, with few insights for a dog owner or someone interested in animal behavior. Despite having an extensive collection of footnotes leading back to the scientific literature, the conclusions of the book could have been handled in 60 pages instead of 300:
• Dogs are not color blind but blues and greens stand out for them. Yellow/orange/red objects are all undifferentiated.
• Short vision is not very good (though smell can compensate for it when objects are close to the muz...more
Amanda
This book did make me appreciate my dog a little more but I found it to be too dry and boring for the most part to give it a higher rating. I also found many eye-rolling moments- she seems a very permissive dog parent. For example, advocating that the dog should be allowed to wander and smell anything and roll in anything, ect, during walks; should be allowed to "smell like a dog" as long as possible; sleep in your bed with you.... I just personally am of camp that believes my dog should work ar...more
Daniel Solera
I saw this book on a bestsellers shelf at the Barnes and Noble by where I work. Having become a dog-owner in August, I picked this up hoping it would be insightful and entertaining. The book aptly declares that it is not a training manual and that readers shouldn't expect tips on how to raise a proper puppy. Instead, it is a psychological examination of dogs, including what they know, what their world is like and how we fit into it.

Alexandra Horowitz attempts to explain such baffling questions a...more
Terry
"Inside of a Dog" is written by a cognitive scientist/animal ethnologist/behaviorist who studies dogs and she writes about them and their behavior in straightforward prose very accessible to laypersons (and possibly offensive to scientists by virtue of over-simplification). She doesn't just study dogs, she likes/loves dogs. So you can guess why I read this book. She begins by describing the evolution of dogs from wolves and their gradual domestication and association with human beings. Then she...more
Ana Rusness-petersen
The first thing that must be said about this book is that it was obviously written by someone who loves dogs, and opened my eyes to truly interacting and living with a dog as a friend, rather than as a being to be taken care of and trained like a child, as someone to be understood and developmentally enhanced.

It was a little challenging to really get engrossed in at the beginning, and was much more scientific than the anecdotal adventure I was expecting when I selected this book off the shelf at...more
Jessica Blevins
Great insight into the life of a dog...I highly recommend. The book is mostly scientific studies of how dogs really see, smell, hear and what they know about their human owners...but includes personal anecdotes throughout as well. I learned a lot about dogs in general and definitely look at my dog in a different light now. For example, I learned that dogs look to humans when they need help or can't figure something out...and that they pay a lot of attention to us, even when we don't realize it....more
Zengardener
Incredibly dry AND pretentious ... I couldn't even finish the book. I have a dog and have fostered and volunteered for many shelters and rescues so I am always amazed and intrigued at how each dog I've met has a different personality. This book lacks what its subjects have in overflowing abundance. The author might as well have been writing a manual on understanding robots or clinical notes about mice in a cage, as nearly every sentence was cold, flat and gratuitously verbose. I'm not one who ge...more
Lilo
This book is a very interestig read for true dog lovers who want to get into the brain of their dog(s). However, I found this book a bit too scientific and, thus, somewhat strenuous to read. For this reason, 4 stars might be a bit over-rated. 3 1/2 stars would be more like it.
John
Dec 13, 2012 John rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to John by: Valerie
A 2.5

This book was a little disappointing for me. I wanted to get it as a Christmas present for some dog owner friends. Instead they are getting a bicycle pump. Although full of some interesting thoughts and research data, overall the book felt a bit dull, a bit lacking. It is neither practical enough to be an owner’s manual, nor detailed enough to satisfy my interest in the experiments behind the ideas. It seems to try to tread a middle road between pop and intellectual, and instead turned me o...more
Lauren
Currently reading. Like many others here, I was prepared to *really* like this book. I too am a 'dog' person, and have had one as part of my life for most of my life (and I'm no spring chicken, so that means several special dogs).

I do like the precept that we set aside prior notions and simply observe dogs to learn more about them -- it took her a long time to say that, but I would agree with it.

Unfortunately, also like many here, I am finding that the author's writing style is verbose without a...more
Beki
Though primed to love this read before ever setting eyes to type by a bone-deep interest in both the scientific (animal behavioral studies) and emotional (I'm nuts for dogs!) subject matter, I was somewhat surprisingly less than wholly engaged by either (treatments of the subject matter) and left rather profoundly unsatisfied upon the arrival of the last page turned: a failure not of writing, but rather one of content. Or perhaps I should clarify that as content unanticipated.

Written in an acce...more
Barbara Burd
My granddaughter who's six gave me this book because she "knows I like dogs and it was on the NYT bestsellers list." I grew up with dogs and have had a dog most of my life, I currently have a little white miniature Schnauzer named Sadie, who I got from a shelter about three years ago. This is definitely a book for dog lovers. It's not a training manual, but rather an attempt to use cognitive behavior theory to explain the actions of dogs, The author began as a scientist studying primates, but be...more
Lisa
Sep 04, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Cheryl--I can visualize both of her dogs sitting patiently waiting for the next command
Shelves: nonfiction
I find behavior very interesting. This is a book about why dogs are the way they are. This book is not about how to train or improve a dog's behavior, but it might help you with your dog in some ways.

I was amused by the author's comparisons of dogs with children, reminding me of my childless dog loving friends and even friends with children that think of their dog as one of the children. Sometimes children are smarter than dogs, but because dogs can manipulate their owners so often, I think dogs...more
Marty
Liked it. Kind of skimmed some parts of it. Didn't learn as much as I thought I would. Was already aware of a lot of the concepts - how important smell is, that dogs are still animals no matter how much we want them to have human characteristics. New to me: Dogs' eyes have a faster "flicker-rate" than humans. Imagine that the speed of our vision processing is to a dog like us watching an old silent movie where we see the flickers between frames. That's what our vision would be to a dog. Therefor...more
Stephanie D.
If you have a dog, if you're a dog person or an all around animal person - you have to read Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz.

"Go look at a dog. Go on, look---maybe at one lying near you right now, curled around his folded legs on a dog bed, or sprawled on his side on the tile floor, paws flitting through the pasture of a dream. Take a good look---and now forget everything you know about this or any dog.

"This is admittedly a ridiculous exhortation...What we'l
...more
Ryan Holiday
I was only halfway through this book when I left it on an airplane and lost it. It took me a week to get a new copy, at which point I had completely forgotten most of the notes I had made in the first few chapters. If you can avoid this problem you should read it, and do so continuously because it has a flow that serves it well. The book is about dogs and the study of dogs but in the scientific rather than the ownership sense.

This means she did real experiments, is a real expert and isn't just p...more
Janet
I rarely read non-fiction but this was a gift from someone who knows I love dogs. Alexandra Horowitz is a psychologist who spent a year researching dog behavior while observing and loving her own dog. She wisely knew not to research dogs in a laboratory - instead she went to dog parks and videotaped dogs doing whatever dogs do. The book is at its best when she just relates the dog behavior she sees and then connects it to scientific knowledge of dog's ancestry and anatomy to help us identify wha...more
Laura
Good specific information about how dogs see the world differently than us. They lack the blind spot directly in front of us we have that we constantly fill in; they lack the sharp close focus that primates have for faces; they see a much bigger slice of the world in front of them than we do. And their ability to smell makes us look like we can't tell the difference between roses and rotting meat.

The author got up my nose right up front, unfortunately, by insisting that she would use "he" as th...more
David
Next time your dog licks your face, try barfing up some semi-digested meat and see what happens.
Trish
Horowitwz is a scientist, after all. She has rigorously edited her book so that it is accessible to non-scientists, and tries to tell us which of the dog behaviors we observe are actually what we may believe them to be. Are dogs as knowledgeable as they appear? What do their behaviors signify? But first she must describe what she will do, set the parameters, explain her approach...I did not become engaged until late in the game, when Horowitz gave us a section on "theory of mind": can the dog kn...more
Huma Rashid
If you're looking for a training manual, this is not the book for you. "Inside of a Dog" is an incredible look at the world through the eyes of a dog - and a psychiatrist. (I think she's a psychiatrist? Something along those lines.) It's the story of the author's dogs, Pumpernickel and Finnegan, a comprehensive observation of dogs, a study of human psychology, and so much more. Packed with wisdom from such unlikely tangential sources as Jacques Derrida, and the more predictable ones like Pavlov,...more
Caroline
Maybe this is just because I like cognitive psychology and I love dogs, but I absolutely loved this book. It is, in some places, a little technical -meaning there are certain passages people might struggle with if they don't have some kind of background knowledge about cognition. However, for the most part, it is highly readable.

I think my favorite part (besides everything else that I loved) is reading her little descriptions of her dog Pumpernickel (the whole book is almost a eulogy to the dog,...more
Tl Wagener
Honestly I always finish books. And this one sits on my bedside table, a pen stuck in the spot where I stopped. Dammit!

I got it at the airport in Las Vegas, on a layover from Dallas to L.A. (O! Vegas! I so do not get you!) Such a pretty book. I shopped every bookseller in the terminal, looking for a magazine that wasn't insulting or a book that I actually might want to own. This was the only remaining copy of a beautifully designed book and I love me the dogs so -- yeah. I sprang for it.

I kept r...more
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Alexandra Horowitz teaches psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University. Before her scientific career, Horowitz worked as a lexicographer at Merrian-Webster and served on the staff of The New Yorker. She and her husband live in New York City with Finnegan, a dog of indeterminate parentage and determinate character.
More about Alexandra Horowitz...
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“Few celebrate a dog who jumps at people as they approach--but start with the premise that it is we who keep ourselves (and our faces) unbearably far away, and we can come to a mutual understanding.” 6 likes
“By standard intelligence texts, the dogs have failed at the puzzle. I believe, by contrast that they have succeeded magnificently. They have applied a novel tool to the task. We are that tool. Dogs have learned this--and they see us as fine general-purpose tools, too: useful for protection, acquiring food, providing companionship. We solve the puzzles of closed doors and empty water dishes. In the folk psychology of dogs, we humans are brilliant enough to extract hopelessly tangled leashes from around trees; we can conjure up an endless bounty of foodstuffs and things to chew. How savvy we are in dogs' eyes! It's a clever strategy to turn to us after all. The question of the cognitive abilities of dogs is thereby transformed; dogs are terrific at using humans to solve problems, but not as good at solving problems when we're not around.” 4 likes
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