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What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,112 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
A firsthand exploration of the fascinating world of “working dogs”—who seek out missing persons, sniff for explosives in war zones, and locate long-dead remains—through the experiences of a journalist and her canine companion, an incorrigible pup named Solo.

Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd
...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Touchstone
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Melissa
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Love this book! The style is similar to Mary Roach's Stiff, in that it is a memoir filled with research, history, and science. Warren really did her research for this book; I learned so much about the history of dogs and their place in our workforce. Her personal part in this long history is touching. A wonderful read.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Marcie
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book about Solo the cadaver dog mistakenly has a photo of my German Sherpherd dog Sam on it! Just kidding, but my glorious, high-drive, smart, insistent, vigilant dog could be his twin. Mine is not trained to do any important work except make me exercise and laugh at his expressions, though.

So it was terrific fun for me to read about Solo's training and working and imagine Sam in the same scenarios. The stories about the actual call-outs of Solo and all the other working dogs in the book ar
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Susan Beuerlein
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly, pigs, cats, and vultures have all been studied for cadaver tracking, according to journalist Cat Warren. All three can find the scent, but pigs get too big and heavy; cats aren't interested; and vultures tend to sample the findings!

Who knew that the perfect cadaver dog would be the wild and crazy Solo, an ebullient German Shepherd with energy to spare? His owner, the author, maintains that handlers don't want an obedient, docile pet that just sits and stares lovingly at them. The t
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Tracy Kaufman
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am an HRD/cadaver handler and this book was like reading my journey while I was training my own dog. Brought back wonderful memories and even the low points you have in training a dog for search and rescue. She givies you the history of some of the roles dogs have had with dealing with our dead. Which I was unaware of.

If you have an interest in the world of search and rescue this is the book for you. It is heart warming and has an honest approach you rarely see.
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This is a very good book if you want to learn about working dogs, mostly cadaver dogs since this is what the author worked in at her current time writing the book. She did write about other working dogs which was very interesting to know as well. I enjoyed some of the parts she added about her home life as well.
Jo Perry
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When a nervous, self-focused singleton German shepherd puppy enters journalist Cat Warren’s life, the usual doggy activities are not enough to challenge or focus her new dog’s prodigious energy. That’s when Warren discovers that nosing out the missing dead is a perfect match for her dog’s talents and temperament—and also congenial to her sharp eye and lively intelligence.

Dogs. Death. Murder. Mystery. Decomposition. Trust. Error. Life. Loss. Love. Discovery.

They’re all here––which is why WTDK ca
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Lindsey
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book! Although when I picked it up there was a photo of a chocolate Labrador on the front that seemed inappropriate but this cover seems far more suitable and related to the content. I enjoyed the research and firsthand experience throughout this book on a topic I knew nothing about. I’ve trained dogs before but had never thought about this unique perspective and training to be cadaver dogs. I didn’t relate to some of the quotes at the start of the chapters (a few went over m ...more
Lara Torgesen
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading a fabulous book about a dog... written by a Cat. This book is part science/part memoir/part history of the training and utilization of cadaver dogs. I loved Cat's vivid descriptions of their many adventures. Cat found a comrade in a seemingly misfit, litter-of-one German Shepherd pup. They were both restless and in need of purpose and direction, and they found it together. Especially meaningful to me was the author's own grappling with the illness and death of her father wh ...more
Jen Blood
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Academic-turned-SAR dog handler Cat Warren delves into her experiences training Solo, a headstrong German shepherd pup who finds his way and comes into his own through search and rescue. This is hardly just another heartwarming story about People With Dogs, however... Warren has done exhaustive research into the world of search and rescue, conducted interviews, gone through countless hours of hands-on training, and has plenty of anecdotes taken directly from her time in the field. From the scien ...more
Jessica
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from front to back cover. My dog and I attend classes and compete in scent work so I was able to relate to so much in this book...as an aside we compete for fun and this book was about a much more serious type of scent work.

I would highly recommend this book to dog lovers and especially those who participate in scent work with their pups. And, of course, including those that share their homes and lives with a German shepherd.
Lisa Sipe
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fun story about raising, training and loving a cadaver dog. Most gratifying part of the story for me (attempting to raise mild-mannered service dogs and failing with Sundance) was that some people highly value the male jack asses and female bitches from hell of the dog world. That's my little high drive flunkie;-)
Stuart Smith
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Dog book by a Cat? This is a very strong non-fiction. Well researched by a science writer with a great talent for weaving together her personal narrative with interesting and fascinating facts about the anatomy of the dog and the history of the cadavar dog trade. For fans spanning Lassie all the way to CSI shows. Dog owner or not, you'll be glad you picked this books up.
Maryann
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in dogs, especially working dogs. I couldn't put this book down! Very well written, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the author's training and adventures with her dog, Solo. This book sheds some light on an otherwise unknown subject. I'm crossing my fingers that there will be a sequel!
Jen
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dog-books
Not at all the subject matter I expected to be reading when I requested it for Christmas, but excellent and enjoyable, all the same- probably even more so! I'm completely fascinated with cadaver dog work/training and am so glad to have this book and to have read it! The author does great work and writes well without being overly sentimental. Very pleased and impressed with this book!
Victoria
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this for the insights into working dogs and their world, and for the clear writing. Prompted me to look at my dogs in a new light - watching how they work a scent in the back yard or in the fields where we walk them.
Katie
This was fascinating. I love a good narrative non-fiction book.
Jerry
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As the handler of a tracking/trailing K9, I try to find books about Search & Rescue (SAR)/Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs and scent work. Not just any books, but those written by experienced handlers who train and work with their K9 partners. Partly, it keeps me connected to those who share my interests, and partly to learn something new or reaffirm something old. I want a book that lets me share in the handlers' experiences and who treat their K9 as a real partner. I also often want a bo ...more
Amanda - Go Book Yourself
An ARC was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Solo is an Amazing dog with an important Job. He is a cadaver dog. Trained to find the dead and bring peace to their families.

Solo was a singleton, meaning he was the only pup in his litter. His trainer basically calls him a jackass and wonders what it is Cat wants him to do. She wants him to have a job, to be useful. As it turns out the Jackasses and bitches from hell often make the best canine cops :)

Cat takes us through the t
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Ann Ackermann
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a book you'll remember long after you've put it down.

Narrated in the first person, What the Dog Knows follows the evolution of a college professor and her headstrong German shepherd puppy into a successful cadaver search team. Not long after “Solo” joined the author’s household, a cadaver dog trainer suggested that the author enroll him in scent training. What was originally intended as a recommendation for channeling the dog’s energy serendipitously changed both their lives. It forced th
...more
Drew
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Terrific memoir/dogcumentary written by a woman with feline (Cat) and lapine (Warren) names. What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs is a terrific look at the world of cadaver dogs and working dogs in general, and draws on everything from the author's personal experience as a crime scene volunteer, to evolutionary biology underlying our relationship with dogs, to the relationship of working dogs to the criminal justice and military worlds. Warren's narrative is thoroughly enga ...more
Mary (BookHounds)

When Cat Warren gets a gorgeous German Shepherd, he is all parts uncoordinated, curious and needs a job. Like most working breeds, shepherds are happiest when they have a job to do and when Warren takes her boy to a trainer she knows he needs a job, but she also knows that she physically couldn't keep up with a search and rescue team. She had never really thought of a cadaver dog, but Solo, proves to be a standout early on. And so, the pair have found a calling and not a likely one for the autho
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Julie
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
For those of you interested in working dogs, or even dogs in general - this is another great read. Ms. Warren has trained a GSD, Solo, to be a cadaver dog - after initially wanting to train for another discipline. The book talks about her adventures in training and working with Solo - but not as in depth and documentary as one might think. Instead, the subtitle of the book is brought forth via featured research on canine scent and tracking ability, behavior and how tracking dogs have been used t ...more
David
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, memoir
Nothing on the cover prepares for what kind of working dog is at the center of this book, but the first page makes it clear that this dog smells dead people. This kind of work might put some readers off, but Cat Warren pulled me in with those first pages.

The rigors of training a cadaver dog, and the handler are made clear as the partnership between Solo and the author develops. Along the way we are presented with anecdotes from the years of ongoing training and actual searches to stories about
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Anne
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dogs-and-others
Don’t try to fit a square dog into a round hole:
Cat Warren, a professor of science journalism, is apparently one of those writers who can make the most mundane interesting. In this case the subject is anything but mundane.

What the Dog Knows is an enjoyable and inspiring account of life with a Human Remains Detection dog- a cadaver dog. The story follows their relationship, from the bad puppy, their introduction into the field, to the learning process and successful training of the German Shephe
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Juneau Public Library
About one year after the death of her previous German shepherd, journalism professor Cat Warren decided she was ready for a new dog. Unfortunately, Solo, born without siblings, was the polar opposite of his predecessor: full of energy, resistant to conventional obedience training, and aggressive with other dogs. Eventually, an obedience trainer told Warren that what Solo really needed was a job, and Solo's career as a cadaver dog began. This book is not only the story of the process by which Sol ...more
Heidi
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It occurred to me while reading this book that Cat and her dog Solo enjoy doing the same thing: searching, editing, and reporting. How wonderful to have found such a balance, interest, and passion to share with her canine companion. It was a pleasure to read the enjoyment they both receive doing the same kinds of work together. I was particularly drawn to the massive amount of research and different topics this book took on, obviously a hallmark of the author's journalism background. If I lived ...more
Patricia
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read WHAT THE DOG KNOWS the first time because I’m interested in all types of working and service dogs. I’ve ready it multiple more times because it is one of the finest dog training books I’ve ever read. It is positively inspirational, offering rare insight into how dogs process training, reward and expectations. It is an enjoyable, well written, thought provoking book that raises many of the dog intelligence questions that dog lovers ponder and wish to better understand. It made me want to b ...more
Shawna
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by NetGalley:
It would take a lot for me not to like a book about dogs. This was a good one. The author's journey into the world of working dogs began when she and her husband adopted a rambunctious German Shepherd in need of a job as an outlet for his excess energy. Christianed "Solo" because of his status as the only member of a litter of pups, he soon finds his way working as a cadaver dog. The book provides an abundance of historical and background information about dogs and the
...more
Ellen
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Cat talks about her journey from Dog Sports and Traditional Obedience Competition to having a dog she was afraid would never fit that mold. Solo was kind of a "jerk." But what most people don't understand, is that dogs that act like "jerks" are sometimes the best partners -- because they think outside the box, and solve their immediate issues differently than we would sometimes like them to be solved.

Together, with the help of other trainers, they found the cadaver search and
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Susan
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, dogs
I loved this book!

Similar in scope and approach to Mary Roach's engaging and informative Gulp, What the Dog Knows gives us a fascinating insider's view into the world of working dogs. Part memoir, part I-got-the-puppy-from-hell, Warren fills out the book with interviews and all sorts of in-depth information on the top trainers in the field of scent-detection and crime-fighting dogs. Like Roach, Warren writes beautifully and has a delightful sense of humor, as well as a way to make her subjects c
...more
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Cat Warren is a professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and reporting courses. She lives with her husband, David, and two German shepherds, Jaco and Coda, in Durham, North Carolina. What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World is her first single-authored book.
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“I’ve grown more comfortable working with the dead. With parts of them, really. A few teeth, a vertebra, a piece of carpet that lay underneath a body for awhile. One of my German shepherd’s standard training materials is dirt harvested from sites where decomposing bodies rested. Crack open a Mason jar filled with that dirt, and all I smell is North Carolina woods—musky darkness with a hint of mildewed alder leaves. Solo smells the departed.” 4 likes
“The army and SwRI researchers, ever optimistic and open-minded, had already been there and tried that. Cats didn’t care to communicate with the researchers about whether bombs were close by. “Cats were excluded from the final programs because of their demonstrated refusal to cooperate consistently in joint ventures with man.” 2 likes
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