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

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  10,669 Ratings  ·  1,629 Reviews
Alexandra Horowitz offers readers a fresh look at the world of dogs--from the dog's point of view.

The bestselling book that asks what dogs know and how they think, now in paperback.

The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human.

Paperback, 378 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2009)
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"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
Grace 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
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, dogs, 4-star
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
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Inside of a Dog is a valuable read for anyone seeking to learn more about our furry companions. Horowitz starts with the basics, focusing on a dog's umwelt and the ways that it differs from a human's. Dogs aren't colorblind, but their perception of color does differ from ours. Scent is far more important in the doggy world than it is to us. Most important of all, dogs and humans simply see different affo
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Katrina Michie
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 21, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Daniel Solera
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
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
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jessica Blevins
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jillian Haas
I normally find animal behavioral science to be a fascinating subject. Some interesting information can be found in this book, but I had to wade through a bunch of slush to get to it. The best bits were talked about on NPR when the book was first published. Too bad, really, that I could hardly keep my eyes open while reading most of it. Two stars: it was okay.
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
She's very long-winded. The introduction took forever & probably was a good enough synopsis of the book. There wasn't much there even after a good 4 hours of listening - almost halfway through.

Her point about breeds being indicative of general behavior given similar upbringing was repetitious, to put it kindly. Her comparison between wolf & dog behavior was poor. I agree with her conclusion that not all behavior should be attributed to the wolf root nor the human breeding & interacti
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Buccola
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you love dogs, I really cannot imagine a better book to read. Alexandra Horowitz brings the latest and greatest scientific insights on dog behavior to us, the average dog lover, in the most grounded accessible way imaginable. While the science is fascinating and has definitely helped me better understand my pups, what I really loved was the way Horowitz discusses the limits to what science can research.

The book centers on this idea of umwelt, which according to Horowitz, "which originated wi
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I liked the cover very much. After reading it, I can say that this book is:

-Very informative:
1-I had an insight of the efforts made to study animal cognition.
2-It was also interesting to know how the relationship between dog and man evolved.
3-Dogs senses and body language were extensively covered.

1-Around 300 pages with too much repetition of some points made clear from the first time already; perhaps, intended for dogs who can read! I had to stop reading sev
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dogs, being-human
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
Nicole Geub
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have a dog, but I still found this interesting. just finding out about the mannerism of dogs and how they relate to people and other animals that we anthropomorphize them, that is make them relatable to us is really extraordinary. dogs aren't like wolves in behavior but more like us. they pick up on all our cues such as body language and eye contact. this book covers it all from how we domesticated them from wild to where they are now our babies. there were also some guides to how to tra ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was startlingly incredible. I bought it for $1 thinking it would help me train my dog, Thran. It's not going to help me train Thran. Instead, it revolutionized how I understand, relate to, and love Thran. I've always been a dog person, but this book made me believe that all people are, deep down, dog people. It's well-written and fast-paced, scientific yet personal. A must-read for anyone who shares their life (or wants to someday share their life) with a dog.
Clif Hostetler
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all dog owners.
Shelves: science
Haven't we all wondered what our dogs think of us? This is the next best thing to reading a book written by a dog. I am not a current dog owner, but I grew up on a farm with multiple dogs. Over the years I had read that those dogs of my youth saw me as the leader of their pack. This book debunks that myth. This book says they considered me to be be their a meal ticket. What a come down! All these years I thought I was the "Alpha Dog."

The purpose of the book is to help people to understand what's
Ticklish Owl
If you know anything about dogs, you might not get much out of this book. The science is easy enough for a grade schooler to understand, and while accessible to the masses, it was ultimately disappointing to me. The scientific research the author discusses is her interpretation. Even worse is the lack of complete citations.

The author's opinion of what a dog's mind is capable of is cold and limited. Her fear of being accused of anthropomorphism is all too evident. She rails against anthropomorph
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
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Alexandra Horowitz is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Barnard College in New York, where she teaches courses on psychology and animal behavior. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.” Her studies on dogs have explored their ‘guilty look,’ sense of fairness, play signaling, and olfactory abilities, am ...more
More about Alexandra Horowitz...
“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.” 8 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.” 6 likes
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