This book hit a soft spot in me and so pushed my four star rating to a five. For me, dogs are so special that most often books about them cannot propeThis book hit a soft spot in me and so pushed my four star rating to a five. For me, dogs are so special that most often books about them cannot properly capture why we love them so much and why they love us back. This is a science that needs to be explored; here the author / neuroscientist is doing just that.
This book grows on you. The further you progress, the more topics of canine interest are touched upon.
I have read quite a number of books on the cognitive abilities and emotions of animals. Most of them cover several types of animals and numerous experiments. This book is different. Here we follow the author's "Dog Project" conceived in 2012. We look only at this one study, but we look at it in detail. Two dogs were trained to voluntarily go inside an MRI, thus for the first time making it possible to conduct structural and functional scans of the brains of conscious dogs. They were trained to voluntarily go into the machines which under operation are extremely noisy, put their heads in a headrest and stay absolutely still. How was this done? With hot dog slices and classical reward training and the bond that developed between the dogs and their trainer / owner. Every step of the project is detailed. We learn how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) works. We learn how it came to be that ear muffs were used. The reader feels as though they themselves are part of the team, working through problems that arise, and so we too become exultant when success is achieved. I was not observing from a distance; I was involved and I cared and their progress and their failures were felt as my own.
Scientific terms are explained clearly and simply. This is important because you must understand the science to feel you are part of the scientific team. The author´s scientific explanations are not complicated. I find that those who best know their field can explain simply, and that is what the author does here.
We meet the author's past and present dogs and his family. The death of his pug led him to start the Dog Project. The author is a neuroscientist, professor of both psychiatry and economics and Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. One of his dogs, Callie, a mixed breed feist from a shelter, was one of the two dogs in the project. The other dog in the project, McKenzie, was a trained border collie. The family’s second dog, Lyra, also plays a central role in the book, although she never takes part in the experiments. She (view spoiler)[dies. The emotional impact this has on all members of the family illustrates man’s bond to dog and thus is not extraneous information (hide spoiler)]. In meeting the whole family, the book touches on how science should be taught in schools and the emotional impact our dogs have on our lives. In discussing both the Dog Projectt and the author’s family, many diverse canine topics are successfully discussed.
The Dog Project was "open in form", meaning the scientists did NOT start with a particular hypothesis to be tested. They simply wanted to see what the MRI scans of a canine brain would reveal. Originally, I was surprised to see that the dogs were equally happy to be rewarded by a hot dog slice or a just a measly pea! Then I realized that this is exactly what dog trainers tell us; do not reward every accomplished task with a treat. It is the reward the dog is after. What really puts dogs in attention mode is when they are sometimes given a hot dog slice and sometimes NOT rewarded at all. What the dog is looking for is praise from his owner. Think about that! Having confirmed on MRI scans guidelines that we dog owners have been following for years in the training of our pets is satisfying. Dog training is best accomplished through hand signals, clear and consistent commands and positive rewards. Again, another topic the book successfully explores - dog training.
The MRI scans seem to show that our dogs reciprocate the love we feel for them, that they intuit our thoughts and that they have the ability to maintain inter-species social cognition. If further experiments reconfirm what the Dog Project has indicated, then our treatment of dogs and many other species must be re-examined. The domestication of dogs too! Who has domesticated whom? The scientist is continuing such studies on dogs, and not just with the two dogs, Callie and McKenzie. Many dogs, and dogs of different breeds and backgrounds, need to be tested.
The audiobook was extremely well narrated by L.J. Ganser. The entire narration was read clearly and at a good speed. The emotional episodes were handled well. I have given not only the book but also its narration five stars.
I think this book is worth five stars because the science is described clearly, the emotional impact dogs have on us is shown to be central to the experiments and thus should and is an important component of the book and I like how the author carried out the experiments with respect for the integrity of the canines involved. I value how the results of the experiments reconfirm how dogs are to be trained. Finally, I must admit that dogs more than other species have a special place in my heart, and when a book successfully explores this bond, such a book will be exceptional to me.
Do you want some more good books to read on animal intelligence? Try these: