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Book Reviews

What I’m Reading: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz

It’s no secret that I’m a dog person, to the umpteenth degree. I worked with dogs for almost a decade and even had my own dog walking business for a while. I bought this book over a year ago, but hadn’t had a chance to read it until recently.

Alexandra spent a year studying the interactions between dogs while they are at a dog park. Not a bad job, right? She recorded hundreds of hours of video and then would play it back in super slow motion. What she found was an entire dog language, made up of tail wags, ear positions, and smell. Ah, glorious smell! Did you know that a dog actually sees the world through it’s nose? They have millions more olfactory (smell) receptors than we do and scent is their primary means of receiving information, unlike us who process things through our eyes.

This is not a feel good touching dog story kind of book. Though Horowitz does pepper in anecdotes about her own dog, Pumpernickel, who is a very silly girl. Inside of a Dog is based in science, and quotes many different studies that have been performed in order to understand the canine species better. It’s not exactly an easy read, there are a lot of scientific terms (some of which I had to look up) and it can get a little confusing at times. Like when she’s discussing wether a dog can tell time or not. Yes, they can, but no, not really. However, it’s an incredibly consuming read. It seems long but at the same time I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know more about what makes dogs tick.

I really enjoyed Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. It’s altered the way I look at Rooney. He is still my big goof ball of a couch potato, but I also understand him better. Why he does some of the things he does, that before would leave me shaking my head and saying “Crazy dog!” It always cracked me up to watch my 65lb pit bull play with my mom’s 12lb Westie, they seemed to be so able to play with ease and no regard to their comical size difference. I now understand that dogs don’t see size, it’s more about attitude. Wether a dog is 100lbs or 5lbs it doesn’t matter, a dog is a dog.

In the age of “designer” dogs that are often treated more like an accessory than a pet I think it’s easy to forget that our dogs are animals. They share our lives and we treat them as equals, (Certainly, as I’m writing this Roo is curled up next to me on the couch with his head resting on my knee.) but they once served a greater purpose. To help us survive. They were guardians and hunters, dogs had jobs that made our lives easier, and they were treated as the animals that they are. These days, because of how much we love them, people are quick to anthropomorphize (big science word!) dogs and give them human emotions and attributes. Inside of a Dog takes a step back and examines the primal part of canines, and how they’ve adapted to their changing role in our society.

Inside of a Dog is a really fascinating read, especially if you’re as much of a dog lover as I am. If you own a dog or are even thinking about adopting a new furry friend I highly recommend this book. It will change the way you think about dogs.



About Bex Hagan

Born and raised in Charleston, SC. After college, at Ole Miss, Becky spent time living in places like Washington, D.C. and Amsterdam. She loves photography, cooking, and travel. Becky is mom to her one year old son, "Little Bear", and married to her favorite travel buddy. They also have a big scary pit bull, Rooney, who is afraid of trash bags and toy trains. She is an aspiring author, amateur photographer, and stay home mom.


4 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz

  1. Yes, many times we, humans, forget that a dog is a dog after all. And what I mean by that is that we fulfill our needs, but we do poorly when it comes to their needs such as: Exercise, mental stimulation, discipline, and love. Love your dog dearly for I do, but I also know that there are things I need to do for Alex for her to be a balanced and fulfilled dog:)

    Posted by Marcela | April 21, 2013, 3:59 pm

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