The Dog I've Always Wanted

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From My Reading List: Inside of a Dog What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz

February 2nd, 2010 · · Book Reviews

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for quite a while. Its been given a nod of approval by the likes of Patricia McConnell, a behavourist whose judgment I respect. I wasn’t disappointed. This is an important book for those of us who are interested in the study of canine behaviour and who would like a deeper and more accurate understanding of dogs.  Horowitz is an ethologist; that is she studies the cognition of various species including rhinoceroses, humans and of course dogs.

What is offered to the reader between these covers is a rare opportunity to get beyond the anthropomorphisms that cloud our thinking about dogs and , “Understanding a dog’s perspective – through understanding his abilities, experience, and communication-provides that vocabulary. But we can’t translate it simply through an introspection that brings our own umwelt along….We can glimpse this by ‘acting into’ the umwelt (Perception and action combine to define and circumscribe reality for each living thing; umwelt is essentially any creature’s subjective reality.) of another animal-mindful of the constraints our sensory system places on our ability to truly do so.”

This book will lead you to be much more observant of your dog’s behaviour. After reading the section in “Inside of a Dog” that describes olfactory functioning in canines I began to notice details about how dogs sniff when out on walks. I was able to visualize the physiology of their exploration and begin to imagine the intensity of the input. It puts a whole new spin on yellow snow. As is always the case, the more one knows about a certain thing the more fascinating it becomes.

Alexandra Horowitz is a devoted and enlightened lover of dogs. Her capacity for empathy is remarkable. This book is authentic; there is no dumbing down. At the same time it is very readable; the authorial voice is warm and intimate. It manages to convey a wealth of intriguing information.

I can not resist quoting here the epigram the author has chosen to precede her text because it never fails to make me smile. Its a classic:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend,
Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Attributed to Groucho Marx


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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 emily // Feb 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Love browsing this blog, I usually learn something new facts.
    Emily Randall from Husky

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