Inside of a dog: what dogs see, smell and know

Horowitz_InsideInside of a dog: What dogs see, smell and know 

AUTHOR: Alexandra Horowitz


SUMMARY: A critical and exhaustive look at what we know about dogs’ mental worlds. Written by a cognition researcher, the book takes us through the research milestones on dogs’ cognitive and sensory abilities.

AUDIENCE: Written for the layman, this book should be put in the hands of, well, most anyone. It’s a GREAT read for owners, and a near must-have for professionals.


“Inside of a dog” ticks all my check boxes: clarity, wit, structure, reliability, breadth and depth, and an original angle.

Most books on dog behaviour focus on either:

  • Ethology: how dogs ‘naturally’ behave – generally written in dry academic style;
  • Behaviourism: from learning theory to dog training; or
  • Behaviour therapy: how to ‘right’ a dog gone wrong.

This gem focuses on cognition instead, on how dogs experience life. It gives us the full run-down of a dog’s ‘merkwelt‘ (kinda the equivalent of their perceptual world): from their mental faculties to their olfactory feats.

What I loved – nay, luuuuuurved – about it?

  1. It’s based on REFERENCED peer-reviewed literature, and not personal opinion passed as fact (Phew… That clears the biggest hurdle in books written about dogs). This allows your favorite obsessive critical thinker (that would be me) to let her guard down a notch and actually enjoy a book.
  2. It is cockle-warmingly, disarmingly human. None of those stern reminders by the humourless specialist not to anthropomorphize.
  3. It is SUCH a smooth read: it just rolls off the tongue, and has hilarious passages;
  4. It is loaded with extremely specific, little-known, and mind-blowing facts. Take this one: dogs’ flicker rates (how often their visual image ‘refreshes’) are faster than ours, making them see the next position of the tennis ball before we do. You could say they see things ‘before they happen’ (i.e. before we can perceive them). And it explains why dogs beat the crap out of us at Frisbee!

If I HAD to be picky, I’d say:

  1. It’s a bit of a brick. Buuuuut, frankly, it only gave me more pages of intellectual deliciosity;
  2. It has minimal illustrations. Buuuut, frankly, that doesn’t belong in a paperback, and it has the occasional illustration when the going gets tough;
  3. The author expresses reservations about the average dog trainers’ grasp of dog behaviour. This paragraph had many dog trainers up in arms. Buuuuut, frankly, I also wish some of my colleagues would hit the books more, so fair do’s; and
  4. She ventures into separation anxiety and I found that she distorted some minor technicalities. Buuuut, frankly, I’ve researched the condition to death in the literature (in clinical practice and peer-reviewed) so I get badly pedantic on the subject. Not exactly a fair yardstick.

That’s it. Those are the worst things I could say about the book.

Oh, just so as to sneak another compliment: the artwork on the front cover is to die for. I have been trying my hands at photographing dogs for years, and that picture left me awe-struck. It has that hidden quality to it. Anyways, fawning aside…

In conclusion: I fell in love with “Inside of a dog”, and I sincerely hope you do too. I picked it up hoping to learn one or two things and, instead, she managed to blow my mind.

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Author: Horowitz Alexandra
Genre: pop science
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One Comment

  1. Sergio
    Posted 25 April 2014 at 03:05 | Permalink

    Thanks for the review i gonna buy this book to begin to understand my dog!

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