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

It may have taken several months, but I've finally finished this book! Don't get me wrong, the book was great, however my schedule was not. I just didn't have time to read, let alone write about reading.

Now that I've finished though, I'd like to keep my promise to a few of my readers to write a quick review. I'd like it to be known, if it's not obvious, that I'm not a professional book reviewer-- I just really enjoyed this read!

This is a very "sciencey" book, which may or may not bother some people. It isn't a novel, nor is it an easy read. But considering that before I became a journalist I was planning on becoming a veterinarian, this book was right up my alley.

Horowitz's writing, she says upfront, is not meant to be a training guide. This is very obvious in reading her words. Instead, it is meant to help us understand what our canine companions may or may not be thinking. She doesn't claim to know that her studies are 100 percent accurate, which is also very important. Unless you are a dog, there is no guaranteed way to know what they are thinking.

Instead, Horowitz discusses the animal's umwelt, or their point of view. Here are a few of the things that either surprised me, or taught me something about my own dog:

1. A dog's "kissing" or licking at your face when you return home is not necessarily a loving gesture. While over time it may have become such, the face licking actually started with our dogs' ancestors, the wolves. When a wolf would return home from a hunt the rest of the pack, especially the young pups, would run up and lick the face of the mother. Instead of a welcoming, this would frequently cause the returning wolf to regurgitate their kill, providing a meal for the rest of the pack. While our dogs are hopefully not expecting us to puke, they are gaining information on where we've been, who we've talked to, and yes, what we've had to eat.

2. My dog constantly sniffs. CONSTANTLY. While I know he is obviously gaining information, I never knew how much dogs rely on their noses. Horowitz compared a dog's sense of smell to our vision-- it is our main sense that we use to gain information. She says that "Smells have a lifetime: they move and expire. For a dog, the world is in flux: it waves and shimmers in front of his nose." This made me realize that while the constant sniffing can be annoying to me, denying him this would be comparable to blindfolding a person and expecting their view of the world to remain the same.

3. Dogs know their walks. They will quickly become accustomed to a route, and will memorize a new one within a walk or two. This is very apparent with Frankie. Not only does he know our "long walk" and our "short walk," but if he merely senses that I am starting to turn around to head home, he will eagerly try to extend the walk in any way he can. This might be merely ignoring gentle tugs on the leash, or full out sitting on the sidewalk, refusing to move. Now, at about ten pounds, he doesn't have much say, but he definitely tries!

In all, Inside of a Dog made for some enlightening reading. Now, will I allow Frankie to stop and sniff at every little essence of odor on our walks? Probably not. But will I look at Frankie in a very different light, and do I know that I will be more understanding of his actions? Most definitely.

Labels: , , ,