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

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The bestselling book that asks what dogs know and how they think. The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human.

Temple Grandin meets Stephen Pinker in this engaging and informative look at what goes on inside the minds of dogs—from a cognitive scientist with a background at The New Yorker .

With more than 52 million pet dogs in America today, it’s clear we are a nation of unabashed dog-lovers. Yet the relationship between dogs and humans remains a fascinating mystery, as no one really knows what goes on in the canine mind. Now, in Inside of a Dog , Alexandra Horowitz fuses her perspectives as both scientist and dog-owner to deliver a fresh look at the world of dogs—as seen from the animal’s point of view. Inspired by her years of living with her own dog, Pumpernickel, who was a constant source of delight and mystery, Horowitz’s mind became filled with questions and ideas. In crisp, clear prose, she draws on her research in the field of dog cognition to give readers a sense of a dog’s perceptual and cognitive abilities—and paints a picture of what the canine experience is like. Horowitz’s own scientific journey, and the insights she uncovered, allowed her to understand her dog better and appreciate her more.

Containing up-to-the minute research and providing many moments of dog-behavior recognition, this lively and absorbing book helps dog owners to see their best friend’s behavior in a different, and revealing light, allowing them to understand their pets and enjoy their company even more.

353 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Alexandra Horowitz

21 books360 followers
Alexandra Horowitz is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Barnard College in New York, where she teaches courses on psychology and animal behavior. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.” Her studies on dogs have explored their ‘guilty look,’ sense of fairness, play signaling, and olfactory abilities, among other topics. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego, and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,148 reviews
Profile Image for John.
77 reviews3 followers
June 10, 2010
"Date I finished this book" should be "Date I stopped reading this book."
I kept hoping that it would become more interesting, but, on page 180 I finally gave up.

I wanted to like this book. She sets the groundwork that while we humans spend a lot of time with dogs, we actually know very little about them. So she tackled the research to actually learn about dogs (it implied that she was doing the research since she earlier said very little research had been done on dogs).

First annoyance: it seems that she's referring to lots of other research on dogs. So, I guess there has been lots of research on dogs? Which is it-- there has been or there hasn't.

Second annoyance: blah blah blah, a little interesting info, blah blah. I was reading way too much not-interesting info to get to the interesting point. I could have been interested in the studies. I could have been interested in comparison to other studies on animals. But I found myself just getting enough information to be either left with wanting more, or feeling that the study was insufficient. As someone else said, this book could have been written in 60 pages.

Third annoyance*: too many distractingly tangential footnotes (one every second or third page?). Focus on telling a better story and less on mentioning everything you want to say about dogs or research or other amazing animals.

Bottom-line, it was too disappointing and distracting to finish.

*I have a nephew and two nieces. I've really been wanting to tell a large audience this. Thank god this review came along and I could finally tell someone. Oh wait, this has nothing to do with this book.

Profile Image for Grace Tjan.
188 reviews506 followers
November 10, 2011
Me: “Well, here’s the book I told you about, Molly, the one that will tell me everything there is to know about you.”

Molly: “Woof!”

Me: “Yes, that’s a good girl! Let’s see, this book is written by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist specializing in animal research. She must be one smart lady. And she’s also a dog person! This should be interesting. Let’s loll on the sofa and read it.”

Molly: (jumps up and looks expectantly)

Me: “The title is a part of a joke: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Heh heh. Isn’t that funny?”

Molly: (jumps into lap and licks mouth)

Me: “Aww, stop it! I’m trying to read here. According to page 51, licking around my mouth is a manipulative behavior. You are stimulating me so that I’d vomit up some partially digested meat for you to eat. Gross. So please sit nicely and listen.”

Molly: (curls up with a sigh)

Me: “Do you know that you’re better than chimps in reading humans? They have this experiment in which dogs and chimps had to find hidden food items utilizing clues from humans. Some of the humans were made to wear blindfolds or buckets over their head, while others had unimpeded view of where the food was supposed to be hidden. Chimps begged from both kinds of humans, while dogs begged from those whose eyes were visible. See --- you’re smarter than our primate cousins!”

Molly: (snorts)

Me: “You’re right. Chimps are way overrated. How about this: a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar diluted in a million gallons of water --- two Olympic-sized pools full. That’s your real-life super power, Krypto! That’s Superman’s dog, by the way. He flies around with this cute little cape --- ”

Molly: (snores)

Me: “Nap time, eh? Hmm…more animal research: wolves, bees, deers, ticks. Actually, all I want to read about is dogs, dogs and dogs. Some of these researches are interesting in their own right and are useful as comparison, but others seem to be barely tangential. This writer can be very long-winded.”

Molly: "Arf!"

Me: “An attention-getting bark, which is distinct from the rumble of a growl, or the ominous snarl (page 140). Do you know that your barks can be as loud as 130 decibels? That’s up there with thunderclaps and plane takeoffs. That's another super power! Why are you looking at me like that?”

Molly: (glances at the dining room, tail wagging)

Me: (looks at the clock). “It’s time for lunch! Your circadian rhythm tells you that. Okay, let’s eat.”

Molly: (snatches the book and runs away with it)

Me: “Hey stop that! I still have to find out why you Fox Terriers are such little rascals!”

Profile Image for Tracey.
1,078 reviews244 followers
February 20, 2015
Alexandra Horowitz racked up major brownie points right from the beginning with this book. The title comes from one of my favorite quotes ever, from the mouth of Groucho Marx. Also, early on she heads complaints off at the pass by stating that she is using "owner" rather than "pet parent" or some other such silly phrasing because that's the legal term, and she will use "him" and "his" when referring to dogs in general because that's the English default, and, knowing dogs as she does, "it" is not an option. That latter scored high with me: I have Issues with writers who use "it" for animals (particularly those who talk about a mare or stallion and then call the horse "it"), so this made me happy. She is a long-time dog person, so all else being equal we are kindred spirits.

And it is a fascinating look at canine life and behavior. I'm not sure it made me see my dog in a whole new light as she promised it would, except for a qualm every time I scratch her back that I might be asserting my dominance – but she loves every second of it, so if I am dominating her she's ok with it. I pretty much knew about the dominance of scent in a dog's life; I did not know about the way a dog perceives color (they're not colorblind, exactly). I knew a little about signs of dominance and submission; I didn't know about what face-licking might really mean. (Pop goes the illusion…ew.) I like the insight that the pitch of a voice, canine or human, in many ways equates to size: low and menacing indicates not only a warning but the idea "and I'm big enough to follow through, too."

Something I sort of knew but found confirmation for: wolves howl when they're lonely. So, I can attest, do beagles. Only moreso.

One valuable thing this book does is reiterate the common-sense yet somehow easily overlooked point that, just as we don't know why our dogs do some of the things they do, most of what we the people do (much less say) is utterly incomprehensible to dogs. That, very simply, they don't think the way we do. It's all very well for us to say "don't get up on the couch, no, bad!" – but there's a very simple reason it's so hard to enforce. To a dog the couch is not an expensive piece of furniture which needs to be protected from shed fur and stains – it's a nice soft elevated surface to curl up on, with a nice back to it to curl up against, and after all that's what the bipeds use it for. And how can you honestly expect a dog to ignore that pail of food scraps and wrappers under the sink when it's just sitting there at her level smelling (to her) so wonderful? Again, "no, bad!" doesn't really make sense to a dog, however often and however loudly it's repeated. It's food. It's there. It's unprotected. It's hers. Dogs don't naturally do many of the things we ask them to do; many owners, and even many trainers seem to either forget that they're not mute people but canines, and this is where dressed-up dogs doing ridiculous things on command come from. Poor things.

This book made me happy I never successfully trained any of our dogs to heel (not that I tried too strenuously).

I was simultaneously impressed with and bemused by the tales of the research studies that have been conducted on dogs; on the one hand, some of the results are fascinating – where dogs' mental processes may (or may not) function like toddlers'; on the other, I found myself marveling that well-educated grownups spend their days fooling around with dogs, all in the name of science. Some of them wore buckets on their heads.

(ETA: OK, that was very long. I hacked out the personal bits about my own beasts; it's all on my blog, though.)

Overall, this book did an admirable job of both teaching me what an umwelt is and helping me deepen my understanding of a dog's. This was a comprehensible, mostly-plain-language, often very funny and occasionally moving study which both solidified and informed my stance as a fiercely partisan dog person. While it's not intended as a training guide, there's some wonderfully common sense information, particularly toward the end, which will be valuable both with Daisy and when – hopefully years from now – I next need it. Did it change the way I see my beagle? Not much. But I do feel like I have a better handle on what's going on between those long ears. I have an even deeper appreciation for that always-busy nose.

And I'm kind of glad she's never been much of a face-licker.
1 review
December 21, 2010
Incredibly dry AND pretentious ... I couldn't even finish the book. I have a dog and have fostered and volunteered for many shelters and rescues so I am always amazed and intrigued at how each dog I've met has a different personality. This book lacks what its subjects have in overflowing abundance. The author might as well have been writing a manual on understanding robots or clinical notes about mice in a cage, as nearly every sentence was cold, flat and gratuitously verbose. I'm not one who generally posts on a public forum at all, let alone contribute anything other than positive thoughts ("if you don't have anything nice to say...") but I was so bewildered to see this book listed as a NYT bestseller that I was compelled to save those of you needing a little color/flavor in your "good reads" some money that could otherwise be spent on treats for your favorite four legged-friend.
355 reviews9 followers
March 18, 2010
This is a disappointing book, with few insights for a dog owner or someone interested in animal behavior. Despite having an extensive collection of footnotes leading back to the scientific literature, the conclusions of the book could have been handled in 60 pages instead of 300:
• Dogs are not color blind but blues and greens stand out for them. Yellow/orange/red objects are all undifferentiated.
• Short vision is not very good (though smell can compensate for it when objects are close to the muzzle). Dogs with longer muzzles (like retrievers) have a different broader field of vision than dogs with a short muzzle, like a pug. This makes them more attuned to motion.
• Dogs don’t have a sense of self-awareness, as indicated by chimpanzees or humans when before a mirror. Humans or chimps will use the mirror to preen, while dogs largely ignore the reflection.
• Dogs have up to three times the number of rods in their retina, giving them better visibility at night but washing things out in bright light.

The author has surprisingly little about the developmental period during the first year of the life of a dog. And there are even some missed elements, such as Horowitz questioning why her dog is reluctant to enter a dark elevator after a walk (hint: it’s in the washout of the eye’s rods in bright light, something humans also experience when going from light to dark).
Profile Image for Nat.
109 reviews65 followers
August 22, 2018

Longwinded at times but still interesting; providing a treasure trove of insights into man’s best friend.
Profile Image for Carly.
456 reviews183 followers
April 6, 2015
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Inside of a Dog is a valuable read for anyone seeking to learn more about our furry companions. Horowitz starts with the basics, focusing on a dog's umwelt and the ways that it differs from a human's. Dogs aren't colorblind, but their perception of color does differ from ours. Scent is far more important in the doggy world than it is to us. Most important of all, dogs and humans simply see different affordances in the objects around them. As Horowitz points out, a dog doesn't see the small matching dog bed as the appropriate place for the dog to sleep. Your bed is just as comfortable, with the added benefit that it smells like you. If you want your dog to sleep in its dog bed, you'll be far more successful if you wrap the nasty plastic-smelling thing in a well-worn blanket.

I volunteer in an animal shelter and interact with a lot of emotionally wounded dogs, and I originally picked up this book in my continuing quest to better understand the ways to distinguish submissive behaviours from inviting ones. For example, as Horowitz notes, a dog rolling on its belly can be either inviting a tummy rub or showing submission, and it can be surprisingly challenging to determine which, especially if the dog is already showing many other signs of stress such as "whale-eyes" or tucked tail and ears. While Horowitz does detail these and other signs, I'm not sure I found an answer to this particular question. (My current solution is to make brief contact, then retract my hand and force the dogs to repeatedly re-solicit attention, which they tend to do by crawling towards me and/or pawing my hand. I'm quite sure they find it irritating, but it's kind of cute when they start batting at my hands and mumbling at me.)

I also really enjoyed the part where Horowitz talks about doggy play. I am quite familiar with the play-bow, the stance that dogs take to invite rough-and-tumble play. In fact, I've noticed that many humans--myself included--tend to do our own version of the play-bow by slapping our palms on the ground and jerking our necks forward while brandishing a squeaky toy or ball. According to Horowitz, this play etiquette is far more complex than I realized: just as a human abbreviates a joke or a greeting with old friends, dogs abbreviate the play-bows with dogs they don't know and are far more elaborate with those they don't.

I mostly enjoyed Horowitz's analysis of the procedures, perils, and pitfalls of the various tests, but there was one case where I think she was dead wrong. The study sought to ascertain whether dogs as a species have an innate drive to rescue their people. The researchers had the owners fake injury or heart attacks, then analysed the dogs' reactions. The dogs tended to be both nonplussed and unworried by their owners' apparent peril, and not a single one tried to seek assistance from the bystanders. From this, Horowitz concluded that doggy rescues are really more of a fluke caused by the dogs' tendencies to want to be near their owners. Given Horowitz's own statements in earlier chapters, I find this reaction rather ridiculous. Horowitz is very clear about dogs' heavy dependence on sound and smell. No matter how dramatically the owners were shrieking, I'm quite sure they didn't smell fearful or injured. To me, this seems like a limited and utterly useless test that tells us more about human assumptions than animal behaviour.

However, in almost every other experiment she described, Horowitz did a nice job the ways in which dog behaviour differs from our human expectations, and the reasons behind these differences. In addition to the problematic hero-dog test, Horowitz describes a large set of experiments that attempt to define doggy intelligence in areas such as object permanence or complex emotions such as jealousy or deception. Some of these were both fascinating and illuminating. For example, dogs "fail" various intelligence tests that try to invoke complex reasoning because they tend to go to the humans and ask for help. As Horowitz points out, one could argue that the dogs are performing complex reasoning and tool utilization: they know from experience how to use humans to open refrigerators and cans, so why not get their help in these tests as well?

Overall, Inside of a Dog is a great read for anyone who wants to know a bit more about the world their dog inhabits. From understanding play rituals to analysing attention-getting behaviours to dealing with doggy separation anxiety, Inside of a Dog is full of fascinating facts about the curious lives of our canine companions.
Profile Image for Katrina Michie.
53 reviews9 followers
August 19, 2010
This book totally changed how I see and interact with dogs. It seems like common sense to me now, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for dogs.

I was hoping this would be more like Radiolab's brand of science, or maybe a Mary Roach type of look at dogs, but it's not quite as much of a page turner--maybe because it's actually written by a scientist and not a journalist. This is a benefit in a lot of ways though. I would still really recommend it if you are all about your dog(s) like I am and wishing you understood how they think or see the world. We can't ever really know what our dogs are thinking, but this book really helped me understand how my dog is processing the world around differently than humans. Really glad I read this.
Profile Image for Tanja Berg.
1,863 reviews426 followers
April 29, 2022
The best parts of the book was the author's description of one of her own dogs. Otherwise it's a pretty standard take on the latest science on dogs. Nothing new is revealed - at least not for this reader - and it is kind of boring in places. Dogs have great noses and navigate their world mainly in odor, don't see color all that well (but some), they want a benign leader. The wolf-pack theory that states that humans should assert themselves as Alpha is wrong, particularly since a dog is, from behavior, far removed from wolf. At some point dogs probably domesticated themselves. Well worth reading to better deal with your canine friends I suppose, even though this is not a book on how to train your dog by any means.

Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews942 followers
March 15, 2011
This is a lovely, unsentimental, fairly thorough, scientifically-grounded look at the dog-human bond: how it evolved, how the canine's sensory equipment shapes his (or her) world and relationship with us, and how a deeper understanding of that world - "the inside of a dog" (yes, from the Groucho Marx quotation) - should shape ours with them. Didn't so much change or illuminate, but anchored what I think I know about my dog and dogs in general in explanations of canine behaviour drawn from the author's own experiences and her background as a comparative psychologist.

The dog-human bond is something very special to me -- having owned dogs all my life, and currently being on a full-on tear to work towards the overturning of BSL (breed specific legislation) in Ontario which is the product of and continues to cause such cruelty to dogs and their families.

It's about more than treating other creatures with the respect they deserve; it's about how human beings can and should respectfully share the planet with other living things. That perspective in microcosm is taught, I believe, through the relationships parents encourage (or deny) when or if they bring that first puppy into the home.

Teaching a child to treat a dog with gentleness, kindness and compassion is teaching a child to love. Teaching that lesson from the deeply-informed perspective that Horowitz provides here can only enrich the both the dog's life and the family's. One of the author's points is that dogs most often give us much more than we give them. Another is that the fundamental quality of the relationship between dogs and humans - that affection, that love - is beyond the reach of science. Maybe so, but anyone who has bonded with a dog knows it to be true.

Profile Image for Ron Wroblewski.
575 reviews94 followers
October 22, 2020
Great book about dog research and how dogs and humans are so compatible. Also discussed research of other animals and compares that with dogs. Discusses dogs perceptual and cognitive abilities and how they depend so much on the sense of smell. Enjoyed the discussion on how dogs play with each other and the signels they give on invitation to play, and how to play. Important book for those who work with dogs in shelters and in training schools.
1,208 reviews13 followers
December 14, 2012
A 2.5

This book was a little disappointing for me. I wanted to get it as a Christmas present for some dog owner friends. Instead they are getting a bicycle pump. Although full of some interesting thoughts and research data, overall the book felt a bit dull, a bit lacking. It is neither practical enough to be an owner’s manual, nor detailed enough to satisfy my interest in the experiments behind the ideas. It seems to try to tread a middle road between pop and intellectual, and instead turned me off to both aspects.

The premise of the book is good, and I like the idea of trying to see the world as your dog does to better understand. I was challenged by the idea that smell is the most important sense to the dog, not sight or hearing. And throughout the book there were other wonderful nuggets of information to chew on. But overall there was not enough to hold my interest. And by the last 100 pages I thought the book was dragging on.

Tough to recommend though not a total waste.
Profile Image for Lisa Reads & Reviews.
433 reviews119 followers
June 28, 2012
I normally find animal behavioral science to be a fascinating subject. Some interesting information can be found in this book, but I had to wade through a bunch of slush to get to it. The best bits were talked about on NPR when the book was first published. Too bad, really, that I could hardly keep my eyes open while reading most of it. Two stars: it was okay.
Profile Image for Daniel Solera.
157 reviews17 followers
December 9, 2010
I saw this book on a bestsellers shelf at the Barnes and Noble by where I work. Having become a dog-owner in August, I picked this up hoping it would be insightful and entertaining. The book aptly declares that it is not a training manual and that readers shouldn't expect tips on how to raise a proper puppy. Instead, it is a psychological examination of dogs, including what they know, what their world is like and how we fit into it.

Alexandra Horowitz attempts to explain such baffling questions as "What do dogs think?" through various methods. Rather than anthropomorphize dogs, which the book routinely discourages, she relies heavily on scientific and psychological experiments performed on dogs and other animals, such as rats and monkeys. She first tackles the mind of a dog by asking readers to place themselves in a dog's world or their umwelt. By imagining our primary senses to be smell and taste, we instantly realize how radically different dogs' lives are than those of humans, who rely more heavily on sight and hearing. From that crucial departure, we go onto notice seemingly simple things: dogs are much closer to the ground, thus everything on the floor is more interesting to them; they rarely walk in a straight line because smells eminate from all directions, etc.

Bookending each section and interspersed among the scientific findings are brief anecdotes of one of Horowitz's dogs, Pumpernickel. Though she constantly asks us to avoid using human terms with dogs (such as "have fun", "get bored", "feel ashamed", etc.), these little stories are told with a fondness that breaks with this animal-only treatment. But this is natural - anyone who owns and loves a dog will find it impossible to treat it strictly like a domesticated animal in a symbiotic relationship. Yet despite this seemingly dry approach to investigating a household pet, I finished this book with a greater understanding of what makes a dog tick. Among the many tidbits: dogs don’t reflect on themselves; they understand day and night but not necessarily the abstract concept of time; they do get bored at home but are resourceful at entertaining themselves; the cadence of their play is a series of identifiable actions; they have an impressive theory of mind and can detect intentions; they use their owners as tools to achieve certain ends, and many others.

Inside of a Dog was a delightful read. I will admit that I derived much of my enjoyment from imagining my own dog, a 6-month Shih Tzu named Penny, in every situation described. Though I would recommend this to anyone regardless of their pet situation, having a dog in your house or apartment will definitely elevate this book to a new level.
Profile Image for Jessica Blevins.
122 reviews4 followers
January 20, 2011
Great insight into the life of a dog...I highly recommend. The book is mostly scientific studies of how dogs really see, smell, hear and what they know about their human owners...but includes personal anecdotes throughout as well. I learned a lot about dogs in general and definitely look at my dog in a different light now. For example, I learned that dogs look to humans when they need help or can't figure something out...and that they pay a lot of attention to us, even when we don't realize it. I learned that my dog likes nothing better than to smell something new, so leisurely walks outside where I let him lead the way are important as are other ways of allowing him to smell new things. There's some practical advice in there as well (check out the last chapter) that I've been able to put into action, like hiding treats around the house to keep your dog from getting bored and to emphasize places that you want them to go and spend time in...and getting down on his level when you walk into the room helps to keep him from jumping on you...he just wants to look at you eye to eye.
Profile Image for Amanda.
208 reviews5 followers
July 4, 2011
This book did make me appreciate my dog a little more but I found it to be too dry and boring for the most part to give it a higher rating. I also found many eye-rolling moments- she seems a very permissive dog parent. For example, advocating that the dog should be allowed to wander and smell anything and roll in anything, ect, during walks; should be allowed to "smell like a dog" as long as possible; sleep in your bed with you.... I just personally am of camp that believes my dog should work around me not the other way around.
Profile Image for Mimi.
575 reviews
January 18, 2011
I usually don’t include autobiographical information in a book review, but in this case I’ll make an exception! Like Alexandra Horowitz, I am and always will be a dog person and since the day I was born, a doggie has shared my world. It all started with Marshmallow, a lovely golden mutt who lived amongst us until I was 13-years old (she was 16 at the time). Then, to my wonderful pleasure, my parents first adopted Roxy, the quirky basset hound, and then came Maggie the English Bulldog…and this is when things really got wildly fun as my Mom and Dad entered the wonderful world of bulldog breeding and dog shows. What fun! After getting married, my husband and I went to the local animal shelter and adopted Irving…a little mutt who we think could best be called a corg-huaua (a corgi-Chihuahua mix? Perhaps…) He was with us for 12-years before the inevitably sad moment was upon us…and although our hearts were broken, we knew our lives would not be complete without a canine companion, so we adopted Moe. Moe is still with us…and so is Rudy, a funky & cute stray mutt who wandered into our lives 4 months ago. Dogs are an integral part of my consciousness, evoking important memories of the past while providing an ongoing source of companionship and love.

I share this because I think it has a great deal to do with my feelings about this book. Inside a Dog is an amazing exploration of the dog’s unwelt (or subjective reality). In other words, it’s a serious attempt to delve into the life of a dog and try to understand the world from the dog’s point of view. Through in-depth discussion of domestication, sensory awareness and canine-human connections, the author effectively elicits a greater understanding of a canine’s reality.

One thing I particularly appreciate about the way Ms. Horowitz presents this information is that while so much of it is based on very sound scientific research, she, like me and many of her readers, is a dog lover. As a result, she applies this science while not reducing our relationship with our doggie friends to science alone. Throughout her research, she provides supporting anecdotes about her sweet Pumpernickel…reminding us of the magically non-scientific, poignant aspect of our relationship with our furry, slobbery companions.

A must read for dog lovers…or anyone interested in animal research!
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,029 followers
July 6, 2016
She's very long-winded. The introduction took forever & probably was a good enough synopsis of the book. There wasn't much there even after a good 4 hours of listening - almost halfway through.

Her point about breeds being indicative of general behavior given similar upbringing was repetitious, to put it kindly. Her comparison between wolf & dog behavior was poor. I agree with her conclusion that not all behavior should be attributed to the wolf root nor the human breeding & interaction. It does fall somewhere in between, but her major premise for discounting wolf pack behavior was because the difference between wild & penned wolf packs. She mentions how penned wolf packs do resemble dog packs in some ways, so undercuts her argument.

She says feral dogs packs don't resemble wolf packs. She should spend some more time around feral packs in rural areas since several examples she provides are wrong in that environment, although they might hold true in urban & suburban settings. It might have to do with the number of dogs, too.

She really lost me when she discussed house breaking a dog by ignoring a puddle. She actually said that bringing the dog to the scene of the crime & punishing them was bullying! She also says that there's nothing to worry about when your dog goes running off after something in the woods - it will come back. She's one of these people that believes every critter has a better nature & appealing to it is all that is needed for training in every case. She's an idiot who really needs to get out of her ivory tower more.

I might have continued if the science was harder, but she watered it down & spent so much time covering her ass on every declaration. They're critters - living beings! Of course we're dealing with a bell curve of general behaviors. That's a given. She should have said that once at the beginning & left it at that, but no, she had to point it out at every point possible. Yuck.
Profile Image for Rae.
82 reviews
November 24, 2009
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx
Alexandra Horowitz has taken up Groucho's challenge and given us a book that at least we can read about the inside of a dog. Clearly a dog lover she has written a valentine to man's best friend.
What makes dogs uniquely suited to that special status? What's going on behind those big brown eyes? You will find answers to these and many more questions - such as why the swich to digital TV has made it possible for you and your dog to enjoy those reruns of Lassie.
Profile Image for Amy | Foxy Blogs.
1,413 reviews971 followers
March 3, 2022
3.5 stars

An interesting dog book that was written 13 years ago. It seems every decade or so the dog world shifts on how they train and interact with their dogs. Some ideas in this book are still going strong today while others are not.
As always, it's fascinating getting more insight into these creatures that share our lives with us.
Audiobook source: Libby
Narrator: Karen White
Length: 10H 25M
Profile Image for Lilo.
131 reviews360 followers
June 9, 2013
This book is a very interestig read for true dog lovers who want to get into the brain of their dog(s). However, I found this book a bit too scientific and, thus, somewhat strenuous to read. For this reason, 4 stars might be a bit over-rated. 3 1/2 stars would be more like it.
Profile Image for Kellynn Wee.
126 reviews25 followers
October 5, 2019
So: I recently got a dog. His name is Chai; he's at least part Shih Tzu, although a bit too leggy to fully qualify as such. I've read Horowitz's "On Looking", which I enjoyed, and I thought that this was probably a good time to learn what the umwelt--the universe; the way of seeing--of my dog was. I thought this would be a breezy read but found myself welling up at several points. This book has been mischaracterised as overly verbose and technical when I found it to be the exact opposite. Horowitz is a scientist: she is a precise, informative, cogent writer, unromantic and practical. But she is also a dog owner: and the portraits of Pumpernickel, her dog, which open every section, are so effulgent with love and warmth that it reveals Horowitz's own stance with every word, in that dogs are animals, and behave in animal-like ways, but they have also co-evolved with humans to be a truly remarkable example of inter-species companionship, and thus are truly, weirdly, indescribably special.

I often find myself anxious about Chai's care, particularly in light of the recent human-ification of dogs: my Instagram feed is full of Pomenarians gnawing on raw quail, of corgis heeling perfectly through busy wet markets, of barkday parties with perfectly coiffured puppers and their $45 nosework toys. What Horowitz has done is really to remind me that a dog is a dog is a dog. That they are animals but that does not mean that they are dumb or unintelligent. That they see through their noses; that they will probably pee on your carpet at some point despite your best efforts; that they are remarkable attention-payers and attention-getters and manipulators of human behaviour; that they do not know what is wrong and what is right, only what attracts anger and what attracts treats; that they enjoy the world most when they are given plenty of time to smell it and put it in their mouths and roll through it. I loved learning that Chai can see different colours than I do, that he can smell time, that, when left at home, he is probably kind of bored but exists in his own private world as his own dog; that he is a social creature who can modify his behaviour in play; that he sniffs my crotch to reconfirm that I am who I am; that he speaks through minute adjustments in his body; that he follows and directs my gaze; that he mirrors my actions to signal companionship. I loved realising that dogs and us overlap in precious and strange ways, and that is why they make such ideal companions--that their life is not too-long and not too-short, enough to span our own; that their speeds, their ways of seeing and smelling, are in temporal affinity to our own; that they respond to our touch.

Maybe it did not necessarily teach me anything absolutely shocking or brand new--considering the dearth of doggy knowledge that is online nowadays--but I found in this book a sense of reassurance. That maybe Chai will never learn to heel perfectly but that is OK. That his shivering nosy delight in an unremarkable bush will teach me a little more about the geography of smells in my neighbourhood and is more important and joyful to him than his ability to match my pace through the concrete sidewalk. That his perked ears and frozen body is seeing or smelling something preternatural, that I cannot see with my inferior flicker-fusion sight rate. That playing with other dogs is a complex dance of communication and self-awareness and joy. I think, like Horowitz puts it, I will begin to revalue the importance of mornings. Not for Chai's capacity to reshape himself into a dog that is convenient for me, but for a chance to expand both our capacities for exploration and experience and joy.
12 reviews
April 4, 2013
Though primed to love this read before ever setting eyes to type by a bone-deep interest in both the scientific (animal behavioral studies) and emotional (I'm nuts for dogs!) subject matter, I was somewhat surprisingly less than wholly engaged by either (treatments of the subject matter) and left rather profoundly unsatisfied upon the arrival of the last page turned: a failure not of writing, but rather one of content. Or perhaps I should clarify that as content unanticipated.

Written in an accessible, engaging style --not always an easy task with a science-based subject -- and flush with anecdotally-entertaining conversational sidebars, this very readable text sacrifices its own authority to educate and engage on the blade of an apparent failure to understand its own target demographic. By measure of marketing, scientific content and textual skew, this book is clearly designed to speak to a demographic of me: a dog lover who knows dogs, has dogs, and loves dogs ... loves them enough to spend both time and money to self educate on the subject of how such dogs might perceive the world around them differently than I would otherwise assume, in my humanness, they do.

But in speaking to this very specific demographic of me, Horowitz fails to tell me anything of note. Anything surprising. Anything I didn't already know, if not specifically and consciously, at least on a gut-level plane of experienced ownership where dog and dog-owned meet. Buttressing her thesis with little more than a resume in the field and process-oriented explanations of why her dog stories are more scientifically telling than my dog stories, or your dog stories, Horowitz doesn't fail to make her case so much as she fails to make her case as an authority on a subject with depths beyond the obvious.

A dog's world is defined by smell over sight is the primary thrust of her conversationally conveyed content. Not a thrust with which I would quibble. But seriously, has anyone in the history of ever actually loved a dog and not already known this? Yes, Horowitz validates her assertions (a bit more complex than I've made them sound) with years of scientifically sound observational methodology. But what, exactly, is that methodology, you may ask. She watches her dog play and records what happens. In a journal.

Okay. I'll grant you, I've made it all sound egregiously simplistic, but I do so not to denigrate so much as illustrate how the author, herself, sold out her own authority on the subject about which she writes. Not by failing to impart what she, a rigorously trained, animal behavioral scientist, has observed; but rather by portraying herself as "one of us" to such a conversational extent that she effectively becomes as one of us: a knowledgeable and experienced dog-lover sharing dog stories about her own dog over a trained and experienced scientist divulging scientific findings about a test subject or group.

And it is in this impingement of her own authority that Horowitz fails the audience to which she aspires to speaks. By crawling down into the audience to tell personal stories of a beloved pet, Horowitz sacrifices the podium of expertise required to effectively present her scientific observations as anything inherently more valid than anecdotal evidence as might be offered by any other knowledgeable dog owner with years of experience observing their own pet. And she compounds this impingement of her own scientific authority by presenting findings not above and beyond what her target demographic already specifically or instinctively knows, but rather by spending the lion's share of her page count doing little more than reaffirming the obvious: your dog sees the world by smell rather than sight, and my telling you as much is scientifically relevant because I've got a fancy name for it while you just call it being nosy.

As I said: an entertaining enough read for someone who loves dogs, but less than wholly engaging as anything more profound (or educational) than one dog lover talking to another. So if you take your dog to the grocery store in an emerald-studded handbag tucked under one arm or dress it up every Wednesday in a a sailor suit for a play date in the park? Then yes, this might be just the scientific expose you're looking for on how a dog perceives the world around it. But if you're the kind of dog lover who picks up a book on dog perception and consequent behavior written by a scientist to the specific purpose of self educating beyond the territory marked out by The Dog Whisperer and your own observations of a beloved, if occasionally perplexing, pet? Then this is probably not the book you're looking for. It's certainly not the one I was.
Profile Image for Ana Rusness-petersen.
87 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2011
The first thing that must be said about this book is that it was obviously written by someone who loves dogs, and opened my eyes to truly interacting and living with a dog as a friend, rather than as a being to be taken care of and trained like a child, as someone to be understood and developmentally enhanced.

It was a little challenging to really get engrossed in at the beginning, and was much more scientific than the anecdotal adventure I was expecting when I selected this book off the shelf at the bookstore. (It must also be said that the adorable doggie face on cover completely sold me on the book in the first place – yes, I judged a book, at least partially, by its cover.) Despite this, I am glad I stuck with the book until the end. I learned some interesting facts about the dog species, such as their unique visual perception (far-sighted vs. near-sighted, blurry vs. sharply focused, and more subject to see moving objects), and how smell and taste actually provide a richer and more informative experience for dogs than vision.

Despite the wealth of information provided, the manner in which this information was delivered left something to be desired. The author completely shifted narrative from the interspersed storytelling about her experiences, interactions, and memories of her own dog, Pump, into a scientific, fact-spewing voice that twisted various facts and experiments to prove her points. Sources were not cited in a scientific or academic manner, and the sheer number of variables in some of the experiments were not taken into consideration as possible weaknesses in the research, but rather, encouraged as an added bonus. Additionally, the author took on a holier-than-thou, this is how you should raise and interact with your dog approach. Her advice on how to “train” a dog by incorporating the dog’s umwelt (and therefore, the understanding of his/her goals, motivations, method of communication) was much more effective and enjoyable to read.

The strongest part of this book was the last chapter, “The Importance of Mornings,” which really served to summarize the authors main points and messages in a clear, concise and passionate manner that illuminated how much she really cares about dogs and what she really wanted to pass along to readers of her book. That being said, stories, facts, and perspectives presented in the main body of the text added a depth of specifics to this summary chapter, and added to its strength – a reader would not have had the same experience or gotten as much out of it if he/she had just read the last summarizing chapter.
Profile Image for Ryan Holiday.
Author 77 books13.2k followers
June 22, 2012
I was only halfway through this book when I left it on an airplane and lost it. It took me a week to get a new copy, at which point I had completely forgotten most of the notes I had made in the first few chapters. If you can avoid this problem you should read it, and do so continuously because it has a flow that serves it well. The book is about dogs and the study of dogs but in the scientific rather than the ownership sense.

This means she did real experiments, is a real expert and isn't just passing along personal observations. At the same time, she uses anecdotes from her dog to illustrate and explain her findings. The result is a nice mix between one of those unreadable books from a college professor and something you'd see on Oprah. The author is well-read in other fields, a skill she uses to tie in a bunch of interesting tangents. She spends a bit of time talking about flicker-fusion rates which are worth learning about. She also uses the concept of umwelt - an organism's understanding of the environment around it - which is an interesting exercise in empathy. If you've read Cesar Milan's book(which I like) this is a good companion.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,716 reviews2,311 followers
May 6, 2013
I had always imagined that my girls experience the world so differently than I do - I'd pictured a hyper-reality of smells, colors, sounds - and this book confirms that a dog's world is indeed more "sensory" than our own. Not surprisingly, their noses are their primary sensory organ, while humans rely more on their eyes. Smells tell their story, and it appears that there is no smell that dogs find repugnant, in fact, the stinkier something is to humans, the more dogs seem to love it!

Dog behavioral psychology is discussed, but because there is not a lot of research into some aspects, the author substitutes other animals that have been studied, and makes assumptions about how dogs would react in certain situations. This habit of saying "well, birds/reptiles/other mammals did this, so dogs would too..." seemed unreliable to me for a number of reasons (domestication, the bonds between humans and dogs, etc.) but interesting nonetheless.

3.5 stars, rounded up because I love dogs so much :)
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,079 reviews712 followers
December 26, 2009
Haven't we all wondered what our dogs think of us? This is the next best thing to reading a book written by a dog. I am not a current dog owner, but I grew up on a farm with multiple dogs. Over the years I had read that those dogs of my youth saw me as the leader of their pack. This book debunks that myth. This book says they considered me to be be their a meal ticket. What a come down! All these years I thought I was the "Alpha Dog."

The purpose of the book is to help people to understand what's it's like to be a dog. The main difficulty for humans trying to understand dogs is to imagine life with the ability to smell and interpret odors that's about one-hundred times better than the human nose. It's an ability to smell the world in multiple dimensions; in past, present and future tenses; distinguishing between animal, vegetable, and mineral; and do so continually, even when not inhaling. It's a concept almost unimaginable for humans.

A burning question I've had all my life was not answered by this book as explicitly as I wished. The question is: When a dog howls in accompaniment to a musical instrument such as a harmonica, is it enjoying the music or is it an indication that it hurts their ears? I have wondered about this all my life, and I know others have too. She does offer the following observation: "Adult wolves howl daily: among packs, a chorus of howling may help coordinate their travels and strengthens their attachment." From this I infer that when a dog hears me play a harmonica, it perceives that I am howling, and it is instinctual for dogs to join in with others when they hear howling taking place. So perhaps it's a dog's way of saying, "We are family!" In other words, it's a positive experience for the dog, and it's not hurting their ears.

The author discusses the propensity of dogs to roll around on dead and rotting carcasses, a behavior I always found particularly disgusting. She doesn't explain the dog's motivation as explicitly as I had wished. However, from other things said in the book I understand the dog to be using their primary sensory experience (olfactory) to say, "My what a wonderful bouquet of odors, I think I'll take some of it with me." It would be the human equivalent of using their primary sensory experience (visual) to sigh in pleasure at viewing a beautiful vista and then taking a photograph to keep with them.

Another question I have that was not addressed by the book: How do some dogs find their way home over long distances? I know a person who tried to get rid of a dog by driving 15 miles away from home, dumping the dog there and driving off in direction away from home. (I know this is a terrible thing to do to any dog.) The dog found its way home after a couple days. How did it do that? Was it by scent, or by internal sense of direction? Has anybody researched this ability?

The author advises dog owners not to give their dogs frequent baths. She says,"And no dog wants to smell like a bathtub that has a dog in it." Now I realize that the dogs of my youth were living in a paradise for dogs. The rural farm setting provided plenty of room for them to roam and smell. And more importantly, we never gave our dogs baths. The only time they got baths was when they jumped into creeks or mud puddles on there own initiative, usually to cool off.
Profile Image for ༺Kiki༻.
2,000 reviews114 followers
October 26, 2017
If you know anything about dogs, you might not get much out of this book. The science is easy enough for a grade schooler to understand, and while accessible to the masses, it was ultimately disappointing to me. The scientific research the author discusses is her interpretation. Even worse is the lack of complete citations.

The author's opinion of what a dog's mind is capable of is cold and limited. Her fear of being accused of anthropomorphism is all too evident. She rails against anthropomorphizing to the point of undermining the intelligence of all animals. She frequently contradicts herself, dogs can/can't read emotions, dogs can/can't reason, dogs know/don't know when they misbehave.

Body language is very important to canines, but it is only briefly discussed. The authors fails to mention the varied abilities, behavior, development, intelligence, and psychology of different dog breeds. She keeps reminding us that dogs aren't 1) people 2) wolves 3) complex thinkers 4) capable of emotion. I agree with the first two, but the rest really depends on the individual dog.

I didn't find the chapter introductions with Pump very entertaining. Forced whimsy is not fun. I did enjoy the section about vision. I think anyone not already familiar with it would find it interesting, even if the science is over-simplified.

The author mentions Pump eating grapes and raisins. If you didn't read the footnotes, you may not be aware that they are toxic to dogs. Please, don't feed grapes, raisins or currants to a dog. There are other people foods that are toxic to dogs; chocolate, garlic and onions are just a few.

If you liked this book, you might also enjoy:

The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think
Bones Would Rain from the Sky
For the Love of a Dog
The Other End of the Leash
Through a Dog's Eyes
Animals in Translation
The Truth About Dogs (If you didn't like this book, skip this one)
Profile Image for Eve.
398 reviews65 followers
April 18, 2012
If you have a dog, if you're a dog person or an all around animal person - you have to read Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz.

"Go look at a dog. Go on, look---maybe at one lying near you right now, curled around his folded legs on a dog bed, or sprawled on his side on the tile floor, paws flitting through the pasture of a dream. Take a good look---and now forget everything you know about this or any dog.

"This is admittedly a ridiculous exhortation...What we'll find, in looking at dogs through a scientific lens, is that some of what we think we know abut dogs is entirely borne out; other things that appear patently true are, on closer examination, more doubtful than we thought. And by looking at our dogs from another perspective --- from the perspective of the dog---we can see new things that naturally occur to those of us encumbered with human brains. So the best way to begin understanding dogs is by forgetting what we think we know."

True to her word, Horowitz pretty much decimated everything I thought I knew about dogs, many of which are commonly-held, accepted beliefs. Misunderstandings about man's best friend stem, Horowitz explains, from humans anthropomorphizing dogs ["We see, talk about, and imagine dogs' behavior from a human-biased perspective, imposing our own emotions and thoughts on these furred creatures"]. For example, dogs don't urinate to mark their territory - they actually urinate to provide information/messages to other dogs. Horowitz compares a fire hydrant as a common bulletin board for the neighborhood.

Horowitz breaks down these and other "myths" in organized fashion, systematically concentrating chapter by chapter on a different cognitive experience: how dogs see, smell, hear, and think. Interspered with the clear scientific passages are personal observations and anecdotes of Horowitz's own dog, Pumpernickel or "Pump," which infuse the book with an intimate feel. You can tell this scientist loves dogs :)

I think Inside of a Dog was so mindblowing for me because dogs seem so known and not at all mysterious, when in fact, they are surprising creatures worthy of in depth study. The mind of a dog is a fascinating perspective to explore.
344 reviews
October 28, 2010
Liked it. Kind of skimmed some parts of it. Didn't learn as much as I thought I would. Was already aware of a lot of the concepts - how important smell is, that dogs are still animals no matter how much we want them to have human characteristics. New to me: Dogs' eyes have a faster "flicker-rate" than humans. Imagine that the speed of our vision processing is to a dog like us watching an old silent movie where we see the flickers between frames. That's what our vision would be to a dog. Therefore dogs see things slightly sooner and faster than we do. That's why movement is so noticeable to them. About the sense of smell - This is their most important sense. Everything is processed by way of scent. Notice the constantly moving nostrils. Imagine a scent in the air constantly moving because of the air movement, and having to follow it. Scent has age to a dog, a dog can tell how much time has passed since something happened because of the freshness of a scent.
Loved her advice to dog owners in the last chapter. Wish every dog owner would read this. Go for a Smell Walk. Train thoughtfully. Allow for his Dogness (let him roll in whatever it is). Consider the Source (his breed matters, he's an animal, dogs have "handedness", right pawed or left pawed). Give him Something to Do. Play with Him.Don't bathe your dog Everyday. Pet Friendly (not all dogs like to be petted, or like to be petted in different ways). Get a mutt. Anthropomorphize with Umwelt in Mind. (A complex animal cannot be explained simply.)
Why does Angel lick Anna so much? She sees Anna as a puppy to clean off. Why does Angel lick the carpet? Smell and taste (mouthing) are how dogs explore and learn more information.
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