What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
Like the author I am a dog person, I like cats too, don’t get me wrong. Actually I like all animals, but there is nothing quite like having a dog about the place. And any pet-owner likes to know that they are doing their best for their dog, and most love to know what is going on in their heads. So I really enjoyed reading this book. The author is a scientist; she teaches psychology and has worked with many animals, including dogs. But this is not a science-book per se. It is easy to understand, and easy to read. But it has the science behind it, as well as plenty of anecdotes. Which, I know, aren’t scientific, but it still makes for a good read.
If you are looking for loads of data and the like, then this book is not for you. Instead it is a glimpse into the head of a dog, mostly told through Horowitz’s dog, but also referencing other researchers. It is what I would call light-science, but that’s what I’d prefer to read, too many statistics and data rangers just don’t make for entertaining reading in my mind. And I really liked the idea of the “umwelt” that she mentioned. I’d never heard of it before, it is the life of an animal from their perspective. Rather than trying to judge their actions and thoughts from our point of view we should, instead, try to see that things are different for a different species.
Common sense really.
So an entertaining read, and full of interesting bits and pieces. Although I did wonder about one experiment she mentioned. The researchers were trying to figure out if dogs understood when their owners were in danger & needed help. So they staged fake accidents and heart attacks and then observed the dogs’ actions. For the most part the dogs did nothing. And so they felt that the dogs didn’t understand people in peril. But earlier in the book Horowitz explains how dogs operate much more on what their noses tell them as opposed to what their other senses may say. And it seems to me that an animal that has the capability to sniff out cancers and the like in a body might be able to smell that their owners are faking it. But maybe they added some control for that that Horowitz didn’t mention. The problem of a popular science book. :)