Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz, is a nonfiction book that investigates our most loyal companions from a unique perspective: the dog’s. Alexandra Horowitz constantly reminds the reader that we must look at the world through the dog’s eyes rather than our own if we are to truly understand them. Her refocusing of our perspective leads to many surprising and fascinating discoveries about dogs that often run counter to conventional “wisdom.”
Despite our natural disadvantage of being human, there is a lot that can be learned about canis familiaris when we avoid anthropomorphism (treating the dogs like they are little humans) when determining what a dog’s life is truly like. Horowitz really hits the nail on the head when she acknowledges that people tend to study dogs through human eyes rather than through dog eyes. We ascribe their actions to human motives. When we throw out these preconceived notions biology, scientific observations, and even psychology become our guides in understanding the dog. Horowitz makes use of her own research, as well others, to study the dog from many angles.
Inside of a Dog thoroughly investigates how the sensory organs of the dog work: the eyes, ears,tongue, paw pads and whiskers, and especially the nose. Horowitz’s explanations are full but stop short of becoming too technical. Horowitz also reveals the truth, as we currently understand it, regarding dog behavior during play with humans and other dogs, at home alone, on walks, and even in considering the concepts of time and aging. Unfortunately, some areas are not sufficiently researched at this point in time, but Horowitz does the best she can with the available data.
Popular myths regarding dogs tend to be debunked rather than reaffirmed in Inside of a Dog. For example, Horowitz explains studies of aggression in dogs and indicates that small breeds are often more likely to show aggression than some of the breeds that are viewed as more “dangerous,” i.e. pit bulls. There is a fair sized bibliography and some interesting discussion questions at the end of the book for anyone who wants to dig deeper into a certain facet of dog research.
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know is a fascinating read for any dog-lover. The vocabulary is a bit advanced because of the scientific terminology that is used, but a thoughtful reader should have no trouble enjoying every page. Horowitz’s use of personal anecdotes about her favorite companion, Pump, as well as her dog illustrations interspersed throughout the book, add a wonderful charm to this very objective and factual book.