Review: Being a Dog – Following the Dog Into a World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz

5 Star, Information Operations, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design
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Alexandra Horowitz

5 Star NOSE Opener — Will Change How You Relate to Dogs and to Life

Review by Robert David Steele

“To smell is  to live” is the inscription on the inside cover of the book as given to my wife by our mostly Labrador dog Zoey.

The author teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab and is the author of  Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. This is a SERIOUS book, with a 17-page index and 29 pages of notes.

This is a most extraordinary book packed with both direct observations and researched facts, with insights on every page.

QUOTE (185): The smell of a person is so strong that dogs can follow it over time, underwater, after the person is long gone, and even after the thing the person has touched has blown up.

I regret not  taking notes as I went, because this book is easily the equal of any of the other 2000+ non-fiction books I have reviewed.  Here are just four memorable tid-bits, the first of which changed my sense of why the dog takes me for a walk every day:

01 Pooping is the least important thing that dogs do on their walk. Peeing — and smelling pee — is how they communicate with all the other dogs on  the planet….pee-mail if you will. Once you understand this, you get that the walk is like going to to dog library, or a community center, and the dog is reading with their nose and writing with their pee.

02 When a dog wags its tails that is actually a means of “throwing” its anal gland scents or “calling card” toward the targeted animal or individual.

03 Dogs have an acute sense of time, but in reverse. They know the owner is coming come based on the decay or lessing of the owner’s smell from when they left.

04 Dogs have an entire spectrum of smell operations from down to the earth to up in the air for grabbing long distance orientation smells, and they have a complex mix of nose and brain elements that process smells — to include sneezes that “clear” their channel for  the next grab.

This book is the perfect book for anyone that owns a dog and has not yet read it. I have not gone so far as to become a “smeller” the way the author describes herself in multiple chapters, but this book has at least made me a better companion for our dog — we stress sniffing rather than walking now (but still do our distance in the nature reserve) and both the dog and I are better for having this shared understanding of exactly whey we are out on the trail.

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