Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know
I really wanted to love this book. And I'm sorry to say that I didn't. Alexandra Horowitz has plenty of interesting things to say, but her style is so uneven as to be distracting. She teaches psychology at Columbia University. The most fluid parts of the book are her direct observations of her own, late dog, Pumpernickel, but the narrative sections that string them together are all over the place.
The best thing Horowitz says is to let you dog be a dog. Let them sniff to their heart's content; get a little smelly in their doggie-way. In the Sniff chapter, she compares human noses that have 6,000,000 sensory receptors, with beagle noses, that have 300,000,000 (this could explain why our dog can find a discarded chicken bone under a foot of snow). Dogs also have part of a bone in their nose called a vomeronasal organ, that also exists in reptiles, which detects and processes information from pheromones. She also includes a section on dogs trained to detect cancer. The results are pretty amazing; in one study, a group of dogs trained for this tried 1,272 times to detect cancerous cells and were only wrong 14 times.