Book Review: Inside Of a Dog

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

What is it like to be a dog?

"[To a dog] the world is smelly; well peopled with people. On further consideration, we can add: it is close to the ground; it is lickable."
—Alexandra Horowitz

I read so many great reviews of this book that I couldn't resist reading it. With upcoming holidays it was the first book I bought and packed.

I was not disappointed.

In order to understand anybody, we need to understand how they experience the world and what motivates them.

I believe that this book will get you as close to understanding your dog's perspective of the world as you're gonna get.

In the attempt to connect with our dogs, we assign human emotions, reasoning, and motives to them. Does that really help us or does this biased approach prevent us from truly understanding them?

Do dogs experience the world the same way we do? 

Or is their reality quite different from ours?

Whats with their fascination with fire hydrants and crotches? Why is our bed more appealing to them than their own?

Learning how dog's senses work, what is important to them and what is not, can give us some understanding of how they might think and what they might feel.

Do you think dogs are smarter or dumber than you figured? What's up with their annoying habits of shredding shoes and jumping on people? Do they really feel guilty?

If you want to better understand your dog, go and get this book. You will enjoy reading and you will enjoy your dog much more too.



Alexandra Horowitz teaches psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University. She earned her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science at the University of California at San Diego and has studied the cognition of humans, rhinoceros, bonobos, and dogs. For seventeen years she shared her home with an unwitting research subject, Pumpernickel, a wonderful mixed breed. Before her scientific career, Horowitz worked as a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster and served on the staff of The New Yorker. She lives in New York City with her husband, infant son, and Finnegan, a dog of indeterminate parentage and determinate character.

"...a thoughtful take on the interior life of the dog...long on insight and short on jargon..."
—Washington Post


  1. I'm not much of a reader, but I just may have to get this one. Thanks!

  2. This book sounds super cool... Looks like I'm going to have to make a trip to Chapters :)

  3. It is super cool. Science mixed with loving insight. Awesome.

  4. I'm adding this one to my reading list!

  5. Hi Y'all,

    My Human is reading this book now. She seems to be really enjoying it. Hope it helps her.

    Maybe someone will write a book in pee mail about understanding our crazy Humans!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  6. Hi Hawk, glad your mom is reading it and glad she seem to enjoy it. I did! Maybe she'll let you sniff around more! :-)

  7. And here I thought I had already commented on your post! Maybe we just discussed via Twitter? Geesh!

    I wanted to say that I really want to read this book. I am especially interested in what we tweeted about last night - does assigning human emotions and reasoning to our dogs help or hurt them. Personally, I think it hurts us and them. How can you ever fully understand your dog if you constantly think they are always trying to get back at you?
    One of the reasons small dogs did so well in my home is because I didn't treat them like babies. I didn't constantly pick them up. I made them work for a treat and I set boundaries. They always acted more like dogs with me than humans. Maybe that's why my clients always said that their dogs seemed calmer when they got them back.
    Okay. Now I'll get off my soapbox and go get this book. Thanks Jana!

  8. Hi Mel, yeah, we talked about it on twitter :-)

    Yes, I agree that making dogs into little people hurts our relationship with them that it hurts them in some ways also.

    Do get the book, it's great :-)

  9. I think I may have to read it also.. thanks for the review!

  10. Go and read. It truly is different from other dog behavior books. There is real empathy through the book.

  11. I enjoyed this book as well. I have a copy, and it's probably a book I will read a second time - that's saying a lot! I picked up all kinds of little things I hadn't thought of before. For example, there was a section where she explained why dogs hate wearing coats. It makes them feel submissive and restricted. Plus, they have their own fur coats! Makes sense! My dog hates wearing his vest in the winter. After reading that, I stopped making him wear it. He would rather be cold. And if it was too cold, then we kept our walks extra short or didn't walk at all.

  12. Hi Lindsey. Yes, many great insights. Makes sense about the coats too. I always had a feeling that they might not like that and I have my own reservation against putting anything on a dog that doesn't belong or doesn't have to be there. So our guys were always lucky that way.

    That said, there are times when I would consider doing this. For example when we took Jasmine boating, I did put a life-jacket on her. Better safe than sorry.

    If I had some of the breeds such as a Boxer, I perhaps would consider putting something on them on the really cold winter days.

    After Jasmine's surgery, which was in the winter, almost half of her entire body was shaved of and it was very cold. We also put a blanket on her when she went out, as her natural protection was not there to do the job. It was actually a baby-horse blanket we borrowed from the friends at the horse farm, she liked it because of all the smells that were in it.

    I wouldn't say she was very impressed wearing it, but her philosophy is straight forward: "whatever gets me outside". She wouldn't pee when wearing it though.

    So bottom line, I am against putting things on dogs, unless there is a really good reason.


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