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Man's best friend—revealed!

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November 24th, 2009
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Sure they re called man s best friend, but how much do we really know about dogs? ' For instance, what does Fido think about all day? ' Why does he insist on rolling around in heaven knows what when you take him out for a walk, and what does he really think about that new raincoat you bought him? [caption id="attachment_6677" align="alignright" width="201" caption="Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz."][/caption] In her new book,Inside of a Dog: ' What Dogs See, Smell and Know, author and dog expert Alexandra Horowitz gives us an insightful and fascinating guide to dogs. ' Horowitz earned her Ph.D. in cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, and is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City. Over the years, she has studied cognition in humans, rhinoceroses, and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) before focusing her efforts on canines.

A dog person

I ' am a dog person, says Horowitz. ' She grew up with dogs and continues to have canine relationships as an adult. ' Describing herself as a typical dog owner, she says she had a lot of questions about dogs and their behavior, but didn t immediately look to science for the answers. ' As her curiosity peaked, she decided to focus her own skills as a cognitive scientist on canines. Convinced that we give dogs too many human attributes, Horowitz begins by stripping away any interpretation of canine behavior that isn t dog centered. ' In fact, she encourages readers to try seeing things through a dog s eyes rather than interpreting a dog s behavior through the prism of human behavior and emotions. The next time you and your canine companion go for a walk, Horowitz suggests you try to put yourself inside of a dog. Follow your dog, she says. Let the dog lead and stop at every smell. ' Imagine the world as a landscape of smells and not a visual landscape as humans usually do. And follow the dog s lead with regard to social interactions. ' Let him interact with other dogs as much as they want. ' When you do this you start to celebrate what it s like to be a dog.

What makes dogs tick?

By culling the most up-to-date research available on dogs, Horowitz presents a scientific yet accessible guide to what makes dogs tick. For instance, have you ever wondered why your dog is immediately intimidated when he goes to the vet? ' As Horowitz explains it, a dog s fear pheromone is produced in its hindquarters (the anal sacs.) ' ' Prone to infection, it s an area that is commonly looked at and manipulated during any routine check-up. ' Though we can t smell it, this poking and prodding causes the release of the dog s fear pheromone. ' So, a typical veterinarian s office literally reeks of fear. ' No wonder Fido starts to shake in the waiting room! Inside of a Dogalso delves into the dog psyche. ' Do dogs actually feel remorse when they do something bad? According to Horowitz, they don t. Though many a dog owner will insist that Fido had guilt written all over his face, Horowitz believes that dogs don t really have the capacity to react with emotion and those looks that even Horowitz admits appear to be looks of guilt are most likely a case of the dog reacting to its owner s emotional cues.

Can you handle the truth?

All of this information begs the question, how much do we really want to know about our best friends? ' Will it affect your relationship to know that Fido doesn t really feel bad about his past transgressions? ' It s a dilemma that Horowitz has had to contemplate since publishingInside of a Dog. Asked if people are disappointed when they find out that Fido isn t sincerely remorseful for chewing up their leather sofa, Horowitz says, Half the people are fascinated by the science behind these conclusions and the other half is truly disappointed or just view the findings as wrong. I had a caller at one of the radio programs I was on who said I really don t want to know if my dog doesn t love me. And I m sympathetic with that, but there are so many more interesting findings yet to be discovered. ' This is just the tip of the iceberg. With the success ofInside of a Dog, will Horowitz turn her focus to another animal? ' I think I ll stick with dogs, she says. They are so much easier to deal with than people. We abuse them by leaving them alone for long periods of time or not giving them much to do, but they still come back to us. ' That they insinuate themselves into our family so comfortably is incredible and unique. Inside of a Dogby Alexandra Horowitz is published by Scribner and is available at Amazon.com and bookstores nationwide. For more information, visit:http://insideofadog.com/.

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