Review: Inside of a Dog

Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz

I’m an avid reader of book reviews, and I first heard of this wonderful book in the New York Times Book Review. Critic Cathleen Schine gives a fair and warm review of the book, writing that author Alexandra Horowitz is keen on dropping “some lovely observation, some unlikely study, some odd detail that causes one’s dog-loving heart to flutter with astonishment and gratitude.” You could hardly find a more fitting description of what this book did to me.

Alexandra Horowitz is a psychology professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, and an increasingly renowned animal cognitive scientist, now specializing in the minds and lives of dogs.

Inside of a Dog is almost like a book-length version of Temple Grandin’s chapter on dogs in Animals Make Us Human. It’s a thoughtfully presented review of the behavior and body of a dog, without muddling the information with overly cutesy asides or peremptory training tips. It’s just straight science, simplified for your average dog owner.

Appropriately, I learned a lot about dogs from this book. By this stage in my dog reading, I feel like I’ve already learned most of what I could learn about canine psychology and behavior. It’s not a very old science and most of the reputable research has been widely disseminated throughout the seminal training texts. But Horowitz drops a lot of knowledge on you in this hefty book. And I enjoyed every second of it. For instance, you know why dogs are so good at catching Frisbees? Horowitz explains, in more scientific terms than I am capable of, that it’s because dogs see things about a millisecond faster than we do. Because of this ability and motion sensitivity, dogs are much better at predicting the path of a flying disc than mere humans.

Little facts like this are a large part of the appeal of this book, but I liked it more for Horowitz’s detail-oriented and almost narrative style. She gives you the scientific evidence that you crave, but she also gives you the gentle lightheartedness of a fellow dog lover. Her anecdotes about her beloved mixed breed Pumpernickel are heartwarming without being overly saccharine.

Horowitz is clearly a great researcher, but she’s also a great writer. She has written previously for the New Yorker and it shows. Girl knows what she’s doing. I appreciated this book that much more because of her skill with a pen. Dog people are not necessarily also word people (and often for good reason), and so it’s a special bonus when you find someone who is both, like Horowitz (and like Patricia McConnell, I’d wager).

All that to say, I highly recommend this book. I’m inclined to give a copy to the other dog owners in my life, because there’s no doubt in my mind that they’d enjoy this book as much as I did.

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125 thoughts on “Review: Inside of a Dog

  1. While I’m not a dog owner, I’d totally read this book just for the cover. How can you resist that face?

    Thanks for the review — and congrats on Friday Freshly Pressed.

    πŸ™‚

  2. I’m a fellow dog fanatic πŸ™‚ I”ll make sure to pick this book up some time!Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, btw! πŸ˜€
    Have you tried reading ‘Do Dogs Laugh?’ by Jake Page?

  3. This is a great review and definitelt one to read for me! I have just started my own blog about my deaf dog Bailey and it is awesome to see what else is out there.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed! πŸ™‚

  4. i will want to read this. i have read similar books on this subject and some of them were great. i think one was called “a dog’s mind”, and another was, i think “how dogs think”.

    1. How Dogs Think is Stanley Coren, he’s also written one called How To Speak Dog and The Intelligence Of Dogs. Wonderful books. I will put this one on my next Amazon list – I love all things doggy!

  5. I’ve been lucky enough to actually hear Alexandra speak on some of the findings in her book, and I hung on her every word. So interesting! I haven’t started reading the book yet, but imagine it would be much like the feeling I got when I heard her speak.

  6. Oh so hate to rain on your parade. I am also a avid reader and writer and while I liked what Alexandra Horowitz had to say in this book I could not tolerate the way she said it. The information in the book is facinating and I will give her that and I learned a lot about dogs… but I just found her style to be… mmmh, how to say this… a bit arrogant and not very engaging. Its just my opinion and every one finds different things in a book but it was a long slog to get through.

    I’ve read a lot of Temple Grandin’s books and enjoy her writing style and voivce much more. She is also a weath of onformation on the mind of dogs and other animals as well.

    Great review though, loved reading it.

  7. I’m going to have to check this out. I have three lovely large dogs who never cease to amaze and delight me. Dogs have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Thanks for sharing the review!

  8. Congratulations on a lovely post being Freshly Pressed – and a nice little boost for Alexandra Horowitz, too – I’m joining the rest of the folks who will be checking this book out. Thank you!

  9. I have to pick up this book now! It looks very interesting. I’m glad to hear she writes well; nonfiction can be pretty daunting if it’s not executed the right way.

  10. I read this book some time ago on my Kindle, and thoroughly enjoyed it also. I found the information on how dogs play particularly fascinating; I have three dogs that we keep indoors with us, and with what I learned from her I have enjoyed watching the three of them play together much more. (And although, as she says, it is rare, sometimes all three of them do play together at the same time!).

    Congratulations, too, on being Freshly Pressed. It is a wonderful feeling!

    Nancy
    http://www.workingmomadventures.com

  11. Thanks for your review, I have been going back and forth about reading this book. I’m in the middle of my MBA program and leisure reading is very limited for various reasons. My passion is the pet industry, specifically in social media marketing (SMM) and also enjoy books about just learning more about dogs in general.

    Thanks.

  12. I love dogs and books so this sounds like a perfect read for me! I have the sweetest Rot ‘n’ Chow I adopted last December. I wish everyone would go to the SPCA first when looking for a new doggie companion.

  13. Oh come on! Nobody recognizes the quote? Anyone? Bueller?

    Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

    I’m a cat person, but I’d read it just for the title!

  14. While I will probably not read the book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review of it. Well done. And, congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  15. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! What an honor! We will definitely put this on our reading list as well! We are dog lovers too, and actually adopted our puppy from the APL in September of 2010 and started her own blog of what she gets into on a daily basis. It has turned out to be a funny blog because we are writing it as if she (Nikita) is talking. Take a peek at http://www.nikitaland.wordpress.com to see for yourself! Congrats again & keep em coming!

    1. Our dog was put to sleep last night. His unconditional love was so good for me and my husband the last 10 years. He will always be a part of us. I just wrote a post about him too.

  16. I’m glad you were freshly pressed, as I’m sure I’d never have found this blog otherwise. Sounds a v interesting book. I can already think of a few people I might buy it for. Thanks.

  17. I wouldn’t have known about this book if I hadn’t come across your blog. I’m always trying to learn more about dogs because I work with them. Thanks so much!

  18. This would be a good way of getting a good insight about dogs that have been good friends with the dog owner. I love dogs, but it will depend on the look and breed. I would love to have one in the future. Thanks.

  19. When are dogs gonna get credit for all the books they write I wonder…problem is they don’t care as long as someone takes them out….

  20. Got an advance copy of this book a while back and even though I’m a cat person-I loved it. I passed it around to all dog lovers I knew. Entertaining post.

  21. Have you read much of Temple Grandin? I’ve only read one of her books (Thinking in Pictures) but it was very enlightening. She forces her readers to view animals in a different way. In case you didn’t know she is an autistic woman who has changed the we handle cattle farming throughout the country. Her book “Animals Make Us Human” might be a book you’d
    enjoy.

  22. Very nice book! I always love reading about the science of animals. Unfortunately, I’m always so busy I almost never get the time. Good find!

  23. I’m definitely going to source this book and the one by Temple Grandin as I’ve not read that either. I have a 2 yr old fawn Labrador and I love knowing more about dogs – did not about the frisbee thing!
    ANother good book is The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (available on amazon). She’s an anthropologist and has a great writing style.

  24. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. And thanks for choosing what sounds like an enthralling book to review – my tail’s wagging with glee as I write this, so-to- speak.

  25. thanks for the review. sounds like a good read especially when you have 6 six dogs like me. They always amaze me and bring warmth into my life…

  26. That looks like an awesome and good book to read. Haha ive been wondering what my dog has been thinking for a while now, he is really nustsy and will never be quit :P.
    But he’s fluffy and I grew up with him and I could never actualy hate him, I can only say things he has done wrong or to annoy me sometimes. πŸ˜€

  27. would agree with the 1. coomment. the cover simply leads you to this book. visually its so appealing. hope it will be transated someday into Croatian

  28. I also read this book, and absolutely loved it! Have two dogs of my own (one 9 months and the other 9 years; lots of fun!), and come from a science background–and appreciated this book on many levels. Great review!

  29. The cover caught my eye but your review made me want to read it – thanks! I agree the little things (facts) are very interesting, they shed a new light on a dog you thought you already knew. I intend to follow your blog from now on :). If you want to see my dogs and hear what they have to say (oh yeah, they say a lot!), check out http://www.bulldogdiary.com. My husband and I have 6 dogs, 5 different breeds, and not the most common ones either. Take a look!

    1. I will check out your blog, just gotta know what they say… just posted on my beloved benji. He didn’t say much but his eyes spoke volumes.

  30. thanks for making a very great review about the book. I just so love dogs. How can you resist that kind of face in the book cover. so adorable.

    cheers.

  31. Great review. I also love dogs. Just posted about my beloved Benji. Come and read about him. I will be reading this book too and thanks for sharing.

    Congrates on FP!

  32. My husband pointed this book out to me; I read a lot about animals, their behaviour and their way of thinking. I’d call this my second-favourite dog book, next to “Dogs” by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger.

    Much of what Horowitz covers I knew already from earlier reading, but a lot of it was new to me. I enjoyed her style, and the way she related what she studied to her own dog I found refreshingly non-scientific, by which I mean it allowed the average person who is not, perhaps, as scientifically minded, to relate Horowitz’s work to their dog, too. I now understand more about how my Aussie’s vision works and it helps me communicate better with her.

  33. Has anyone written anything about owning a Guinea Pig? LOL. Mine loves to swim in the pool, take showers and get his hair blow dried. It is so much fun. I love your dog blog. I read that guy’s rant about calling yourself a “dog owner” and well, i did not hear that person actually suggest a different term to use. My parents probably did drugs in the 60s too but at least they stopped at some point. A little over the top considering everything on this planet is a parasite sucking off of it including him/her. Well, anyway, it is nothing a little bit of psychotropic drug therapy won’t cure for us all. I too am a DOG OWNER! We love each other so much and take care of each other. I rescued him from being put to sleep because of an accident he was in. Took care of him and now he is a little white vision of perfection. I am glad he does not own me because he would be a horrible “HUMAN OWNER” He would not feed me, walk me or pet me and in fact he would eat me if I laid in the middle of the room long enough.

    Great blog. Oh, here is my swimming Guinea Pig swimmng guinea pig video great fun blogging. Keep it up. You are really good at it and people are loving the interaction with each other. Great Job! Oh and congrats on being pressed by word press. You Rock!

  34. I love your post and honestly of all the pets that I love most is DOG. I really love dog and in y house you can only see dog inside. I really don’t know why, it’s just that they make me happy every time i was sad or lonely..Willing to play and treat you as their best friend. Thank you for sharing your post with us.

  35. This book was amazing!! The only chapter that I skipped was on the end of a dog’s life. As a dog owner, and due to my personality, I didn’t want to know what to look for because then I might see it all of the time.

  36. We love this book! She offers a very thoughtful insight to our four-legged friends. Having a dog makes you want to know more about them, what’s going through their head and how to make their lives the best they can be. Thank you for bringing attention to it and a very well written article.

    Cheers!

  37. That actually sounds like a good read. Hopefully its not all scientific knowledge and has a little humor and personality to it. My mind tends to wander when reading text books.

  38. Thanks for the tip, this sounds like a good read. My Labrador just died last week, and as I reminisce on our life together I have a greater appreciation of just how great dogs are for us. My life is quite different without him in it.

  39. Wow, this book sounds fascinating! I’ve always been intrigued by what it’s like to be various sorts of animals (I once wrote a post titled, “What It’s Like to Be a Fish”) and it’s great to see that trained psychologists are giving serious thought to these sorts of questions, and applying some real science to centuries of folk philosophy and anecdote.

    This one is definitely going on the “to read” list.

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