Book Review: Inside of a Dog
Friday’s eureka-moment post about Lilly’s summertime fears of the house comes from something I read in Alexandra Horowitz’s book “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know”. Today, a few other items of note from the book.
Dog Pack, Pack Leader Baloney
Longtime dog blog readers will NOT be surprised to know I was thrilled to see Horowitz discuss where the dog dominance and dog pack concepts fall down.
She says by way of introduction, “For instance, it’s high time we revamp the false notion that our dogs view us as their ‘pack.'”
She goes on to say later: “Unfortunately, it not only limits the kind of understanding and interaction we can have with our dogs, it also relies on a faulty premise. The ‘pack’ evoked in this way bears little resemblance to actual wolf packs.”
Sure, we CAN make dogs submissive to us, but Horowitz calls that, “neither biologically necessary nor particularly enriching for either of us.”
What word, phrase, or description works better? Horowtiz suggests, “benign gang” or simply “family.”
How Dogs Eyes See
The section in the book on the anatomy and functionality of dogs’ eyes is fascinating. It turns out dogs have a “higher flicker-fusion rate” than we do (70-80 cycles per second). So, for example, dogs see the individual image frames and the gaps in the stream of images on a TV screen.
Interestingly, new digital TVs don’t have the same flicker-fusion issues, so dogs might actually be able to see and watch newer TVs better than old ones.
Hororwitz explains, “One could say that dogs see the world faster than we do, but what they really do is just see a bit more world in every second.”
That’s how they can play fetch at such speed and with such skill.
I forgot to mark the page, but Horowitz also talked about how dogs do NOT habituate to the sights on their walks, even if they walk the same routes often. Because of how dogs process everything they see, hear, smell, etc., they don’t ignore things the way we do.
While it might be familiar, it’s always new to them.
Knowing that makes me feel less lame for taking Lilly to the same spots to walk so often.
Dogs Looking @ Us, Into Us
I loved this passage from the Dog-Eyed section of Inside of a Dog:
“Given how dogs see, how do they apply their visual ability? Cleverly, they look at us. Once a dog has opened up his eyes to us, a remarkable thing happens. He starts gazing at us. Dogs see us, but the differences in their vision also seem to allow them to see things about us that even we do not see. Soon it seems they are looking straight into our minds.”
Final Word: Inside of a Dog
I truly enjoyed this book and learning about the canine “umwelt” with the science and real-world indications of how our dogs make their way in the world. The book has been out a couple years now, and I’m a big dork for just now getting around to reading it.[Gee … I wonder why.]
Have you read Inside of a Dog? What did you learn? What did you take away from the research and narrative?
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