canines, and this is where dressed-up dogs doing ridiculous things on command come from. Poor things. This book made me happy I never successfully trained any of our dogs to heel (not that I tried too strenuously). I was simultaneously impressed with and bemused by the tales of the research studies that have been conducted on dogs; on the one hand, some of the results are fascinating – where dogs' mental processes may (or may not) function like toddlers'; on the other, I found myself marveling that well-educated grownups spend their days fooling around with dogs, all in the name of science. Some of them wore buckets on their heads. Overall, this book did an admirable job of both teaching me what an umwelt is and helping me deepen my understanding of a dog's. This was a comprehensible, mostly-plain-language, often very funny and occasionally moving study which both solidified and informed my stance as a fiercely partisan dog person. While it's not intended as a training guide, there's some wonderfully common sense information, particularly toward the end, which will be valuable both with Daisy and when – hopefully years from now – I next need it. Did it change the way I see my beagle? Not much. But I do feel like I have a better handle on what's going on between those long ears. I have an even deeper appreciation for that always-busy nose. And I'm kind of glad she's never been much of a face-licker.
Alexandra Horowitz racked up major brownie points right from the beginning with this book. The title comes from one of my favorite quotes ever, from the mouth of Groucho Marx. Also, early on she heads complaints off at the pass by stating that she is using "owner" rather than "pet parent" or some other such silly phrasing because that's the legal term, and she will use "him" and "his" when referring to dogs in general because that's the English default, and, knowing dogs as she does, "it" is not an option. That latter scored high with me: I have Issues with writers who use "it" for animals (particularly those who talk about a mare or stallion and then call the horse "it"), so this made me happy. She is a long-time dog person, so all else being equal we are kindred spirits. And it is a fascinating look at canine life and behavior. I'm not sure it made me see my dog in a whole new light as she promised it would, except for a qualm every time I scratch her back that I might be asserting my dominance – but she loves every second of it, so if I am dominating her she's ok with it. I pretty much knew about the dominance of scent in a dog's life; I did not know about the way a dog perceives color (they're not colorblind, exactly). I knew a little about signs of dominance and submission; I didn't know about what face-licking might really mean. (Pop goes the illusion…ew.) I like the insight that the pitch of a voice, canine or human, in many ways equates to size: low and menacing indicates not only a warning but the idea "and I'm big enough to follow through, too." Something I sort of knew but found confirmation for: wolves howl when they're lonely. So, I can attest, do beagles. Only moreso. One valuable thing this book does is reiterate the common-sense yet somehow easily overlooked point that, just as we don't know why our dogs do some of the things they do, most of what we the people do (much less say) is utterly incomprehensible to dogs. That, very simply, they don't think the way we do. It's all very well for us to say "don't get up on the couch, no, bad!" – but there's a very simple reason it's so hard to enforce. To a dog the couch is not an expensive piece of furniture which needs to be protected from shed fur and stains – it's a nice soft elevated surface to curl up on, with a nice back to it to curl up against, and after all that's what the bipeds use it for. And how can you honestly expect a dog to ignore that pail of food scraps and wrappers under the sink when it's just sitting there at her level smelling (to her) so wonderful? Again, "no, bad!" doesn't really make sense to a dog, however often and however loudly it's repeated. It's food. It's there. It's unprotected. It's hers. Dogs don't naturally do many of the things we ask them to do; many owners, and even many trainers seem to either forget that they're not mute people but