Friday, August 1, 2014

What The Dog Knows {book review}

What The Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs by Cat Warren

Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo's unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.

Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he's only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bone-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs - even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface a lake. Working dogs' abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.

Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnerships with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.

My Thoughts
I seriously loved this book :). Cat did a great job of interjecting research, history, and science throughout the story so that it was informative but not dry or boring. It was a nice balance between academic discussions and real-life anecdotes of Solo's development. And who knew pigs, cats and even vultures have all been studied for cadaver tracking! LOL, I would have loved to have seen some of those training sessions :).

It was also refreshing to read about someone actually doing what we always preach about: becoming the person our dog needs us to be. "Don't try to fit a square dog into a round hole." I think many people have experienced this - just look at all the dogs being given up throughout the shelter system - but Cat stuck through it and found out what made her dog tick. What she did requires a lot of commitment, patience, and a very real desire to learn something from her dog. They were bot restless and in need of purpose and direction, and they found it together. I loved her vivid descriptions of their many adventures and I'm sure you will to. I totally recommend that everyone read this book! :)

Check out the other books I've reviewed:

Dog is My Co-Pilot


  1. Thanks so much, Erin, for this lovely review on what is a very rainy and depressing Friday afternoon. Cheered me utterly!

    1. Your welcome :) and thank you for writing such a great book for us all to enjoy!!