Book Review: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

There are many different reasons I might choose to pick up a certain book: favorable reviews, well known authors, interesting subject matter.  I began reading Inside of a Dog for none of these reasons.  The only reason why I decided to read this book was simply because I had seen it in many of my clients’ homes.  “There must be something to this book!” I thought.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  This is my first attempt at discussing a book on this blog (surprising because I spend many hours each day reading…and many of those hours are spent pouring over the pages of dog-related books,) so I don’t want you to think I’m a negative person.  Usually I love all dog books!  This book was 301 pages of “states-the-obvious” with a few insightful tidbits thrown in.  Instead of being informative, Horowitz seems to ramble on about topics and repeat the same thoughts over and over.

I am unsure of what audience Alexandra Horowitz was trying to reach.  Most of the points she makes I can only describe as “DUH!” conclusions.  Some include: genes and environment shape a dog (um…of course), dogs bark for different reasons (yeah, I knew that), dog have a memory (how could they not!)  She goes on an on about how dogs are a different height than we are (I didn’t need a PhD to observe that!) and how interesting shoes are to them. Tell me something I don’t know, lady!

The biggest problem I have with this book is that it skims over what I feel is the most important clue to understand your pooch – body language.  Several times she mentions body language, but only in a passing way while discussing something else.  Body language is arguably the most important clue we have in truly understanding the “inside of a dog” and is something that I believe most people do not have a good grasp on how to read.  By omitting this concept all together I wonder what the point of this whole book is.

I would be lying if I said there were not parts of this book I enjoyed, though.  The chapter on smells did encourage me to think differently about a dog’s nose.  Horowitz did what I was hoping she would do the whole book – make me think in a different way.  “Imagine if each detail of our visual world were matched by a corresponding smell.” (pg 72)  Hmmm…interesting.  By pointing out that humans smell only good and bad….while dogs smell good, bad, and neutral…she got my brain to thinkin’.  The fact that dogs respond to baby talk because we have unintentionally “trained” them to do so was something I had never thought about, but made perfect sense.  I especially enjoyed her analogy of dogs as spies (always observing us), and that we were like that as children (but we “forget” to be like that as adults.)

Sadly, though, these thought provoking points are few and far between.  By the time I got to the end of the book, I was reading just to be finished.  I was also trying to figure out why the heck so many people had read this book.  I can think of at least a dozen books that are more interesting, more informative, and have more practical advice than Inside of a Dog.  This book was just too long – I feel Horowitz rambles on about random topics for seemingly no reason.  She gives little short “stories” about her own dog, Pumpernickel, at the beginning of new chapters.  I think they are meant to be cute and lighten the tone of the book, but they kind of get annoying.  And I don’t think I’ve ever said anything related to dogs was annoying!

I assume Alexandra Horowitz must be qualified to write this book, but after reading it I’m just a bit confused. 95% of this book any dog owner would be able to tell you with simple everyday observations of their own pup.  Thing that were suppose to be informative ended up just being boring…and things that were suppose to be cute and fun just ended up grating on my nerves.

In other words….I wouldn’t waste your time with this book!  (If you are still interested – and yes, sometimes I read books I hear are bad just to see how bad they are! – check out an excerpt here.)