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What Do Dogs Know, Think, and Feel? A New Book Tells It All

Research-based "Domestic Dogs Cognition and Behavior" is a must-read.

The amount of scientific information that is being accumulated about the behavior, minds, and history of domestic dogs is staggering. A number of Psychology Today writers including Stanley Coren, Mark Derr, Gregory Berns, and yours truly try to keep readers up-to-date and now we have an excellent new book edited by another Psychology Today writer Alexandra Horowitz called Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior to which interested people can go for the latest information on our best friends.

Dr. Horowitz's latest book is a must read for anyone interested in what dogs know, think, and feel. It also is essential reading for those interested in comparative research on other canids and mammals in general. Organized into three main sections titled "Orientation: Perceptual and Breed Effects on Behavior and Early Ethological Research," "Behavior and Cognition: Observational and Experimental Results," and The Future of Dog Research: Critical Reassessment of Methods and Practice, and Practical Applications," experts from around the world write about the latest research in their fields of expertise. The table of contents, preface, and sample pages can be downloaded here.

What I really like about this book, in addition to its comprehensive coverage and reliance on empirical data, is that it "reflects a modern shift in science toward considering and studying domestic dogs for their own sake, not only insofar as they reflect back on human beings." It also is a much-needed corrective to a number of popular books on dogs that often misrepresent what we actually know about these amazing mammals. We don't need to embellish dogs or other animals to see that they are incredibly smart and emotional beings, and science can lead the way in learning more about their fascinating behavior and what they can and cannot do and what they do and do not know.

To be fair, when I told someone about the book they were keenly interested but said it was "far too pricey" (and the one review on Amazon reflects this general sentiment). It is expensive and I hope that a less expensive edition will soon follow. For sure, people can share a copy. However, in terms of the amount of information per page and per dollar it's one of the fairest deals I know of in a market where books are getting more and more expensive. It really is that good.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson; see also), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (see also), and Why dogs hump and bees get depressed (see also). Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistence will be published fall 2014.