What the Dog Knows

Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

What the Dog Knows

  • 1
A firsthand exploration of the extraordinary abilities and surprising, sometimes life-saving talents of “working dogs”—pups who can sniff out drugs, find explosives, even locate the dead—as told through the experiences of a journalist and her intrepid canine companion, which The New York Times calls “a fascinating, deeply reported journey into the…amazing things dogs can do with their noses.”

There are thousands of working dogs all over the US and beyond with incredible abilities—they can find missing people, detect drugs and bombs, pinpoint unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers, or even find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. These abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but author Cat Warren shows the science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie these creatures’ amazing abilities.

Cat Warren is a university professor and journalist who had tried everything she could think of to harness her dog Solo’s boundless energy and enthusiasm…until a behavior coach suggested she try training him to be a “working dog.” What started out as a hobby soon became a calling, as Warren was introduced to the hidden universe of dogs who do this essential work and the handlers who train them.

Her dog Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many astounding dogs in a varied field. 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 intelligent and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, Warren discovers story after story that prove the capabilities—as well as the very real limits—of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with working dogs is woven into the fabric of society, and why we keep finding new uses for the wonderful noses of our four-legged friends.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451667325 | 
  • March 2015
List Price $16.00 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for What the Dog Knows includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Cat Warren. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

 

Introduction

Researchers have only just begun to understand dogs’ olfactory abilities. The mystery deepens with scent-detection dogs. What started as a hobby to train her unruly German shepherd puppy transformed into a passion, as Cat Warren, a science journalism professor, started to train Solo as a cadaver dog and learn about the complex world of working canines. Combining powerful storytelling with painstaking research, Warren takes us on a fascinating journey to learn what the dog knows.

 

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Why does author Cat Warren believe researchers have studied vision more than olfactory sense? Why do you think it receives less attention in the research community?

2. How do some of the training methods used for working dogs differ from training companion dogs? Do you think every dog needs a job? Why was having a job so important for Solo?

3. Both Nancy and Mike encouraged Cat to “let go” when it came to training Solo. see more

Articles About This Book

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About the Author

Cat Warren
© Lissa Gotwals

Cat Warren

Cat Warren is a professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and reporting courses. She lives with her husband and their German shepherds, Jaco, in Durham, North Carolina. Visit CatWarren.com.

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