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Discussion Starter #1
Today's NYTimes has a book review about the nature of dogs. It begins:

The literature about dogs is not quite the same as the literature about, say, Norwegian rats. Dogs get the literary respect: there are brilliant memoirs about dogs like J. R. Ackerley’s “My Dog Tulip” and Elizabeth von Arnim’s “All the Dogs of My Life”; there’s James Thurber and Virginia Woolf and Jack London; there’s Lassie and Clifford and, of course, Marley. White rats, on the other hand, get most of the scientific attention. Alexandra Horowitz’s “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” attempts to rectify that situation, exploring what science tells us about dogs without relegating our pets, emotionally, to lab rats. As a psychologist with a Ph.D. in cognitive science, as well as an ardent dogophile, Horowitz aims “to take an informed imaginative leap inside of a dog — to see what it is like to be a dog; what the world is like from a dog’s point of view.”

Her work draws on that of an early-20th-*century German biologist, Jakob von Uexküll, who proposed that “anyone who wants to understand the life of an animal must begin by considering what he called their umvelt . . . : their subjective or ‘self-world.’ ” Hard as we may try, a dog’s-eye view is not immediately accessible to us, however, for we reside within our own umwelt, our own self-world bubble, which clouds our vision....


For the rest, click http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/books/review/Schine-t.html?em

For an excerpt from Horowitz's book, "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know" click on

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/books/excerpt-inside-of-a-dog.html?ref=review


 

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Very interesting! That would be a fun and enlightening read. The chickens made me sad though...
 

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I love the title. I assume it's taken from the Grouch Marx joke:

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I love the title. I assume it's taken from the Grouch Marx joke:
Could be, probably is -- I hadn't thought about that but it fits extremely well. :)

I think I'll order it from Amazon.

I'm hoping the author sheds some light on what I've noticed is an interesting visual perceptual ability of Puff (and I assume of "dogs").

From my time involved with comparative psychology, I know some animals have "feature detectors" in their sensory & neural anatomy -- unique qualities of the eye along with special brain areas that get excited that serve particular purposes; e.g., I remember some hawks have a structure inside their eyeballs that facilitate the identication of prey and I recall Jane Goodall's comments about male chimpanzees being ultra sensitive/aware to the reddening of a female chimp's labia (signaling "in heat", "receptive"), noticing, homing in on it, rushing to her even when she was a half mile (IIRC) away.

Puff shows a similar visual sensitivity.

I've often seen her staring, intently transfixed on a distant object. I look where she's looking, about 4-500 yards/360-450 meters away and see a man walking on a sidewalk trail. Curious about why that would be of so much interest to her -- since that would not usually attract her -- I look more closely and see there's tiny blob, maybe white, black, grey, keeping pace with him, probably a 6-8 lb. dog on a leash. I can only infer she recognizes something about the gait of this blob is that of a dog.

Somewhat similarly, I've noticed that when Puff is in the car waiting for me to return from shopping or from a visit someplace, or from a dance as like tonight when a lot of people were leaving at the same time, I can see her face looking out the front windshield scanning the people. When I come into her full view about 50 yards/45 m away, her posture suddenly changes and she starts wagging her tail, jumping about, moving around (in anticipation of our reunion, I suppose). This has happened so often that I'm extremely persuaded that she's somehow analyzed something about MY gait and/or posture that enables her to discriminate me from all the other people -- similarly as I suppose she does with the tiny speck of dog on the distant walkway.

 

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I look more closely and see there's tiny blob, maybe white, black, grey, keeping pace with him, probably a 6-8 lb. dog on a leash. I can only infer she recognizes something about the gait of this blob is that of a dog.
Or that she identifies it as a possible prey object (small fluffy creature = possible meal)

Sounds like an interesting book.. wonder how similar it is to McConnell's latest book about the emotional life of dogs
 

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Sounds like an interesting book.. wonder how similar it is to McConnell's latest book about the emotional life of dogs
Wow, she's come around to accepting that dogs have emotional lives, and aren't just little Skinner input-output boxes? How "postmodern" of her.
 

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Wow, she's come around to accepting that dogs have emotional lives, and aren't just little Skinner input-output boxes? How "postmodern" of her.
Holy snark batman. I take it you didn't read "For the Love of a Dog" then, yes?

Kaytris I was also wondering the same thing, not that I didn't enjoy McConnell's book (I'm reading it again right now), I just don't need an additional version.

Bob did you read "For the Love..." or Temple Grandin's new book, the title of which I can't remember and am too lazy to look for on Amazon...
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Or that she identifies it as a possible prey object (small fluffy creature = possible meal)
I doubt it -- Puff doesn't have that much of a prey drive to even go after squirrels or rabbits that we come across on our morning walks in the nature preserve. But she does have an intense visual interest in other dogs.

Wow, she's come around to accepting that dogs have emotional lives, and aren't just little Skinner input-output boxes? How "postmodern" of her
Nathan, I think Patricia McConnell accepts learning theory (as I do) but she sees (as I also do) room for species specific instincts, critical periods & imprinting, as well as mysteries yet to be solved.

What has she said that you'd put her as only in the BF Skinner mindset?

Bob did you read "For the Love..." or Temple Grandin's new book
Not yet -- they're on my to do list.

ETA: I just ordered "For the Love of a Dog" and "The Inside of a Dog"


 

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OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! I totally take it back. I read "McConnell," and my brain substituted "Donaldson" (as in "Jean"). That should teach me to post absent-mindedly while rebuilding my iTunes library by hand. (Stupid iTunes 9 "upgrade" . . . )

I *love* Patricia McConnell. I have more complicated feelings about Jean Donaldson and would be surprised to see her writing a book about the emotional life of anything. I haven't read "For the Love of a Dog" yet, but it's been on my nightstand, waiting.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! I totally take it back.....I totally love Patricia McConnell. I have more complicated feelings about Jean Donaldson.
It's been a while since I've read Jean Donaldson's "Culture Clash" but, IIRC, she uses only accepted scientific learning theory, not just BF Skinner's stuff. While her tone in that book is (IMO) a bit smart ass, it does take a variety of training tasks and gives a protocol for efficient training.

But on another note:

It looks as if dogs are coming in for a much deserved but too long delayed psychological research into their unique qualities and abilities.

In addition to Horowitz's book, read the following 4+ page article in TIME which mentions several research projects:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1921614-1,00.html


 

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Bob, please post a review when you read "Inside." Should be right about time for our Christmas lists, right? :)

I am going to include the link to the NY Times Review in our dog club newsletter, which I'm trying to hammer out very quickly this afternoon. Thanks for the material! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Bob, please post a review when you read "Inside." Should be right about time for our Christmas lists, right?
Will do. My hunch is that it'll be interesting but possibly biased by her own Umwelt of a dog's Umwelt. :) But I'll reserve judgment until after I read it.

You also might consider posting a review of Serpell's (editor) "The Domestic Dog."

I consider this to be the most important book on the nature of dogs currently available as it summarizes almost all research on dogs up to about 1995. I've been hoping (sigh), since I read it in 2002, that a new, revised edition would come out soon but it remains the most comprehensive, wonderful resource.

You might look it up in Amazon and read the reviews; 4 of us gave it a 5 star rating; one gave 4 stars. It IS a book for the serious student of dogs. If a person is at all doubtful, they might order it at their public library on interlibrary loan so they scan through its contents to judge how useful they find it.


 
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