I have been noticeably absent from the blog lately, so instead of prolonging the silence I wanted to report that I will be taking somewhat of a blog staycation. I will still post, but with less frequency than previously and my posts will be smaller (quick little snippets of design, pet, products I love, etc…). So things may look and feel a little different!
I love cookbooks. I have more than I need; and I also score pretty food blogs for even more recipes. Between the cookbooks I have, the recipes I have printed and bookmarked I have way more recipes than I could possibly hope to make in my lifetime. However, that doesn’t stop me from finding more cookbooks and recipes and food blogs.
I just got Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook, The Kind Diet, which is Alicia’s approach to a vegan lifestyle. I am not a vegan, but I can appreciate the healthy recipes in Alicia’s book nonetheless. Some of the recipes I marked in the book are Barley Casserole, Hearty Pinto Bean Stew, Peach Crumble, Clean, Mean Burritos, and Quinoa with Basil and Pine Nuts. Alicia uses brown rice syrup as the sweetener in many of her recipes, and as I am trying to diversify from agave (I will still use it, but I want to vary my healthy sweeteners more) I am looking forward to trying brow rice syrup. Most recently, I have been using dates, date sugar, and stevia as switch ups for agave; I like all three of these sweeteners so far, but am willing to add yet another.
On Saturday, John was jonesing for chocolate, so I decided to whip up some chocolate cupcakes for him. I used Elana’s recipe for chocolate cupcakes that are make from coconut flour, and since I had just received and finished reviewing The Kid Diet, I made the chocolate frosting from the book – Fudge Frosting is what Alicia calls it. The cupcakes turned out absolutely delicious! Here is the recipe for the Fudge Frosting so you can make it yourself:
1/2 cup Earth Balance (I use the soy-free one)
1/2 cup agave
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup soy milk powder (I didn’t have any so I just left this out)
Use a mixer to cream the butter together with the agave in a mixing bowl until very smooth. Add the vanilla and half the cocoa, mix on a low speed to combine. Then add remaining cocoa powder and beat on a medium-high setting until fluffy. If it is runny, refrigerate the frosting until it sets up.
Alicia also has a website companion for the book, thekindlife.com, which is basically Alicia’s blog that covers food, health, house, style, and environment in relation to her lifestyle philosophy. I have not checked out he website in detail yet, so I cannot tell you much more.
I mentioned dog food in the title of this post because Alicia dog address it in her book! She points out the fact that “Conventional pet food is basically junk food, only worse: It’s chockfull of animal byproducts (intestines, bones, brains, and other lovelies), preservatives, chemicals, and fillers. Is it any wonder pets these days routinely die of nasty conditions like cancer and kidney failure?” (Silverstone 118) Sound familiar?
Alicia’s solution is to feed her pack Dr. Harvey’s organic dog food, along with L-carnitine and taurine supplements (because Dr. Harvey’s food doesn’t have them) and she also feeds her pack her leftovers. With Dr. Harvey’s dog food and the leftovers, her pups get a plant-based diet filled with healthy, organic grains, beans, and vegetables. Now I will admit that Alicia’s approach may not work for everyone; but I for one plan to try to incorporate my leftovers into Mocha’s diet more often: not all the time, mind you, just occasionally.
By the way, you can find all of Alicia’s posts on the kindlife.com regarding animals here.
I always love hearing from you all …. What is your favorite cookbook? Do you have The Kind Diet book? How do you like it? Where are you at with your dog’s diet and how/what you feed them?
Phew! I apologize for being MIA for a few days. I was in Phoenix, and on this trip I decided to severely limit my computer use, so I worked on my computer for only a couple of hours a day and on only most pressing matters. That resulted in my only getting one video (the “Pit Bull Blues” video) and one blog post up while I was there (about hypoallergenic dog breeds).
Mocha and I drove home from Phoenix today and now find ourselves comfortably nestled back home in Durango. I was excited to finish The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on audio book on the drive home. I had started to read it over a year ago and couldn’t get into it. Then, a friend of mine read it and gave it glowing reviews, urging me to pick it up again. I did, and then decided to finish it audibly on the drive home. Wow! I ended up loving this book! I had to do a little research this evening on Geurnsey; I had no idea this little channel island existed before reading this book. The book has a very intriguing plot with WWII, a little mystery, some love stories, a book club, and some lovable characters. I am definitely suggesting this title to my book club.
Once I got home from Phoenix and got all unpacked, I worked on finishing up a portrait of a Husky named Wolf while Mocha napped. I had started the portrait of Wolf before I left, and had to finish up the background. I still have a couple of last minute finishing touches, but the portrait is 99.9% finished, as you will see below. And, I hope to have a blog post up about Wolf sooner than later.
Now, I am going to try and relax the rest of the evening. With John gone (in China), I have a tendency to do nothing up sleep, eat, work, and run. How about a little reading time on the couch? That is what I am talking about.
If you haven’t caught the first three of my reports on Inside of a Dog, you can read them by clicking below:
In this report, I will finish up the rest of the book. We’ll take a look at the bond between man and canine and why it is so strong. Also, Horowitz will give us her perspective on what to do with your dog.
Horowitz believes there are certain characteristics that account for our bond with dogs; they are:
1. “Dogs are dinural.” They are awake when we are, and they sleep when we do.
2. “Dogs are a good size.” And, there are a good range of sizes among breeds to chose from to suit different people.
3. “Their bodies [are] familiar, with parts that match ours – eyes, belly, legs.”
4. “They move more or less the way we do.”
5. “They are manageable.”
6. “They are trainable.”
7. “They try to read us and they are readable.”
8. “They are resilient and they are reliable.”
9. “Their lifetime is in scale with ours.”
10. “They are compellingly cute.” *Perhaps, most important of all!
Horowitz goes into a little more detail on that last point of cuteness, elaborating to cite sources that say that as humans we are hard-wired to be attracted to exaggerated features. This attraction gives us an instinctual drive to care for infants and babies. She points out that dogs, with their big dark eyes, big floppy ears, and big wet noses also happen to fit into that exaggerated features category.
Horowitz ultimate answer for why humans and dogs bond so well, she admits is a non-answer; that is: “it’s simply in our nature to bond.” Since humans and dogs are both social animals, all those other characteristics just cement the compatibility. Humans and dogs both want to be touched; we both crave contact from other warm beings.
Horowitz also elaborates on the point of, “they move more or less the way we do”, to compare our movements with our dogs as a dance. It is a well-known pattern and sequence of movements and behaviors that your dog knows you perform and you know that he/she performs. You each know where you fit in with the others movements, and you execute them in a synchronized fashion: you dance. Because of this synchronization, this mutual understanding, we feel like we do things together with our dogs. We interact and engage each other. And as Horowitz points, betrayal can also be felt, when our dog disobeys a command of “come.”
Horowitz maintains that our bond with dogs is strengthened and renewed through our ritual reunions and greeting ceremonies; the specific scene that plays out when we are reunited with our dog after being apart from him/her. It is undeniable that when your dog is so utterly happy to see you, you cannot help but feel a sense of importance and you feel loved. As Horowitz points out, “A large component of our attachment to dogs is our enjoyment of being seen by them…They know about us, and are poignantly and indelibly attached to us.” (Author’s italics.)
How to Love a Dog
It is obvious that Horowitz is very dedicated to her dog, and in the last chapter she gives her guidelines for how to train, live with, and love a dog.
1. “Go for a Small Walk” – Take time to go on walks that are not dictated by a need to get somewhere in a certain amount of time. Take time for walks where your dog can simply smell, and where your route can be determined by his/her nose.
2. “Train Thoughtfully” – Rather self-explanatory, but perhaps not… “Teach your dog things you want in a way he can understand: be clear, consistent, and tell him when he has got it right.”
3. “Allow for His Dogness” – Let him roll in smells, walk off the leash when possible, don’t yank on his leash, let him smell other dogs’ behinds.
4. “Consider the Source” – Horowitz takes a few paragraphs to talk about how a dog’s breed influences his/her behavior. She points out that dogs who are bred herders may tend to try and herd you and your family sometimes. Pointers might be very attentive to motions in tall grass on walks. A bred dog can be frustrated when not given a task similar to what they were bred to do. This frustration can manifest itself in many ways, including what we consider “bad behavior”. “Give your dog a context to play out his innate tendencies”, Horowitz says.
5. “Give Him Something to Do” – Especially when left alone for long periods, leave things around for your dog to play with, interact with, and DO.
6. “Play with Him” – Play with your dog and challenge him or her to build new skills during your games. Sometimes, even act like a dog and play with him like a dog would.
7. “Look Again” – Take time to notice the little things that make your dog who he is.
8. “Spy on Him” – Rig a camera and find out what he does when you are not around. It may be boring and unenlightening, but you will know him better.
9. “Don’t Bathe Your Dog Everyday” – Dogs like to smell like a dog.
10. “Read the Dog’s Tells” – Learn to read your dog.
11. “Pet Friendly” – Not all dogs like to be petted nor do they all like to be petted in the same way. Be aware and try to learn how a particular dog wants to be approached; read his body language. My (Chloe) Tip: Let the dog smell you first; offer the back of your hand. Let him get your scent, then read his body language to see if he wants you to pet him or not.
12. “Get a Mutt” – Horowitz maintains that mixed breeds are healthier, mentally and physically than pure breds, and also live longer.
13. “Anthropomorphize with Umwelt in Mind” – “As we recast every moment of a dog’s life in human terms, we have begun to lose touch with the animal in them… In this way our frustrations with dogs often arise from our extreme anthropomorphizing, which neglects the very animalness of dogs.” In the same breath, Horowitz also says, “To name a dog is to begin to make him personal – and thus an anthropomorphizable creature. But we must. To name a dog is to assert an interest in understanding the nature of the dog; to not name the dog seems the pinnacle of disinterest… What one is doing when naming a dog is starting him on the personality that he will grow into.”
And, Horowitz final words: “Go look at your dog. Go to him! Imagine his umwlet – and let him change your own.”
Dogs truly enrich our lives, however the relationship is not one-sided. We should view as our presence in their lives as enriching their experience. Certainly, staying home 5 days a week for 9 hours a day is not enriching. When deciding whether or not to get a dog, honestly assess whether you can provide a healthy, happy home for a dog, that goes beyond a roof over his head and regular meals. Do you have the time to give the training, exercise, interaction, and affection that your dog truly needs? If not, maybe it is not time to have a dog. Also before you get a dog or if you have a dog, READ THIS BOOK, then you will be better equipped to understand your dog and truly communicate with him. I think the saddest thing is getting a dog just to have a dog. Man’s best friend spending 9+ hours a day alone in the house, kennel, or backyard is no best friend at all. A dog should be truly a part of the family and if he/she isn’t, then there is something wrong. Mocha is my first dog; I never have had a dog before her… but as soon as she was mine, I took on doing everything I could to be a good dog-mom. I give her exercise, I give her boundaries, I play with her, and I feed her good, healthy food (don’t get me started on dog food and the crap labeled “dog food” and “dog treats”). Love your dog like he/she deserves to be loved; there are too many dogs out there without loving homes.
I realize it has been quite some time since my last report, and I have been meaning to do the third report of Inside of a Dog for quite some time. Here is a recap in case you missed any of the previous posts about this book:
Good, hopefully you are all caught up and now I can move onto giving you a glimpse into inside of the dog mind, how they learn, how they understand concepts such as: passage of time, their age, the past and future, right and wrong, and more.
The Dog Mind
An important point Horowitz makes quite readily is that in experiments and tests dog may appear to be “dumber” than their wolf counterparts. However, she is quick to point out that this conclusion may be faulty in that dogs are not necessarily less intelligent than wolves, but they have learned to apply a tool to most tasks – and that tool is us!
And alas, most of what we ask dogs to learn is really rather arbitrary in the scheme of things as it does not ensure survival or well being.
Dogs watch other dogs and imitate behaviors, but this obviously does not translate into being able to watch us and imitate what we do. Dogs imitate other dogs not necessarily understanding the goal or outcome of what they are doing, but none the less, through imitating repeatedly what they learn to do might stick. And, in certain situations, dogs can see a demonstration of behavior as instruction on how to achieve a certain goal.
Playing between dogs actually serves the purpose to help dogs to “learn” good social interaction with other dogs. As Horowitz says, “Play also has all the attributes of a good social interaction: coordination, turn taking, and if necessary, self handicapping…” Horowitz believed playing was such an important aspect of dog behavior, she recorded, played back, and studied hours upon hours of recorded video of dogs playing. She was most interested in play signals and attention-getters. Play signals request play or advertise interest in playing, as well as, begin play and continue it. Horowitz maintains that they are not just a formality, but a requirement.
In her research,Horowitz broke down the play conversation to second-by-second increments and she came to the following conclusions about the dogs she observed:
- they always began play with a reliable play signal and they signaled to a dog who was looking at them
- if play paused, they always gave a play signal to the other dogs before resuming play, and they again gave this signal to a dog whose attention they had
Horowitz concluded from this that dogs intentionally communicate to a specific audience. Likewise, attention-getters are used for just that – to get the attention of some one (a dog), who they then want to engage in play.
All of this research on dogs social playing led Horowitz to believe that dogs have some sort of understanding of the dog mind in that they use some mediating element to communicate with other dogs. In summation, she says, “Does this mean that your dog is aware of and interested in what’s on your mind right now? No. Does it mean that he might realize that your behavior reflects what’s on your mind? Yes.”
Horowitz discusses several abstract concepts and explores whether or how dogs understand these concepts.
Time: Dogs experience time in a couple of ways; first, through a part of their brain that regulates wakefulness, hunger and sleep throughout the day. Secondly, through learning the routines of their people. It has not been tested whether dogs have a sense of a specific amount of time, although, it has been tested to show that other animals and insects do measure time.
Thinking about themselves: Self-awareness has often been tested by showing animals their reflection in a mirror. Dogs have varying reactions to their own reflection: they look at it with no reaction, they look at it as another animal/dog, or they use it to look at things around them (they see you). However, no tests have shown that they seem to see the image in the mirror as “that is me.” Conversely, it is implied that dogs have some sense of self such as in a situation where a large dog is playing with a small dog. Large dogs often know how to moderate their strength in playing with small dogs and therefor keep play going as opposed to hurting their smaller playmate. Horowitz conclusion?
“But dogs do act with knowledge of themselves, in contexts where such knowledge is useful. They respect the limits of their physical abilities, and will look pleadingly at you when you ask them to leap a too-high fence. A dog will hop discretely around a pile of his own defecation encountered on the ground: he recognizes the small as his.”
Past & Future: Dogs obviously remember things – they remember you upon your return home after being gone, they remember where they put toys, they remember favorite routes on walks, etc. Horowitz, however, is posing the question of whether or not dogs have “subjective experiences” of their own memories and think about “the events of his life reflexively, as his events in his life.” Unfortunately, she does not have an answer to her own question and laments:
“It is somewhat dispiriting to fins that our knowledge about a dog’s autobiographical sense has not advanced beyond Snoopy’s affirmation half a century ago, ‘Yesterday I was a dog. Today I am a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog.’ No experimental study has specifically tested the dog’s consideration of his own past or future.”
Right & Wrong: Dogs do not understand right and wrong, but they know when they are being reprimanded. Hence, the “guilty” look and the fearful and submissive behaviors that often accompany the look. “The dog does not know that he is guilty.”
Emergencies & Death: Dogs certainly, to some extent,have instincts to avoid “dangerous” behaviors. They withdraw from “high ledges, rushing rivers, or an animal with a predatory gleam in its eye.” As these aversions are instinctual, they do not require the dog to understand why it withdraws. Dogs also understand when they are hurt or injured and act different once they are. “They are aware of when they are damaged. Hurt or dying, dogs often make great efforts to move away from their families, canine or human, to settle down and perhaps die someplace safe.” In cases where dogs are heroes, saving some person for danger, Horowitz points out that in these situations dogs must often overcome their own instinct of self preservation and put themselves in danger to save a person. Furthermore, Horowitz asserts that although they are truly heroes in these situations they do not know they are. They do know “that something has happened to you, which makes them anxious. If they express that anxiety in a way that attracts other people – people with an understanding of emergencies- to the scene, or allows you leverage out of a hole in the ice, great.” Dogs do not naturally recognize or react to emergency situations, but can be trained to, as in the case of guide dogs. In the same breath, however, dogs know when an unusual situation occurs. They are so attuned to what is usual in the world they share with you, they are aware when something in that equation has changed. I am a believer that dogs also are attuned to their people’s emotions (even though they do not necessarily understand those emotions) and can sense when their person is sad, nervous, fearful, etc.
What is it like to be a dog?
Horowitz answers this with seven points, which she explains in detail. They are somewhat self-explanatory, so I will just list them:
1. It is close to the ground.
2. It is lickable.
3. It either fits in the mouth or it is too big for the mouth.
4. It is full of details.
5. It is in the moment.
6. It is fleeting and fast.
7. It is written all over their (the dogs’) faces.
That concludes this report. There are roughly 40 more pages to cover in the book, which I will most likely fit into one more report. We (you, me, and Horowitz) will explore the bond between man and dog and why it exists, and the implications and effects of that bond.
So, I didn’t win the “Haul”-day challenge, but I did take advantage of the 35% off coupon to get some of the books that were on my list, plus some postcard books that were not. I placed my order last week and cannot wait for it to arrive!
From my list, I ordered:
And, I ordered these postcards for hand written correspondence (including my new MOCHIE-ROO Snail Mail List – details coming SOON!):
There are still plenty of more books and postcards I want from Chronicle Books, but that assortment was perfect to get me started and with my 35% off coupon and free shipping, I saved about $80!!! Unfortunately, that coupon code expired on the 16th, BUT, I do have another Chronicle Books coupon code for you: with the coupon code “ANTHOLOGY” (as in Anthology Magazine), you will receive 25% off your order through Dec. 31, 2010.
RE: the mention above about a new MOCHIE-ROO Snail Mail List … I am starting a mailing list for good, old-fashioned written correspondence. I will periodically send out little notes through the mail to those on the list. Details about how to join the list will come soon so to be in-the know:
1. check back here on the blog, OR
2. sign up to receive all new MOCHIE-ROO blog posts below, OR
3. sign up to our email list
Chronicle Books, publisher of OH SO MANY amazing tomes, including the recently published and much talked about The Exquisite Book, is holding a holiday contest in honor of the new trend of fashionistas posting videos of their shopping hauls (i.e., major shopping sprees).
Bloggers, such as myself, are to post a list of Chronicle Books valued at up to $500 that they’d like to add to their shelves (not hard to do – I could easily post a $1,000 worth of Chronicle Books I want), and they’ll be automatically entered into a drawing to WIN that very list of books!
Here is the bonus – one of my readers who comments on this post will win my list too!
With this post I have submitted an entry. All you have to do is make a comment below and if I win – YOU WIN! I picked some GOOD books too; check it out:
My list is valued at $496.44! Now that’s a haul!
To find out about any of the books on my list, go to Chronicle Book’s website and type the title in the search box at the top of the page.
The contest ends on Friday, December 10th – so you have to post a comment by then. Winners are announced on Monday, December 13th. Since the 10th is my birthday, I figure that has to be good luck or something, right?
Now, let’s win this thing; leave a comment below … which books on my list would you want the most? Did I miss any that you’d add to a list?
And, Happy “Haul”-idays!
If you did not catch my first two posts about Inside of a Dog, you may want to check those out before reading this one. They covered:
This next report will cover the next three sections in Horowitz’ book which cover dog speech (or lack thereof), about dogs’ eyes and how they use what they see.
Horowitz quickly points out that although dogs lack the capacity for speech in the sense that humans speak, that fact should not be confused with the reality that dogs DO communicate – with each other, with us, and with other animals. Dogs are far from uncommunicative, as Horowitz asserts:
“Two human beings stroll through a park chatting…They do this primarily by making small, strange contortions of the shape of the cavities of their mouths, the placement of their tongues, by pushing air through the vocal tract and squeezing or widening their lips. Theirs is not the only communication going on. Over the course of a walk, the dogs by their sides may scold one another, confirm friendships, court each other, declare dominance, rebuff advances, claim ownership of a stick, or assert allegiance to their person. Dogs … have evolved innumerable, non-language-driven methods to communicate with one another.”
Wherein we communicate with those contortions, tongue movements, lip compressions, and air expulsions that Horowitz describes, dogs have an entire complex system of behaviors that communicates a message. Sometimes this communication may include noise (growl, bark, squeal, etc.) but more often it is simply movements and positioning of the body along with facial expressions.
Although sounds are only a very small part of dog communication, Horowitz still draws attention to the incredible diversity in size and shape of canine ears and lobes. She points out the well-known fact that dogs’ ears can hear things ours cannot. She informs us that:
“Our auditory range is from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz… We spend most of our time straining to understand sounds between 100 hertz and 1 kilohertz… Dogs hear most of what we hear and then some. They can detect sounds up to 45 kilohertz, much higher than the cells of our ears bother to bend to…. Even a typical room is pulsing with high frequencies, detectable by dogs constantly.”
Horowitz goes on to point out that our digital alarm clocks and compact fluorescent lights are two examples of household items that are silent to us (well, until that alarm sounds), but constantly make noise that dogs can hear.
Dogs’ sensitivity to sounds allows them to understand the prosody of language, the stress and tones we use when we shout, ask a question, or get excited. Horowitz concludes that this does not mean that they understand our language, however, our prosody allows them to infer our message. She points out:
“Dogs… respond with alacrity to baby talk- partially because it distinguishes speech that is directed at them from the rest of the continuous yammering above their heads. Moreover, they will come more easily to high-pitched and repeated call requests than those at a lower pitch…. High pitched sounds are naturally interesting to dogs… If your dog fails to your reasonable suggestion that he come right now, resist the urge to lower and sharpen your tone. It indicated your frame of mind- and the punishment that might ensue for his prior uncooperativeness.”
Horowitz goes on to explore the meaning of whimpers, growls, squeaks, and chuckles as well as discussing the moans and grunts, such as the “contentment grunts” we have all heard our companions make. Obviously all of these different sounds have different meanings , as they should, and also differ from the attention-getting barking. Often loud and perceived as annoying, the bark is regarded by researchers as having the primary purpose to get attention. Accurately so, according to Horowitz a normal conversation between two people is around 60 decibels but dog’s barks range from 70-130 decibels. Reference: 130 decibels is like thunderclaps and airplanes taking off.
Barks include “woofs”, “rufs”, “arfs”, “bow-wows”, as well as the French “ouah-ouah”, the Norwegian “voff-voff”, and the Italian “bau-bau.” Although all barks are attention-getting, as I mentioned, they are also sub-categorized by Horowitz as being stranger barks, isolation barks, and play barks – which are all self explanatory.
On to the next communicative tool dogs use – the TAIL. Horowitz points out that deciphering the language of the tail is made difficult by the sheer fact that so many different types of tails exist. However, much can still be inferred from the motionless but erect tail, the wildly thrashing tail, and the slow, languid tail. Likewise, scientists have found importance in the fact that dogs wag asymmetrically. Dogs tend to wag to the right more when they see their beloved and recognized person. When they encounter an unknown someone or dog, they tend to wag to the left more tentatively.
Horowitz also shares that research has concluded that:
“Comparing the Cavalier King Charles spaniel to the French bulldog to the Siberian huskey, there was a clear relationship between the breed appearance and the number of signals [that breed] used. Those animals that had been the most changed physically in domestication from wolves- the King Charles spaniels, at the extreme – sent the fewest signals… The huskies, which have the most wolf-like features and are genetically closer to [the wolf], do the most wolf-like signals.”
Horowitz ultimately concludes her section on dogs’ communication with her assertion that dogs communicate for a purpose and with intention, as well as just to communicate for communication’s sake.
You Lookin’ At Me?
Have you heard the supposed fact that dogs are color-blind? Turns out that is not true. We have three types of photoreceptors which are sensitive to red, blue, or green Dogs only have the blue and green type and fewer of those. This means dogs see blue and greens best and yellow, red, and orange not so well. As best that can be guessed, dogs see reds, oranges, and yellows as different levels of brightness; they see different amount of light that these colors reflect towards them. Horowitz gives the example that perhaps red might be a faint green color, yellow a slightly stronger green.
That said, dogs eyes gather more light than ours do. Dogs have almost no iris and large pupils. Futhermore, they have very little visible sclera (white). Due to a part of the dog’s eye called the tapetum lucidum, light hits the dog’s retina twice. This feature allows dogs to have better night and low-light vision we do and also accounts for their “glowing orbs” in photographs taken with flash.
And that said, dogs also have a better panoramic view than we do. We see 180 degrees; dogs see 250-270 degrees thanks to their eyes sitting more laterally on their heads.
Despite these differences it boils down to this: dogs can see what we can, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. They see a wide visual field well, but things up-close not as well. Dogs can focus in on our face, but they are better at reading full facial expressions as opposed to just reading your eyes. Dogs’ sight compliments their other senses. They hear something, turn their eyes in the direction it came from, and then get close to inspect it with their nose.
Also, in regards to dogs’ sight we must think in terms of the dogs umwelt. As Horowitz explains:
“Though our visual world overlaps, dogs attach different meanings to the objects seen. A Seeing Eye Dog must be taught the umwelt of the human: the objects that are important to the blind person, not those of interest to the dog….The guidedog must learn the significance of a speeding car, a mailbox, other people approaching, a doorknob.”
Ordinarily these things, cars, mailboxes, doorknobs, are unnecessary to dogs. I know Mocha is rather oblivious to cars, moving or parked. The only car she notices is mine when I direct her towards it and ask her to jump in the back. Beyond that, if we look at it from Horowitz’ perspective, cars are just large obstacles to navigate around; they only enter the dogs umwelt if there is a good scent on a tire (and then it is only the tire that is of interest) or if they are being told to get in one (and then attention is only given to clearance required to jump in).
Horowitz also makes the argument that dogs “see” more than us. She says that being such visual creatures we miss many things that dogs process thanks to their other senses that they rely on so much. Horowitz says this is demonstrated by the familiar walk to the park. You and your dog may walk the exact route every time, but the dog never stops sniffing, listening, smelling, seeing and even tasting things along the way.
After learning how dogs see, researchers and Horowitz turn their attention to what dogs see and how they understand what they see. This study includes looking at mutual gaze, gaze following, attention-getting, and manipulating attention. Mutual gaze is exactly what it sounds like – you gaze at someone and they gaze back; eye contact is established and held. Horowitz explores the meaning of the mutual gaze and how that meaning changes among different species, yet points out that “most dog owners will report that their dogs gaze at them directly in the eyes.” She follows this with a footnote:
“One could make the argument that this behavior was reinforced because of the survival value of looking at humans. As with infants, an adult face will hold much information, not the least of which could be where the next meal is coming from. The early-twentieth-century ethologist Niko Tinbergen similarly found that baby gulls have a strong attraction to the red-dotted beaks of adult gulls (and to any stick with a red dot placed on it by an ethologist, too).”
Among wolves mutual gaze invites aggression, however, dogs obviously gaze at us so they must have learned this threat does not exist between them and their human. I would point out however, that I can tell a difference between when Mocha looks into my eyes to gain information and when I hold her chin and force her to gaze into my eyes. The latter is difficult to get her to hold, perhaps because she is aware she is not doing to gain information and therefor it feels like an act of dominance. Horowitz says:
” The primal pull of gaze still affects dogs’ behavior. If you stare unblinkingly at your dog, he may look away. Approached by a dog who appears overly aggressive or overly interested, a dog can diffuse some of that excitement by glancing to the side. Your chastisement or accusation of your dog accompanied by a glare may also provoke a demure averral of the dog’s gaze….The refusal ro look at us in the eyes contributes to a look of guilt- especially when we are already certain they have done something to inspire it…
But the fact that dogs will look us in the eyes allows us to treat them as a little more human… We want dogs to look at us when we talk to them… There is more direct eye contact among humans speaking intimately or honestly, and we tend to extend that conversational dynamic to our dogs.”
Gaze following is simple – if you are looking at something, your dog may follow your line of sight to see what you are looking at. It seems dogs have not only learned to glean information from our pointing but by following our gaze as well.
Dogs use attention-getting similarly to children as a way to capture your attention. They do this by nudging you, stepping into your line of vision, etc. They use attention-getting with other dogs as well.
Horowitz describes manipulating attention as, “dogs use the attention of others as information, both to get something they want and, more remarkably to determine when they can get away with something.” Dogs are cognizant of when we can “see” what they are doing and when we cannot; thus the dog who would never come near your plate of food might be inclined to steal a bite when you are out of the room. More interestingly, in experiments where people were blindfolded, there were similar results leading to the conclusion that dogs understand on some level that it is our eyes that see. Experiments also show that you cannot simply trick your dog into thinking you are watching him by rigging a speaker or video with your voice or image. In this experiment using a life-sized video, the dog would use the image’s pointing to assist him in finding a hidden treat, but that same dog did not follow other verbal commands.
I feel like all of this studying of dogs brings us no closer to truly understanding them. Some of our common-sense inclinations about dogs are confirmed, some are still left cloudy, and only a few new things are gleaned. And, when it is all said and done, this information does not change what wonderful companions dogs make.
Next up… Inside of the dog mind, how they learn, how they understand concepts such as passage of time, their age, the past and future, right and wrong, and much more…
As I mentioned, I am reading Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog. I am thoroughly enjoying it and have decided to share some of what I am reading on my blog through a series of “book reports”. Here starts the first book report on Inside of a Dog.
Think Like a Dog
Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog starts by proposing that to properly and most accurately understand a dog, we must take a step back and forget what we think we know about dogs, scientific knowledge or not. This purposeful clean slate should include clearing all anthropomorphisms and put us in the frame of mind to think like dog. Horowitz introduces the concept of unwlet (pronounced OOM-velt), a method of study first proposed by German biologist Jakob von Uexkull in the early 20th century. Umwelt is the concept where anyone who wants to understand the life of an animal must first consider their unwelt, or their subjective “self-world” and point-of-view.
Horowitz uses an example about a deer tick to illustrate the concept of unwelt, but I find her explanation about some one assuming their dog dislikes rain and therefor putting a coat on them more helpful. She says:
“Many owners who dress their dogs in coats have the best intentions: they have noticed perhaps, that their dog avoids going outside when it rains. It is reasonable to extrapolate from that observation to the conclusion that he dislikes the rain.
He dislikes the rain. What is meant by that? It is that he must dislike getting the rain on his body, the way many of us do. But is that a sound leap? … Is he excited and wagging when you get the raincoat out? That seems to support the leap… or, instead , the conclusion that he realizes that the appearance of the raincoat predicts a long-awaited walk. … Does he flee from the coat? Undermines the leap – though does not discredit it outright.
Here the natural behavior of related, wild canines proves the most informative about what the dog might think about a raincoat. Both dogs and wolves have, clearly, their own coats permanently affixed. … when it rains, wolves may seek shelter but they do not cover themselves with natural materials… And besides being a jacket, the raincoat is also one distinctive thing: a close, even-pressing, covering of the back, chest, and sometimes the head. There are occasions when wolves get pressed upon the back or head: it is when they are being dominated by another wolf… The raincoat might well produce that feeling. So the principle experience of wearing a coat is not the experience of feeling protected from wetness; rather, the coat produces the discomforting feeling that someone higher ranking than you is nearby.
This interpretation is borne out by most dogs’ behavior when getting put into a raincoat: they may “freeze” in place as they are being dominated. … The be-jacketed dog may cooperate in going out, not because he has shown he likes the coat; it is because he has been subdued. And he will wind up being less wet, but it is we who care about planning for that, not the dog.”
In this passage, Horowitz illustrates how misguided our assumptions can be when we make them from our own umwelt (we do not like getting wet) instead of the canine’s umwelt (having something press upon your body simulates being dominated). This raincoat story helped me to understand how different the dog’s point-of-view is, going beyond a dislike of being wet (which a dog may dislike, but that assumption comes more from a human experience).
I have experienced this “raincoat effect” with Mocha who, when I put a towel over her after a shower and dry her off, stands perfectly still. I had always found this adorable and assumed from my umwelt that she wanted to hold still so that she could get dried off efficiently and because she might be cold when wet. Obviously, the case is more likely that she is subdued as I am recreating that same experience of being dominated.
Horowitz spends some time on the umwelt as it is the starting point from which the reader must read the rest of the book. From the theory of umwelt, Horowitz moves on to canine senses, how they smell, speak, see, and think. Appropriately she starts with the dogs’ sense of smell as this is the dogs’ primary sense of experiencing the world; then comes hearing, taste, and sight. Obviously, umwelt comes into play here because to understand dogs we must first take a step back from OUR primary way of experiencing the world around us – sight – and try to instead switch to the canine senses.
SNIFF…SNIFF … Sniff sniff
Dogs have a vomeronasal nose. They have a specialized sac between nose and mouth (above the hard palette and below the nasal floor), which is covered with receptor sites covered in cilia (tiny hairs) for molecules. This vomeronasal organ allows dogs to take in and process more scent molecules than our noses could ever dream of; it allows dogs to smell us on objects we’ve touched or along a pathway we previously walked. In this way, Horowitz says dogs “see us in the cloud of molecules we leave behind.”
Horowitz explains how dogs sniff:
Few have looked closely at exactly what happens in a sniff. But recently some researchers have used a specialized photographic method that shows air flow in order to detect when, and how, dogs are sniffing. They have found that the sniff is nothing to be sniffed at. In fact one could make the case that it is neither a single nor a simple inhalation. The sniff begins with muscles in the nostrils straining to draw a current of air into them–this allows a large amount of any air-based odorant to enter the nose. At the same time, the air already in the nose has to be displaced. Again, the nostrils quiver slightly to push the present air deeper into the nose, or off through slits in the side of the nose and backward, out the nose and out of the way. In this way, inhaled odors don’t need to jostle with the air already in the nose for access to the lining of the nose. Here’s why this is particularly special: the photography also reveals that the slight wind generated by the exhale in fact helps to pull more of the new scent in, by creating a current of air over it.
This action is markedly different from human sniffing, with our clumsy “in through one nostril hole, out through the same hole” method. If we want to get a good smell of something, we have to sniff-hyperventilate, inhaling repeatedly without strongly exhaling. Dogs naturally create tiny wind currents in exhalations which hurry the inhalations in. So for dogs, the sniff includes an exhaled component that helps the sniffer smell. This is visible: watch for a small puff of dust rising up from the ground as a dog investigates it with his nose.“
As you may know, dogs operate with olfactory recognition in identifying people and they find it remarkably easy to do so, just as we recognize people visually. However, dogs compliment their olfactory recognition of people with their other senses. They recognize the distinct smell of their person, and that is confirmed by also seeing the person and hearing their voice. Sometimes we may come home not smelling like ourselves, and our dogs rely on their other senses to put together the conclusion of who it is that has just entered. I have walked in the front door to Mocha standing stock still about 30 feet away. I can tell she does not recognize me immediately until she can put all the pieces together, “That kind of smells like Chloe. Hmmm, okay, I can now see that it looks like Chloe. Oh! And, she just called my name – IT IS CHLOE! YAY!” It is almost as if I can watch that whole pattern of recognition happen. It all starts with the sniff, however. Mocha searches for me around the house not by LOOKING for me, but by walking around, nose to the ground sniffing me out. Once she finds me, it is only then that her head comes up for the obligatory lovie pet on the head.
Dogs learn about each other through scent as well. Horowitz argues that urine marking is less of a territorial staking and more of an on-going communication. She says:
“Since odor is so conspicuous to a dog, it gets great use socially. While we humans leave our scents behind inadvertantly, dogs are not only advertant, they are profligate with their scents. … All canids – wild and domestic dogs and their relations – leave urine conspicuously splashed on all manner of object. Urine marking, as this method of communication is called, conveys a message – but it is more like note-leaving than a conversation. The message is left by one dog’s rear end for retrieval by another’s front end. … Dogs’ bladders – sacs that serve no known purpose except as a holding pen for urine – allow for release of just a little urine at a time, allowing them to mark repeatedly and often.
…The prevailing myth is that the message is ‘this is mine’: that dogs urinate to ‘mark territory.’ This idea was introduced by the great early-twentieth-century ethologist Konrad Lorenz. He formed a reasonable hypothesis: urine is the dog’s colonial flag. But research in the fifty years since he proposed that theory has failed to bear that out as the exclusive, or even predominant, use of urine marking.
…The ‘territory’ notion is also belied by the simple fact that few dogs urinate around the interior corners of the house or apartment where they live. Instead, marking seems to leave information about who the unrinator is, how often he walks by this spot in the neighborhood, his recent victories, and his interest in mating. In this way, the invisible pile of scents on the hydrant becomes a community center bulletin board, with old deteriorating announcements peeking out from underneath more recent posts of activities and successes. Those who visit more frequently end up being on top of the heap: a natural hierarchy is thus revealed. But the old messages still get read, and they still have information – one element of which is simply their age.”
Horowitz mentions sitting outside with her dog, Pump. Pump is motionless (in what I call the sphynx position) except for her nostrils. I personally love to watch Mocha lay outside and do this watching with her nose, which is tilted slightly upwards. I like to give Mocha time to do this sniffing and Horowitz does the same with her pooch.
Horowitz admits, and I will too, that “understanding the importance of odor in a dog’s world has changed the way I thought about Pum’s [Mocha's] merry greeting of a visitor in my house heading directly for his groin. The genitals, along with the mouth [where Mocha heads to] and the armpits, are truly good sources of information To disallow this greeting is tantamount to blindfolding yourself when you open the door to a stranger.” That said, I also feel there is a balance in not letting Mocha rush the door and the person on the other side of it as I open it. Instead, I allow Mocha her introductions, but I allow the person at the door to first see that there is a chocolate girl who would like to come give them a sniff.
Although Horowitz does a little bashing on the “pack training” style that is espoused by those such as Cesar Milan, I can see one aspect on which they both undoubtedly agree: the dog’s sense of smell is of the utmost importance for them in meeting some one (dog or person) new.
That concludes my first installment/book report on Inside of a Dog. The next few chapters deal with dogs speech (whimper, growls, shouts, squeaks, and chuckles) and sight. I will share highlights from those sections in another installment once I have synthesized them myself. Also still ahead, sections of the book that talk about how dogs read our eyes and facial expressions and the intelligence of a dog.
When I was in Phoenix last week my sister gave me a new book to read – Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. The synopsis read:
I was instantly intrigued and I from this synopsis, I liked the sound of Inside of a Dog much better than a book I read a couple months ago that was of similar subject matter.
In Phoenix and over the weekend, I got the opportunity to dive in and make some headway on my new book. I am about half way through and it is fantastic! So many of Alexandra’s stories about her experience with her dog, Pump, I can readily relate to as they are similar to interactions I have with my Mocha. Furthermore, she gives scientific background and knowledge to explain dog behavior. Whereas I knew Mocha is adorable and I can appreciate all the cute things she does, Alexandra provides the scientific “why” to these dog behaviors. I certainly love Mocha, scientific explanations or not, but I am the type of person who benefits from the hard evidence to compliment my own first-hand, subjective observations.
I have read so much interesting material so far in the book that I have decided to turn what I have learned into a blog feature … a MOCHIE-ROO book report, if you will. I will summarize sections I find interesting as well as include text directly from the book and share all of that here on my blog. All of this will be under a new blog category: “Book Reports”.
In the meantime, while I work on the first installment, I recommend checking out Erin Vey’s website. Erin Vey is the photographer who shot the photo on the front cover of Inside of a Dog. I instantly loved the cover shot which is of an old Great Dane, so it was a natural next step for me to look up the photographer and learn more about her. Doing so, I found out that Erin Vey’s Great Dane, Gracie, is the gal featured on the cover of Inside of a Dog and that Erin specializes in “lifestyle dog photography” and I LOVE her style. I have been skimming and browsing her blog, as well as her online professional print store (The Barkives) where she sells prints of her dog photos. I really like that her Barkives are cataloged by dog breed for easy viewing. Now, I just need to have her photograph MOCHA when she is back from maternity leave. Oh, and I absolutely ADORE Erin’s logo:
So enjoy Erin’s website, and I will be in touch very soon with my first installment of a Book Report on Inside of a Dog.