Notes from a Park Slope Dog Walker: Review of How Dogs Think

This past month Time magazine released a special edition called How Dogs Think: Inside the Canine Mind. The issue is a compilation of 17 essays about the inner workings and patterns of dogs’ thoughts and how we as humans can have a more meaningful relationship with them. It’s a short, very fun read and highly recommended for every dog owner or lover.

The book is divided into two sections. The first half of the book, “A Dog’s Mind,” contains essays such as, “What the World Looks Like to a Dog,” and “What It’s Like to Be a Dog.” These essays reference several recent neuroimaging studies on dogs’ brains and how they respond to stimuli, both in their physical environment and human body language. Here, you learn how dogs’ decode human communication and how their mind responds accordingly. There’s also an essay that compares human neuroses with dog neuroses called, “The Plight of the Neurotic Dog,” which is a huge benefit to anyone with a dog with a nervous disorder. Further, the complexity and diversity of dog intelligence is covered in “Dogs at the Head of the Class.”

The second section of the book, “Dogs and Us,” explores the nuances of the dog/human relationship. For example, a rhetorical question is posed: if all dogs suddenly had to fend for themselves, which breeds would be more inclined to survive, and which ones would be utterly lost and hopeless without their human companions? It’s important to realize that all dog breeds are different in this context.

Later, this section of the book pays close attention to the role of dogs in helping combat veterans later in life, but does so unsentimentally. This section shows how the human/dog relationship is reciprocal and also very different depending on the breed of dog and human (who may not be as fond of dogs as others).

There is no singular “human/dog” relationship. It always varies. Dogs are as diverse as humans—they have different needs, wants and desires. Some like solitude, and some fear to be alone. In that sense, reading this book makes you feel even closer to dogs. They are as idiosyncratic, peculiar and fascinating as humans are. It’s also important, therefore, to love our dogs for who they are, not for who we wish them to be.