What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World (Paperback)
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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.
About the Author
Cat Warren is a professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and creative nonfiction courses. Before starting her academic career, Warren worked for newspapers across the United States, reporting on crime, poverty, and politics, from California to Wyoming to Connecticut. Warren started training her young German shepherd, Solo, as a cadaver dog in 2004. She and Solo were called to search for the missing across North Carolina for a number of years. She lives in downtown Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, David Auerbach, a retired professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University, and their two German shepherds. Visit CatWarren.com.
"What the Dog Knows is a fascinating, deeply reported journey into scent, death, forensics and the amazing things dogs can do with their noses: sniffing out graves, truffles, bedbugs, maybe even cancer. But it's also a moving story of how one woman transformed her troubled dog into a loving companion and an asset to society, all while stumbling on the beauty of life in their searches for death."
— Rebecca Skloot, New York Times Book Review
"A former journalist, the author possesses a keen sense of detail and pacing that informs, entertains, and quickly draws readers into her life and work with Solo."
— Library Journal
“Warren writes . . . with the research-forward focus of an academic and the sweat-and-scabs storytelling of someone who has lived in the field. What the Dog Knows is an incredibly poignant book about dogs and people and how the lost can become found again.”
— Indy Week
“Warren writes with verve and provides rare insight into our working partnership with canines.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“What the Dog Knows has so much to offer to handlers, trainers, and dog people in general. A full reporting of the stories here would rob you of the roller-coaster of emotions that Cat and Solo experience, and I want you to experience them for yourself. Warren is obviously a very skilled and entertaining writer, while never writing down to anyone from a high post. You will truly like Cat Warren as she reveals herself in the book, and you’ll feel her pride in her partner ‘Solo.’”
— German Shepherd Adventures
“A meaty, fascinating tour of not only what led humans to train dogs to sniff drugs, bombs and dead bodies, but also the science behind why dogs can be good at these tasks.”
— Raleigh News & Observer
“The author doesn't just talk about her experience. She explains the training and science labs. She explains what other trainers and handlers do. The reader will read about animal psychologists, forensic anthropologists, breeders and scent researchers. It's all explained in an easy-to-read yet detailed narrative. This is a fascinating book for dog lovers and for those who want to know more about how dogs help us each and every day.”
“Warren highlights the profound partnership developed between humans and dogs during their intense, but positive training, and in real situations. We are with her as she starts training her dog, and throughout the mistakes, triumphs, struggles, and rewards. I was entertained and educated—much of what I learned about dogs I had never encountered in any other book. …The people and dogs who inhabit this world are unforgettable.”
— Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl
“Working dogs, be they search and rescue, cadaver or explosive detection specialists, are—like their human partners—a breed apart. They inhabit a world of complete commitment, utter dedication, and extraordinarily rigorous training. What the Dog Knows is greatly enriched by author Cat Warren’s own love of digging. She and Solo take us on some fascinating detours through history and phony-baloney claims en route to the science, wonder and awe that all rightly surround dogs’ noses.”
— Sue Russell, author of Lethal Intent and The Illustrated Courtroom
“What the Dog Knows is first the story of the relationship between a hard-working cadaver dog and his human companion. But that deeply felt relationship opens the way to an exploration of the working dog world and in doing so becomes something more—a realization of the intelligence, determination, and decency of these animals, a story both wonderful and wise.”
— Deborah Blum, author of Love at Goon Park and The Poisoner’s Handbook
“In a series of accounts that sometimes read like detective stories, Cat Warren … takes us through the steps needed to create dogs that search for people—both living and dead—while describing her life and her special bond with a German shepherd named Solo.”
— Stanley Coren, author of Born to Bark and Do Dogs Dream?
“The capabilities of these specially trained working dogs are remarkable. The author provides fascinating insider information about a meaningful partnership that has important legal and personal consequences.”
— Amy Hempel, author of Reasons to Live and The Dog of the Marriage
“Cat Warren has captured both the magic and the best science behind the success of the modern working dog. This book masterfully shows how even the best technology cannot compete with our best friends. If you have ever wondered what dogs are truly capable of this is the book for you.”
— Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and author of The Genius of Dogs
“It doesn't take a dog-lover (such as myself) to appreciate Cat Warren's remarkable What the Dog Knows. Prepare to be enthralled and enlightened by this story of Solo and his mistress whose clear, lively, personal and intelligent writing will nail you from page one. It's a toss-up as to who is more fascinating--the dog people or the dogs themselves--in this wonderful and altogether unique book.”
— Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls
“What the Dog Knows is a fascinating exploration into the minds and characters of some very special dogs. No one who cares about dogs should miss this smart, funny, and at times surprisingly moving book.”
— Spencer Quinn, author of Dog on It
“Enter the fascinating world of working dogs.”
— Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human
“A beautifully written, fascinating, heartwarming, and oft-hilarious homage to working dogs. A must-read for anyone who wants to know more about four-legged working heroes. I'd like to shake Solo's paw for inspiring Cat Warren to write it.”
— Maria Goodavage, author of Soldier Dogs
“Move over CSI, and make way for Cat Warren and her forensic dog Solo to grab and keep your attention. What the Dog Knows is beautifully and compelling written—not only could I not put it down, I didn't want to.”
— Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, CAAB, author of The Other End of the Leash
“Warren’s painstaking research on the history and science of working dogs debunks myths and explains what is known--and how much remains unknown--about canine abilities and behavior. By combining this hard information with anecdotes about training Solo, accounts of searching the North Carolina woods for dead bodies, and the stories of other trainers and their dogs, she has produced a book that is both informative and entertaining. Although her love for Solo is palpable, she remains analytical and clear-headed, never romanticizing what he or other working dogs do.”
— Bruce DeSilva, author of the Mulligan crime novels
“A gifted story-teller, Cat Warren takes us on a fast-paced journey into the scents—some foul, some sweet, some softer than a breeze—of police detective work. This is a book for anyone who loves dogs, and has watched them catch a scent on the wind or in the leaves on the ground, and wondered about that brilliant organ they possess: the nose.”
— Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise
"Just finished What the Dog Knows, Cat Warren's wonderful new book about the training of her cadaver dog, Solo. This is a real treat for serious dog people: informative, compelling, moving, sad, funny, the works. I loved it."
— Carol Lea Benjamin, author of Dog Smart: The Art of Training Your Dog
“Fantastic … Should be mandatory reading for any police dog handler or trainer.”
— Andrew C. Revering, Chief of Police, Ret., Anoka, Minnesota Police Department
"More than a fascinating, inspiring look into the world of dogs and how dogs learn, What the Dog Knows illuminates--and celebrates!--the special bond we share with dogs. If you have ever loved a dog, you must read this book. I loved it!"
— Robert Crais, author of Suspect
“Delving into the history of working dogs, Warren mixes personal memoir with historical fact to present a fascinating and comprehensive work.”
— Best Friends Magazine
“Warren teaches science journalism at North Carolina State University and has strong investigative and storytelling skills, which makes the book all the more enthralling and engaging. This book offers new avenues to learn about the cognitive and emotional lives of one’s own dogs, and is highly recommended by this reviewer.”
“It’s a lively read, rich with details on the exhausting and rewarding process of training a working dog, but in the end, you realize that the process is really about bonding in a way that transcends — or perhaps sidesteps knowing.”
— Natural History
“ 'People are smart, just like dogs.’ Seriously, how do you not like a book that contains that line? . . . Warren was a journalist, is now a professor, and knows her way around a sentence. She clearly cares about the subject and has invested a lot of time and effort into getting to know it, her style is engaging and charming(I was chuckling within a couple of pages), and she doesn’t mind showing her own failings and weaknesses. . . . Fascinating, entertaining, and educational —can’t ask for much more than that.”
— The Irresponsible Reader blog
“A combination of memoir, history, and science that is so very readable that it’s like sitting down for a cup of coffee and a conversation with the author.”
— Cape Cod Times