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Review: What the Dog Knows

Book review – What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren

book review What the Dog KnowsNote: I received a free copy of the nonfiction book “What the Dog Knows: The science and wonder of working dogs” in exchange for a review on this blog. I’ve included Amazon affiliate links.

Cat Warren and her German shepherd dog Solo search for the dead.

What the Dog Knows is the story of their volunteer work together, and the training that goes into a cadaver dog. I learned so much about the dog’s nose – what it is capable of and what it is not. I learned about the rewards and challenges that come from working with any dog. Mostly, I enjoyed the writing itself.

I’m going to read this book again.

Warren, a professor and former journalist, could write about anything and it would sound beautiful.

Here’s an example:

People have asked me if Solo gets depressed when he finds someone dead. No. Solo’s work – and his fun – begins with someone’s ending. Nothing makes him happier than a romp in a swamp looking for someone who has been missing for a while.

The writing style reminded me of Ted Kerasote’s Pukka’s Promise and Jim Gorant’s The Lost Dogs – years of research, yet written like a novel.

I’m just not a fan of fluffy “rescued dog changes family’s life” type stories. I can’t get through them.

This book is real. It’s honest. It’s gruesome. It doesn’t play into the fantasy that working dogs are perfect. They’re not, and either are their handlers.

If you’re energized by working with dogs, and if you’re fascinated or even jealous of what certain trainers are capable of, this book is for you. And I think you German shepherd and bloodhound owners will be especially interested.

You might even read it twice.

From What the Dog Knows:

One of my German shepherd’s standard training materials is dirt harvested from sites where decomposing bodies rested. Crack open a Mason jar filled with that dirt, and all I smell is North Carolina woods – musky darkness with a hint of mildewed alder leaves. Solo smells the departed.

Order your copy of What the Dog Knows on Amazon.

What are some of your favorite books about working dogs or dogs in general?


Friday 18th of October 2013

Sounds like an interesting book. I've read one called Scent of the Missing which is about a dog that sniffs for people. It was very interesting. What the Dog Knows sounds interesting too.


Thursday 17th of October 2013

Thanks for the recommendation, always looking for a good dog read. It sounds very interesting. I second your view of Ted Kerasote's writing, I always learn so much. 'Merle's Door' is one of my all time favorites!