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Our Dogs Ourselves by Alexandra Horowitz – A Review

Our Dogs Ourselves is the latest book from best-selling dog cognition author Alexandra Horowitz. This meandering book seeks to tell the story of the bond between human and dog.

Our Dogs Ourselves book cover

I love all of Horowitz’s books and greatly anticipated this one. The bonding of dogs is a topic near and dear to my heart as I’ve never lived a day without living with a dog.

I was surprised to find that this book was less grounded in research. Horowitz’s runs a dog cognition lab yet the majority of the book centers around controversial or semi-controversial topics.

The second longest chapter is about de-sexing dogs. Horowitz argues against flat out spay-neuter programs and makes some excellent points on this. It definitely makes the reader think. Should young animals be forced to have surgery? Does it really help to stop overpopulation? I can’t say I agree or disagree, but it is worthy of discussion.

Another lengthy chapter covers all the stuff we can buy our dogs. This of course is obvious to dog owners, but some of the historical tidbits were pretty interesting. Commercially available “dog stuff” is not a new thing and has a pretty lengthy past, harking back to Egyptian times at least.

The chapter I found best was on ownership. The law considers dogs to be the same as chairs: property. And this is disturbing to say the least. Anyone who lives with a dog knows they are not simply an accessory (maybe for some, but blah to them). But we also purchase them from a breeder or adopt from a shelter (for a fee). We may call ourselves guardians or even parents. But if someone steals them or hurts them, the law is pretty weak about it.

Advocating for this to change is important and I find Our Dogs, Ourselves makes a ton of excellent points on this. The one area that missed the mark here was in regard to service dogs. Police and military dogs are treated much differently than property. They are considered partners to K-9 officers. I’ve seen many full funerals for canines killed in the line of duty. And you wouldn’t hold a funeral for a chair.

Throughout the book you’ll find nuggets of wisdom. You’ll also find a great deal of humor in the section on what we say to our dogs. I always talk to my dogs, but after working with trainers understand they don’t understand the onslaught of language. Instead, they are experts at universal language, body language.

Of course, dogs understand words. But they use their senses collectively to move through the world as a dog. And the better we can understand them in this regard, the better we can live and bond with them.

Our Dogs, Ourselves is good but not great. It trends towards negativity too much and doesn’t flow well. There is an interlude of facts from the dog cognition lab that is thrown in haphazardly. More info and science from the lab would have made the book much stronger.

I still recommend both of Horowitz’s books: Inside of a Dog and Being a Dog. These are great in terms of learning about dogs and their behavior and work better at understanding the bond we have with dogs.