What the Dog Knows

what the dog knows

Cadaver dog training? Don’t make the same mistake I made — I was put off by the topic of this book and didn’t read it when it first came out (or even when I first got my copy). Once I started reading it, though, I was hooked. I breezed through it in a few days. Author Cat Warren does a wonderful job of weaving the history and technique of training scent dogs, and in particular cadaver dogs, into her story of training Solo, a German shepherd.

Like most of the books I love and recommend highly, this on puts heavy emphasis on the relationship between handler and dog. Warren is brave; she reveals her mistakes and failures as both the guardian of a high-energy puppy and as a novice trainer. She even admits to feeling overwhelmed by the intense, high-energy, demanding adolescent dog who shares her life, home, and hobby. We readers gain tremendously from her bravery, as these admissions both increase our understanding of how difficult cadaver training is and help us learn from someone else’s very understandable gaffes.

The book is rich with portraits of top cadaver dog trainers and handlers and with detailed descriptions of the training and the work. In her honesty and detail, Warren even mentions a great taboo among scent dog people: false alerts. They do happen. Her discussion of this raised a question in my mind about how deliberate the dogs are. I don’t know (yet) whether any formal studies have been done, but I am intrigued about whether the dogs are actually lying (intentionally alerting to get a reward) or whether they are simply unsure or scenting something that might be the target and responding because it seems to be what the handler wants or because they truly think they have identified the target scent. Look for more on this topic in an upcoming post .

Meanwhile, if you have any interest in scent dog training or cadaver dog training — or merely in a great dog-and-person story — read this book.


4 thoughts on “What the Dog Knows

  1. Until a few days ago, I was sure that dogs did not lie. However, our Standard Poodle, Aragorn, unexpectedly encountered a snake on a recent early morning walk around our yard. He may have even stepped on it. It certainly caused him to jump up with all four paws off the ground, and then spend quite awhile poking with one paw at the ground and jumping back, in case he found it. He was on high alert for the remainder of that walk, even in the fenced off part of the yard.

    About an hour later, he barked the “I really, really need to go outside for business purposes bark”. He has other barks for just checking out general conditions, squirrel alerts, or wanting to play. (Arry has been training his human family for a few years now, Mom is coming along, but is still a work in progress.) This was a total fake out. Once outside his sole focus was on resuming the snake patrol.
    Dedication to duty or prevarication?


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