What goes inside your dog’s mind?
D&P: Please tell us something about your book Inside Of A Dog.
Alexandra: This book is an attempt to use scientific results about dogs’ perceptual and cognitive capacities to imagine what the world looks like from a dog’s point of view: the dog’s perspective.
D&P: How did you conceive the idea of writing this book?
Alexandra: I study dog behaviour scientifically, and am also a dog owner. I found that the results of research scientists were performing were not being translated to the population of dog owners, and I thought it was high time that someone must do so. I was also interested in using some results of research in a creative way to answer the kinds of questions dog owners have about their pups – questions not explicitly asked by science, such as “Do dogs get bored?” “What does my dog know about me?” and so on.
D&P: What has been the response of the book so far?
Alexandra: The response has been very good, which is delightful. People here in the States seem very much interested in trying to understand what dogs know and understand – how they see the world.
D&P: What is the main aim of the book?
Alexandra: That is the aim: to begin to draw a picture of how the dog sees the world. By doing so, I think dog owners can start to forge a new relationship with their dogs: instead of anthropomorphizing (attributing human-like characteristics to their dogs), we can appreciate what dogs are really capable of. This, in turn, can lead to being less focussed on whether a dog is “misbehaving” and more interested in how to make the dog’s life a rich one.
D&P: Being a canine psychologist, please share a few things which every dog owner should keep in mind to keep their pooch happy?
Alexandra: Dogs are very responsive and attentive to human movement and behaviour. If we spent half as much time studying them as they do studying us, we would learn a lot.
D&P: How can a dog owner know his pooch needs attention?
Alexandra: Simply because dogs can sleep a lot doesn’t mean they don’t need attention or company. Dogs are social animals, and need lots of social time. Dogs have a lot of ways to tell you when they need attention: from barking, to walking restlessly near you, to putting their head on your lap, etc. Watch your dog, and see how he tries to get your attention – and reinforce the attention-getters you like.
D&P: How can we avoid behavioural problems in our pooches?
Alexandra: Spend a lot of time with your dog; form a good relationship early on, where the dog knows that you will be there for him; give him lots of exercise and care; allow him to interact with other dogs from early in his life.