Adapted for middle-grade readers from the 2009 book of the same title, this book explores what scientists and researchers currently understand about the physical and behavioral makeup of dogs.
In chapters with loosely organized themes—“Seen by a Dog”; “Sniff”—and ornamented with black-and-white illustrations, Horowitz presents an overarching idea of what it means to be a dog. The material presented includes physiology (how a dog sees, why its sense of smell is so acute) as well as behavioral analyses: why does a dog urinate in so many different places? Can dogs smile? Do they get bored? Horowitz explains the dog’s wolf heritage and how domestication probably came about, then she segues into the result of that domestication—the human-dog bond, contributing personal notes about her own dog, Pumpernickel. Readers, especially those with dogs, will find the information fascinating. There are, however, problems with the delivery. The book’s loose organization, combined with Horowitz’s rambling narrative style, may try readers’ patience at times, and her occasional I-am-an-adult-talking-to-a-child tone isn’t necessary and, at worst, can come across as pandering or patronizing.
This exploration of what makes dogs behave as they do is comprehensive and interesting, but the presentation is both haphazard and off-putting. (glossary, notes, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)