Friday, September 23, 2022

Alexandra Horowitz's "The Year of the Puppy"

Alexandra Horowitz observes dogs for a living. Her research began more than two decades ago, studying dogs at play, and continues today at her Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. She is the author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and three other books: On Looking; Being a Dog; and Our Dogs, Ourselves. She lives with her family of Homo sapiens, Canis familiaris, and Felis catus in New York City.

Horowitz applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of The Year of the Puppy finds us eight weeks into the life of the litter of puppies from which our new pup -- our new family member -- will be chosen. We've followed the rambunctions of a litter of eleven mixed-breed pups, born of a dog surrendered at a shelter in Georgia when she was discovered to be pregnant, and fostered by a good samaritan and skilled pup-fosterer until the puppies are adopted. At week 8 of their lives, they are about to leave the natal nest and enter their new homes. Here I write about the science of this time of their life, developmentally, including their entrance into a second socialization period -- a time when they are maximally open to new people, sounds, smells, contexts:
All puppies are still approaching new people and dogs with confidence and a wagging tail--and that is why researchers believe this is the best time to place a pup into a human home. Mom has completed weaning and is probably highly irritated with her pups; they are getting more aggressive in their play with one another. They are cognitively quite advanced from their abilities two months ago....brain activity is already adult-like, organized completely differently than when they were neonates.
Raising a puppy is half chaos, half pleasure. My scientific memoir about raising a puppy is half description -- anecdotes of her life as a very young pup, her integration into our family, and her coming into herself -- and half the science (such that exists) of the stage of life that she's in. Insofar as page 99 is in the latter, scientific part, it represents at least some of the book. Had I written the book with the Page 99 Test in mind, I would have included much more about Quid, our puppy, or her siblings. These little furry sweet potatoes are the heart of the book, and the science is only there in service to interpretation about what they're doing, what's happening to their bodies and brains, and who they are.
Visit Alexandra Horowitz's website and the Dog Cognition Lab website.

The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.

The Page 99 Test: Our Dogs, Ourselves.

--Marshal Zeringue