The Pequod Review:
Inside of a Dog is a review of the cognitive processes of dogs — what it feels like to be a dog and how the world appears from a dog's point of view. Alexandra Horowitz's analysis is too high-level, but includes occasionally interesting facts and anecdotes:
The tissue of the inside of the nose is entirely blanketed with tiny receptor sites, each with soldiers of hairs to help catch molecules of certain shapes and pin them down. Human noses have about six million of these sensory receptor sites; sheepdog noses, over two hundred million; beagle noses, over three hundred million. Dogs have more genes committed to coding olfactory cells, more cells, and more kinds of cells, able to detect more kinds of smells. The difference in the smell experience is exponential.
Dogs also have a higher flicker-fusion rate than humans do: seventy or even eighty cycles per second. This provides an indication why dogs have not taken up a particular foible of persons: our constant gawking at the television screen. Like film, the image on your (non-digital) TV is really a sequence of still shots sent quickly enough to fool our eyes into seeing a continuous stream. But it’s not fast enough for dog vision. They see the individual frames and the dark space between them too, as though stroboscopically.
By standard intelligence texts, the dogs have failed at the puzzle. I believe, by contrast that they have succeeded magnificently. They have applied a novel tool to the task. We are that tool. Dogs have learned this--and they see us as fine general-purpose tools, too: useful for protection, acquiring food, providing companionship. We solve the puzzles of closed doors and empty water dishes. In the folk psychology of dogs, we humans are brilliant enough to extract hopelessly tangled leashes from around trees; we can conjure up an endless bounty of foodstuffs and things to chew. How savvy we are in dogs' eyes! It's a clever strategy to turn to us after all. The question of the cognitive abilities of dogs is thereby transformed; dogs are terrific at using humans to solve problems, but not as good at solving problems when we're not around.