What the Dog Knows

What the Dog Knows

The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs

Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo’s unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.

Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bomb-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs—even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. Working dogs’ abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.

Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, she discovers story after story that proves the impressive capabilities—as well as the very real limits—of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451667318 | 
  • October 2013
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Cat Warren's WHAT THE DOG KNOWS

Author Cat Warren uses her ongoing work with her German Shepherd Solo, a cadaver dog, as a way to explore the science and history of working dogs.

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What the Dog Knows Introduction
I’ve grown more comfortable working with the dead. With parts of them, really. A few teeth, a vertebra, a piece of carpet that lay underneath a body. One of my German shepherd’s standard training materials is dirt harvested from sites where decomposing bodies rested. Crack open a Mason jar filled with that dirt, and all I smell is North Carolina woods—musky darkness with a hint of mildewed alder leaves. Solo smells the departed.

Solo is a cadaver dog. I occasionally get... see more

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About the Author

Cat Warren
© Lissa Gotwals

Cat Warren

Cat Warren is an associate professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and reporting courses. She lives with her husband and her German shepherds, Solo and Coda, in Durham, North Carolina. Visit CatWarren.com.

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