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October 9, 2019

What the Dog Knows: Young Reader Edition by Cat Warren ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I typically shy away from books about animals as they often make me cry. As I had learned of this book in a science writers group I'm in, I figure it wouldn't really be sad since it was more about the science of scent and how dogs use the sense of smell. And I can tell you now that there isn't any sad stuff about the dog in this book. It is quite an interesting book, in fact.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

October 2019; Simon & Schuster; 978-1534428140
ebook, print (336 pages); nonfiction 
The subtitle to What the Dog Knows is Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World. Therefore, I was expecting a heavily science-based piece of nonfiction that would not be as technical as it would be for adult readers (given that this is the young reader edition). What I wasn't expecting was a memoir with science, history, geography, geology, law enforcement, and animal behavior thrown in. Once I shifted my expectation slightly, I thoroughly enjoyed Warren's journey training a German Shepherd cadaver dog.

Young Reader can encompass a large age range from children to middle grades and even into younger teens so I wasn't sure what age group it was targeting when I started the book. Even after reading the book, I still wasn't sure. According to the Amazon listing, the book is meant for grades 3rd - 7th (or ages 8 - 12).

It definitely didn't delve too deeply into the science, though as Warren points out scientists themselves still don't fully understand how a dog's sense of smell works. The level of information is appropriate for a middle grades book.

While I don't read much in the way of children's and middle grades literature, I usually know when I'm reading a book target at that age group because of the reading level of the text. In What a Dog Knows, I felt the reading level was higher than most books geared to children and middle grades. I thought it was more along the lines of a young adult book. So I think even teens will enjoy reading this book.

There was a variety of fascinating facts and information shared around the backdrop of Warren learning to train her dog to be a cadaver dog. She mentions other scent dogs, such as protective, tracking, and drug- and bomb-detecting dogs. If you have a kid that is interested in knowing what it takes to train a high-level working dog, then you should get them this book. She also looks at not only the science behind scent, but also research in this area. Like when they tried to train vultures to find cadavers or tried to make an enemy detection device using insects that sense blood.

She also delves into other areas surrounding training a cadaver dog, such as working with law enforcement. My niece is in the process of applying for college and the topic of our conversations often is about careers. I thought that this could be an interesting book to explore a career in forensic science, law enforcement, or animal training.

When Warren mentioned this book in the writers' group, my first thought was that this book would be of interest to parents who homeschool. After reading it, I'm confident this is true. I could see several lessons in various subjects that could be built around this book. A curriculum guide has also been created, which can be found at the Simon & Schuster website (it's under Resources & Downloads) along with other information about the book or you can get the pdf by clicking right here.

As a bonus, I think the book would be equally enjoyed by adults and kids. So why not make it a family read along?

Buy What the Dog Knows: Young Reader Edition at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. love the title and that cute face. looks like a fun read
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I really enjoyed it. Even more so than I thought I would.