Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, scientist, professor, dog behaviorist, author of “Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond”

by | Sep 18, 2019

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz—a professor at Barnard College, where she heads the Dog Cognition Lab, a behaviorist, and bestselling author of multiple books on dogs, most recently, “Our Dog, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond”—acknowledges the homage to 1970’s “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in the title of her book, and the reasons behind it. Using her chapter “Things People Say to Their Dogs” (one of two chapters excerpted recently in The New York Times) as a jumping off point, Horowitz addresses what she’s observed in unscientific eavesdropping on what humans say to their dogs, mostly on the streets of New York City, usually as she’s walking her dogs, Finnegan and Upton. As a scientist, Horowitz speaks from a research standpoint about the practice of naming—or not naming—animals as part of a research endeavor, noting that Jane Goodall named the chimps she was studying because she simply didn’t know any better, didn’t realize that scientific protocol has long prohibited that practice over concerns that it spurs anthropomorphizing the studied animals. She went on to point out that there are exceptions, including at the Dog Cognition Lab she oversees at Barnard College, where dogs participating arrive already named–but Horowitz and her Lab colleagues are careful not to use those names. She reviews her chapter about breeding (her feelings about which, I suggest, she may have tipped her hand with the title “The Trouble With Breeds”), elaborating on breeding for certain traits, such as a flat face versus the more natural long face—and how this can yield significant downsides, like many French bulldogs and others who struggle mightily to breathe without undergoing a surgical procedure to ease the obstruction attendant to the flat face. Horowitz discusses the chapter entitled “Against Sex” (also excerpted in The New York Times, bearing the headline “Dogs Are Not Here For Our Convenience”), a provocative treatise raising jarring questions about the virtue of spaying and neutering. She does not present herself as a spay-neuter foe, but is instead pondering what’s become an accepted convention, often for young dogs and cats, in shelters and elsewhere, given that a host of medical problems that can result, according to Dr. Benjamin Hart, professor emeritus and researcher at the UC Davis Veterinary school, as well as findings of a correlation between spay-neuter and cancer in Golden Retrievers, causing obesity in some other dogs, amidst other concerns. (https://alexandrahorowitz.net, https://psychology.barnard.edu/profiles/alexandra-horowitz)


ALSO: I spoke with Janet Stanley, of The Franciscan Center, a private retreat house in Tampa sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. She describes what the Franciscan Center has organized for its 27th annual Blessing Of The Animals—“All Creatures Great and Small”–celebrating World Animal Day, on Oct. 4, 4pm-8pm, at the Center, 3010 N. Perry Ave., Tampa FL 33603. Stanley explains that the event will feature live music performed by Joey Donovan and the Lint Rollers, pet-friendly vendors, Doga Yoga, animal-themed activities, etc.(http://www.franciscancentertampa.org/, https://www.facebook.com/events/530398984166989/

COMEDY CORNER: Eddie Pepitone’s “Dog Therapy”  (https://www.eddiepepitone.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  Genesis’s “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”


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