What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

ny-times-bestsellerCat 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 her to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.

Training and searching with Solo was the beginning of Warren’s odyssey into the world of working dogs: 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 200 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, 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, Warren discovers story after story that proves the remarkable 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 working dogs is woven into the fabric of society, and why we keep finding new uses for the working dog’s wonderful nose.


“Enter the fascinating world of working dogs.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

“A beautifully written, fascinating, heartwarming, and oft-hilarious homage to working dogs. A must-read for anyone who wants to know more about four-legged working heroes. I’d like to shake Solo’s paw for inspiring Cat Warren to write it.” —Maria Goodavage, New York Times bestselling author of Soldier Dogs

“Move over CSI, and make way for Cat Warren and her forensic dog Solo to grab and keep your attention. What the Dog Knows is beautifully and compelling written—not only could I not put it down, I didn’t want to.” —Patricia B. McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog.

“Cat Warren has captured both the magic and the best science behind the success of the modern working dog. This book masterfully shows how even the best technology cannot compete with our best friends. If you have ever wondered what dogs are truly capable of this is the book for you.” —Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and author of The Genius of Dogs

“A gifted story-teller, Cat Warren takes us on a fast-paced journey into the scents—some foul, some sweet, some softer than a breeze—of police detective work. This is a book for anyone who loves dogs, and has watched them catch a scent on the wind or in the leaves on the ground, and wondered about that brilliant organ they possess: the nose.” —Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise

What the Dog Knows is a fascinating exploration into the minds and characters of some very special dogs. No one who cares about dogs should miss this smart, funny, and at times surprisingly moving book.” —Spencer Quinn, author of the Chet and Bernie Mysteries

What the Dog Knows is a riveting look at the hidden world of cadaver search dogs. Warren highlights the profound partnership developed between humans and dogs during their intense, but positive training, and in real situations … I was entertained and educated … The people and dogs who inhabit this world are unforgettable. I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in dogs, animals, and the relationships between humans and animals.” —Stacey O’Brien, author of Wesley the Owl