What It's Like to Be a Dog
Does your dog really love you? Neuroscientist Gregory Berns used an MRI machine to find out. What is it like to be a dog? A bat? Or a dolphin? To find out, neuroscientist Gregory Berns and his team began with a radical step: they taught dogs to go into an MRI scanner--completely awake. They discovered what makes dogs individuals with varying capacities for self-control, different value systems, and a complex understanding of human speech. And dogs were just the beginning. In What It's Like to Be a Dog, Berns explores the fascinating inner lives of wild animals from dolphins and sea lions to the extinct Tasmanian tiger. Much as Silent Spring transformed how we thought about the environment, so What It's Like to Be a Dog will fundamentally reshape how we think about--and treat--animals. Groundbreaking and deeply humane, it is essential reading for animal lovers of all stripes.

What It's Like to Be a Dog Details

TitleWhat It's Like to Be a Dog
Author
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherBasic Books
ISBN-139780465096244
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Animals, Dogs, Science, Biology, Neuroscience

What It's Like to Be a Dog Review

  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    This book has an easy way to explain things, and it takes you in a comprehensive route through neurocience and the brain and different theories and opinions and facts, which may help you in grounding yourself and giving you a sense of back story knowledge. They also tell you how they did prepare some dogs and trained them to go into the MRI machine and get some results.What I find "ironic" is that I am 50% into the book and still awaiting to know what it is like to be a dog, because we have had This book has an easy way to explain things, and it takes you in a comprehensive route through neurocience and the brain and different theories and opinions and facts, which may help you in grounding yourself and giving you a sense of back story knowledge. They also tell you how they did prepare some dogs and trained them to go into the MRI machine and get some results.What I find "ironic" is that I am 50% into the book and still awaiting to know what it is like to be a dog, because we have had some snippets about it, but the book has been way off the mark of the tittle and more centered on the subtittle: so far, lots of neurocience and brain talk, sea lions and dolphins. But... where are the dogs?Also, around 70% of the book there was some talk abkut how dogs processed words, and it seemed like after getting the results of the experiment, the author was projecting his thoughts on the matter as sciencitic evidence too.At this point and seeing that chapter 9 again deviates from dogs and goes to the tasmanian devil I've decided to stop reading. As I've said, the author's style is fluent, offers a lot of background but, consifering the cover and main tittle, I was expecting this to be mainly about dogs, which isn't.
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  • Lina
    January 1, 1970
    I received a ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.Fascinating. That's the first word that comes to my mind after finishing this book. We still need to learn so much about the animals and other fellow beings we share this planet with. This book lets the read peek at how science is trying to understand our fellow beings. I myself have dogs and cats. And I often wonder about what they're thinking. Why they behave the way they do. The book gives a brief glimps at how th I received a ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.Fascinating. That's the first word that comes to my mind after finishing this book. We still need to learn so much about the animals and other fellow beings we share this planet with. This book lets the read peek at how science is trying to understand our fellow beings. I myself have dogs and cats. And I often wonder about what they're thinking. Why they behave the way they do. The book gives a brief glimps at how the science world is trying to explain these and other questions. I think we all will look at our pets and other animals differently in the future thanks to research such as the author is describing.FYI the book is not just about dogs. I liked it and I will probably read it again.
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  • Letitia Moffitt
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating and mostly accessible to the lay-person, this book really made me think about animals differently. The research Berns describes here focuses on neuroscience, specifically scanning brains with MRI, and he's not interested so much in what human activities animals are able to do (language, music, etc.) so much as how the animals experience doing these things. This is eye-opening because so much of the time animals researchers seem determined to prove that certain animals are "as intelli Fascinating and mostly accessible to the lay-person, this book really made me think about animals differently. The research Berns describes here focuses on neuroscience, specifically scanning brains with MRI, and he's not interested so much in what human activities animals are able to do (language, music, etc.) so much as how the animals experience doing these things. This is eye-opening because so much of the time animals researchers seem determined to prove that certain animals are "as intelligent" as humans -- as though equal intellectual ability is the only thing determining a species's worth. Intelligence, however, is relatively easy to measure; sentience is not. Some of the most interesting aspects of this book lie in how researchers came up with ways to measure things that might seem unmeasurable -- for example, how do you discover whether an animal feels regret? (The answer described here is fairly ingenious.) The last three chapters weren't as interesting to me and seemed digressive; two chapters on the thylacine felt thin, and the final chapter, which throws support for animals rights, didn't feel as strongly or clearly argued as it might have been. That said, this was both entertaining and enlightening as a whole, so I give it 4.5 stars.
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  • Mary Clare
    January 1, 1970
    Full review!Format: eBook from NetGalleyIn this book, Berns recounts his process and findings in his research on animal neuroscience. While he does spend a fair amount of time on dogs, he also discusses sea lions, Tasmanian tigers, dolphins, and more. Berns moves between personal anecdotes, his own experiences as a researcher, and providing accessible descriptions of his findings, which gives a well-rounded picture of his research.I will admit that I picked up this book mostly for the adventures Full review!Format: eBook from NetGalleyIn this book, Berns recounts his process and findings in his research on animal neuroscience. While he does spend a fair amount of time on dogs, he also discusses sea lions, Tasmanian tigers, dolphins, and more. Berns moves between personal anecdotes, his own experiences as a researcher, and providing accessible descriptions of his findings, which gives a well-rounded picture of his research.I will admit that I picked up this book mostly for the adventures in animal neuroscience about dogs, but I was really pleasantly surprised about how interested I was in even the sections about animals that I only very rarely think of, like sea lions and Tasmanian tigers. I definitely have a personal investment in learning about how dogs experience the world and not nearly as much emotional stake in other animals that he discusses. But over all, I found that his discussion of other animals really enhanced and expanded the topics that he introduced using dogs and ultimately all of the animals that he discussed really complement each other.When it comes to nonfiction books, I am always hesitant to really dive in because you never know how the author is going to approach the book. Sometimes, science writers will assume that you have some knowledge about the topic when you pick up the book and some approach from a more introductory starting point. In this case, I really needed Berns to go back to the basics and explain even very basic and fundamental concepts in the field of neuroscience. And I needed him to explain them in a very accessible way because I am about as far from a neuroscientist as someone can be. I found that this book really fulfilled that need. He really went back to basics and went out of his way to describe everything he researches in the most accessible possible terms. I really appreciate how he managed to reduce really very complicated ideas to bite-size descriptions that allowed me to understand the point he was trying to make.And ultimately, I think that he makes really interesting and important points. Yes, the research is interesting and it was fascinating to get a look into the field of animal neuroscience, especially with such a focus on dogs. But really he is writing this book in order to advocate for the importance of the field as a whole. He is trying to convey to his audience how much can be learned from animal neuroscience and how much knowledge will be lost if we fail to pursue this research, as happened with the Tasmanian tiger. We will lose links in the evolutionary chain and we will ultimately be losing, bit by bit, the potential to fully understand how we (and the dogs we love) came to be.I liked this book a lot and I think that I learned a lot from it. It is presented in an interesting and accessible way. My only criticism is that it is long and I think that this book could have accomplished everything that it accomplished with significantly fewer pages. There were a few long, repetitive sections that could have been trimmed. But, ultimately, that is not a big deal to me. I think that the style, content, and pacing of this book was really well done and I am pretty confident that I am walking away from this book understanding exactly what Berns wanted readers to understand. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. Note: some of my reviews contain spoilers!
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  • Susan Paxton
    January 1, 1970
    Very interesting book; as others point out the title was badly chosen, and I suspect was selected by the publisher, not the author, as really what the author is doing via neurological research is to try and obtain insights into animal thinking. He started with dogs, since they can easily be trained to remain still in the MRI, then branched out into studies of the brains of dead - and sometimes extinct - animals. It's very interesting, sometimes moving, and offers glimpses into how animals experi Very interesting book; as others point out the title was badly chosen, and I suspect was selected by the publisher, not the author, as really what the author is doing via neurological research is to try and obtain insights into animal thinking. He started with dogs, since they can easily be trained to remain still in the MRI, then branched out into studies of the brains of dead - and sometimes extinct - animals. It's very interesting, sometimes moving, and offers glimpses into how animals experience their world.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't go into this book hoping to figure out what's going on in my lil' bastard's head, because he's a neurotic little guy (and that's part of his appeal, tbh), but I did come away from this book having a better idea of how to try to communicate with him, especially since my lil' bastard isn't food motivated. An interesting book that spends a LOT of time on tangents (interesting, but nonetheless) and could have used some tightening up.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    For a book about animal neuroscience, which is admittedly a harder read than a fluffy fiction piece, I certainly enjoyed What It's Like To Be A Dog.Although the title focuses on the dog aspect of the book, the author explores the brains of several other animals. I feel like for what he advertises, there was a reasonable ratio of dog to other animal discussed in the book. I do understand that some readers might have expected it to be mostly about dogs, though.The author's style flows well and it' For a book about animal neuroscience, which is admittedly a harder read than a fluffy fiction piece, I certainly enjoyed What It's Like To Be A Dog.Although the title focuses on the dog aspect of the book, the author explores the brains of several other animals. I feel like for what he advertises, there was a reasonable ratio of dog to other animal discussed in the book. I do understand that some readers might have expected it to be mostly about dogs, though.The author's style flows well and it's quite easy to read, for a subject that doesn't lend itself easily to narrative. There were a few times that I was tempted to skim over, though - mainly explanations about how the MRI machine worked. But I overall enjoyed the structure of he book and how he laid it out fairly chronologically.I was moved by his thoughts on how we treat animals and inspired to make changes in my own life to better respect the creatures we share this planet with.Enjoyable read (though if you have zero interest in science this probably isn't the book for you).
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    The subtitle should be the main title, as this book deals with neuroscience, and not just dogs; a variety of other creatures, including sea mammals and Tasmanian devils, are mentioned. These are all interesting topics, but as a dog person, I probably would not have even given a book about animal brain study a second glance.
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  • Brice Fuqua
    January 1, 1970
    Do dogs actually think? And if they do, are their thoughts like ours? These might seem impossible questions to answer, since we can't get inside a canine's mind. Or can we?In this fascinating book, Gregory Berns shares his research on the brains of dogs and other mammals and indicates the similarities and differences between humans and our pets. Berns' project began when he trained his own dog to lie still inside a MRI machine, for the first time, obtaining a brain scan of an unanesthetized dog. Do dogs actually think? And if they do, are their thoughts like ours? These might seem impossible questions to answer, since we can't get inside a canine's mind. Or can we?In this fascinating book, Gregory Berns shares his research on the brains of dogs and other mammals and indicates the similarities and differences between humans and our pets. Berns' project began when he trained his own dog to lie still inside a MRI machine, for the first time, obtaining a brain scan of an unanesthetized dog. He went on the train a number of other dogs. He then expanded the study by training the dogs to do simple tasks that required decision making. His conclusions were that dogs and other mammals do have some limited abilities to think, make decisions and even experience regret. Berns and his team went on to scan the brains of autopsied sea lions, dolphins, raccoons and even an extinct thylacine. They found substantial differences in the way these animal brains were wired, which depended greatly on the way they obtained food, how they moved and processed sound and light. The most interesting section was the team's attempts to scan the brains of two thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, an animal that became extinct in 1936. No one had ever attempted to do an MRI scan on brains over one hundred years old. Their work was made more difficult by the fact that almost no research had been done on marsupial brains of any kind. Also, no scientists had bothered to study thylacine behavior while the animal was alive. The results showed a brain that was radically different from placental mammals. Berns shows that the oft-told story that thylacines were exterminated by ranchers because they killed sheep is probably wrong because their brains had not really evolved for that type of hunting. The book concludes with a discussion of animal rights. If dogs, apes, dolphins, cows and rats can form thoughts, then what right do we have to exploit them for scientific experiments, labor or food? Berns takes a middle-of-the-road approach on these questions. This book is written in an accessible, nontechnical style and should be of interest to general science readers and those interested in the latest brain research. If you are looking for cute stories about dogs, this is the wrong book. Despite the title, the dog studies makes up only about one-fourth of the book.
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  • Brian's Book Blog
    January 1, 1970
    An Interesting Science-Heavy Book4.5 out of 5 starsI’ve heard bits and pieces about the work done by Berns and team on social media and news outlets in the last year or so, but it was really awesome to hear the words from the actual person performing these scans and tests.The only reason this lost a partial point was that it felt like Berns would go off on tangents about the science and history of something instead of continuing to talk about what he was originally set out to talk about. This ha An Interesting Science-Heavy Book4.5 out of 5 starsI’ve heard bits and pieces about the work done by Berns and team on social media and news outlets in the last year or so, but it was really awesome to hear the words from the actual person performing these scans and tests.The only reason this lost a partial point was that it felt like Berns would go off on tangents about the science and history of something instead of continuing to talk about what he was originally set out to talk about. This happened in about every chapter and after a while, I knew it was par for the course so I just sat back and tried to enjoy his explanation of the whys before he got back to the new science he was doing.Overall, I think that this book would be enjoyed by dog and animal lovers alike. I’m a bit of a speciesist (he does a small part on this in the book) towards dogs and I was a little sad that the entire book wasn’t just about dogs — but I understand the reason that Berns didn’t do that. The science and the studies of other animals in here were fascinating. Especially the ways that he was able to prove (or help prove) that certain animals had something that was long believed to not exist.If you are interested in the science behind what it’s like to be a dog — this book is definitely for you. If you’re looking for a light-hearted “science-light” book, this one might not be for you. Sure, Berns uses a lot of comedic relief, but I think the book is meant to be mostly scientific with an air or entertainment.Joe Hempel does a great job with this book. This is not the first (or last) science non-fiction book I’ve listened to by Hempel. He’s able to bring an air of knowledge and understanding to the words of these authors. I look forward to more non-fiction books from him in the future.
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  • Lecy
    January 1, 1970
    This book was an interesting case study on dogs, their brains and what motivates them as compared to humans and other animals like sea lions and dolphins. Berns does a research study on dogs, using a variety of medical equipment generally used to test and study humans on a group of dog "volunteers" and his findings were fascinating. This would be a great read for anyone who is interested in books about animals that are written from a scientific approach or science/neuroscience in general. The ne This book was an interesting case study on dogs, their brains and what motivates them as compared to humans and other animals like sea lions and dolphins. Berns does a research study on dogs, using a variety of medical equipment generally used to test and study humans on a group of dog "volunteers" and his findings were fascinating. This would be a great read for anyone who is interested in books about animals that are written from a scientific approach or science/neuroscience in general. The nerd in me was very happy with this book.*I received an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*
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  • Lisa Jackson
    January 1, 1970
    This book is an enlightening look at what motivates a dog. But it doesn't stop there. These researchers did not only depend upon observational studies but used diagnostic tools and machines currently utilized in medicine geared toward humans, to provide more answers- and not only for dogs. Other animals, dolphins, zoo animals, etc., were studied as well. The author writes in a conversational style, and does so to make the information understandable to the lay person.I read this as an arc on Netg This book is an enlightening look at what motivates a dog. But it doesn't stop there. These researchers did not only depend upon observational studies but used diagnostic tools and machines currently utilized in medicine geared toward humans, to provide more answers- and not only for dogs. Other animals, dolphins, zoo animals, etc., were studied as well. The author writes in a conversational style, and does so to make the information understandable to the lay person.I read this as an arc on Netgalley which affected my review in no way at all.
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  • Ned Frederick
    January 1, 1970
    The title of this book should be, What It's like to be a Neuroscientist. There is precious little new information about the nature of dog consciousness. A lot of interesting questions, and a ton of information about the puzzle and how neuroscientists are trying to solve. After wading through all that, the reader is left with maybe a dozen pages of minor revelations about what it's like to be a dog. Not what I signed up for.
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  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    When this book came across my desk, I was instantly intrigued. Show me a dog lover who hasn't wondered what their dog is thinking? This book didn't strictly answer that question (blame the publisher for picking a catchy name that doesn't represent the content), but did present some fascinating science. If you're interested in the intersection between neuroscience, animal behavior and language, them this will be an interesting read.
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  • Ligaya
    January 1, 1970
    Once you get over the fact that the title oversells the book, this is a very interesting read. The MD neuroscientist author explains his work in trying to determine sentience in animals. Really lovely the way the book starts out with his newly adopted dog and wraps up with his experience as a young medical student's final day in dog lab. In between there's lots of neuroscience and adventures with thylacines, dolphins, and sea lions. A bit heavy on the scientific jargon.
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  • Laurel
    January 1, 1970
    The author takes us through a series of tests and trials that point to different causalities of animal behavior. The read is worth the reward, even though I did think I would walk away from this book with more of a first-person perspective from a dog.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    It was interesting if not compelling. I got bogged down 2/3 of the way through. However, I enjoyed the read and would recommend to an avid dog lover.
  • Sebastian
    January 1, 1970
    First read: October 10, 2017
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