How dogs become themselves and other wonders of puppyhood

Photo of woman and her book, "The Year of the Puppy"
Alexandra Horowitz has studied canine cognition for decades. But when she started observing puppies, eventually bringing one into her home, she gained a whole new perspective. Her new book, “The Year of the Puppy,” details her first 12 months with Quiddity, their new addition.
Vegar Abelsnes and Penguin Random House

If you want to know canine psychologist Alexandra Horowitz’ best advice for training a puppy, it can be summed up in one sentence: “Expect that your puppy will not be who you think, nor act as you hope.”

That truth — which can both delight and confound new puppy caretakers — is at the center of her 2021 book, “The Year of the Puppy.” A longtime researcher of canine behavior, Horowitz realized she had never examined those critical first months of a dog’s life. So in 2020, she started to observe litters from birth on. When the pandemic shut down the world, she brought one of those puppies into her already animal-centric home — and almost immediately had second thoughts.

But adapting to Quiddity, their new pup, gave her fresh insight into doggie development. Ultimately, it reinforced her belief that human companions need to respect and enjoy these creatures that live with us but are fundamentally different. If all we do is focus on how to train the puppy, we miss them becoming themselves.

It’s a fascinating and validating conversation, so we pulled it from the archives for an encore performance during our spring member drive. Don’t miss this conversation between Horowitz and fellow dog lover, MPR News host Kerri Miller.

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  • Alexandra Horowitz observes dogs for a living. Her research began more than two decades ago, studying dogs at play, and continues today at her Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. Her latest book is “The Year of the Puppy.”

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above. 

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