It’s usually a definitive “no” when it comes to books and movies about dogs. I’m emotionally unable to deal with any sadness even when the dogs aren’t my own.

The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves (Penguin Random House, 2022) was different.

On some year-end review of best books this one came up. I decided to give it a try. So glad I did.

You are going to have to like dogs—a lot—to like this book. You are also going to have to be interested in the development of puppies.

Author Alexandra Horowitz’s main job is as a professor and researcher of dog cognition. This gives her a different point-of-view compared to others who have or might want to write on the same or similar topic.

It’s a little geeky at times. And while science has never been my best subject, I was never lost. And just as I might be getting a tad bored, Horowitz snatched me back. That’s one of the things I liked about the book—the balance of science with more humanistic tales.

It also made me realize how little I knew about the development of puppies. When I was in first or second grade the family dog had six puppies. I wasn’t involved in the birthing process or their care—at least I have no memory. My dog, Bailey, came into my life as a puppy, but I don’t even remember potty training her. I deferred to my ex who had done such things before.

I’m not sure I’m ready to have a puppy again, but I know if I ever do, I will think a little bit more about her early needs and development.

Horowitz explains the development of canines and compares them to humans—who are much slower in the big picture. The analogies helped. Especially the teen-age years of a canine; when most dog owners might think they should be adults and they aren’t.

It’s this stage when many dogs are surrendered to shelters because of “behavioral” problems, according to Horowitz. And while human parents might like to surrender their teenagers, they can’t. Maybe dog owners shouldn’t be allowed to either. Dog parents need to learn the stages of their dogs and how to get through the difficult times.

Even as a dog expert Horowitz admits to having learned so much by bringing a puppy into her home.

This was a much more interesting book than I expected.

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