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


Longlisted for a 2014 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

SIBA Book Award Finalist

Dog Writers Association of America: 2014 Dogwise Best Book Award, the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award, and DWAA Best Reference Book Award

Books A Million’s Book Club Non-Fiction Pick in May 2015

American Booksellers Association Indie Bestseller


A firsthand exploration of the extraordinary abilities and surprising, sometimes life-saving talents of “working dogs”—pups who can sniff out drugs, find explosives, even locate the dead—as told through the experiences of a journalist and her intrepid canine companion, which The New York Times calls “a fascinating, deeply reported journey into the…amazing things dogs can do with their noses.”

There are thousands of working dogs all over the US and beyond with incredible abilities—they can find missing people, detect drugs and bombs, pinpoint unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers, or even find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. These abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but author Cat Warren shows the science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie these creatures’ amazing abilities.

Cat Warren is a university professor and journalist who had tried everything she could think of to harness her dog Solo’s boundless energy and enthusiasm…until a behavior coach suggested she try training him to be a “working dog.” What started out as a hobby soon became a calling, as Warren was introduced to the hidden universe of dogs who do this essential work and the handlers who train them.

Her dog Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many astounding dogs in a varied field. Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these intelligent and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, Warren discovers story after story that prove the 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 wonderful noses of our four-legged friends.


North American publisher: Touchstone

Foreign rights sold: Japanese to X-Knowledge; Spanish to KNS Ediciones; simplified Chinese to Commercial Press

Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

Jessica Woollard (jessica@marsh-agency.co.uk) for the United Kingdom

Camilla Ferrier (Camilla@marsh-agency.co.uk) for Arabic World, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy*, Japan, The Netherlands**, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Jemma McDonagh (Jemma@marsh-agency.co.uk) for Baltic States, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Rupublic, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy**, Korea, The Netherlands*, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Turkey


Film rights: Gillian MacKenzie (gmackenzie@gillianmackenzieagency.com)


"What the Dog Knows is a fascinating, deeply reported journey into scent, death, forensics and the amazing things dogs can do with their noses ... But it’s also a moving story of how one woman transformed her troubled dog into a loving companion and an asset to society, all while stumbling on the beauty of life in their searches for death.” Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, for the New York Times Review of Books


"The book is a welcome and necessary addition to the growing body of literature on the subject." Publishers Weekly


"Warren writes with verve and provides rare insight into our working partnership with canines." Kirkus Reviews


“The author possesses a keen sense of detail and pacing that informs, entertains, and quickly draws readers into her life and work with Solo ... Part memoir, part investigative reporting, part science writing, this book is sure to draw similar readers and is accessible to a wider audience.” Library Journal


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


“Deserve[s] a place on both bestseller and every dog lover’s reading lists. Warren teaches science journalism at North Carolina State University and has strong investigative and story-telling skills, which makes the book all the more enthralling and engaging ... highly recommended by this reviewer.” —Bark magazine


"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


"What the Dog Knows is first the story of the relationship between a hard-working cadaver dog and his human companion. But that deeply felt relationship opens the way to an exploration of the working dog world and in doing so becomes something morea realization of the intelligence, determination, and decency of these animals, a story both wonderful and wise." Deborah Blum, author of Love at Goon Park and The Poisoner’s Handbook


“It doesn't take a dog-lover (such as myself) to appreciate Cat Warren's remarkable What the Dog Knows. Prepare to be enthralled and enlightened by this story of Solo and his mistress whose clear, lively, personal and intelligent writing will nail you from page one. It's a toss-up as to who is more fascinatingthe dog people or the dogs themselvesin this wonderful and altogether unique book.” Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Girls


"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 writtennot only could I not put it down, I didn't want to." Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, author of The Other End of the Leash


"In a series of accounts that sometimes read like detective stories, Cat Warren ... takes us through the steps needed to create dogs that search for peopleboth living and deadwhile describing her life and her special bond with a German Shepherd named Solo." Stanley Coren, author of Born to Bark and Do Dogs Dream?


"Cat Warren has captured both the magic and the best science behind the success of the modern working dog. In the age of the Internet and iPads, dogs are helping us more than ever. 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, author of The Genius of Dogs


"Cat Warren, pulled along by her German Shepherd Solo's sniffing talent, takes us on a fast-paced journey into the scentssome foul, some sweet, some softer than a breezeof police detective work. A gifted story-teller, she guides us into the specialized world of dogs who want nothing more than to find that one true scent, whether bomb, bed bug, or cadaver. 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


"Warren’s painstaking research on the history and science of working dogs debunks myths and explains what is knownand how much remains unknownabout canine abilities and behavior. By combining this hard information with anecdotes about training Solo, accounts of searching the North Carolina woods for dead bodies, and the stories of other trainers and their dogs, she has produced a book that is both informative and entertaining. Although her love for Solo is palpable, she remains analytical and clear-headed, never romanticizing what he or other working dogs do.” Bruce DeSilva, Edgar Awardwinning author of the Mulligan crime novels


"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