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Episode 556: It’s a Dog’s Umwelt ft Alexandra Horowitz

By Jasmin and Mariann — September 05, 2020

Jasmin is still driving cross-country in the RV(egan), but will finally be getting to her new home in a few days. Surprisingly, she’s been able to do more curbside vegan shopping while on the road than she thought was possible. Along the way she stopped at Nooch in Denver, 10th Street Diner in Indianapolis, and was greeted with a latte and some vegan snacks from Mud Pie Bakery when she met up with family in Kansas City. Throughout the country Jasmin has noticed the avalanche of competing presidential candidate support signs and has been thinking about some of the similarities of this year’s election politics and animal activism. Mariann, stuck at home, is worrying about mice in the house, the virus, current political tensions, climate change, and the end of summer and is getting a bit overwhelmed. But! Jasmin will be nearby soon and they both can’t wait to hang out.

In this week’s Vegan Businesses segment we’re shouting out Qltykntrl (pronounced “Quality Control”) which was founded in 2018 and is a Black owned Las Vegas based streetwear brand focused on raising vegan aWEARness. Creating bold designs with a purpose, supporters of all forms of animal liberation activism, from direct action to marches to demos to outreach to lobbying to bearing witness to the slaughter of innocents, QltyKntrl provides designs for the army of activists fighting the war towards animal liberation. F**k speciesism.

Today we welcome Alexandra Horowitz to the podcast. She has long been fascinated by the mind of the dog, and her extensive academic research is aimed at answering the question of what it’s like in a dog’s world. She has written three books on dogs, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell, and, most recently, Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond, all of which seek to illuminate what dogs experience from the dog’s point of view. Alexandra is a professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she heads the Dog Cognition Lab and teaches on the topics of canine cognition and creative nonfiction writing. She shares her enthusiasm for the umwelt, or universe, of dogs and why she believes that domestic dogs are not studied widely academically. She delves into how and why we anthropomorphize our dogs and how at the Dog Cognition Lab they aim to study animals without projecting their own attitudes on them and with an awareness that each dog has their own rich reality. Alexandra also explains why she hopes that dogs can become a ‘gateway species’ that encourages us to think about farm animals and other exploited animals in a new, more compassionate way.

“If we can see dogs in other animals, then that chain of
empathy can go further than just the home.”
– Alexandra Horowitz

This Week in Our Hen House:

  • Why Alexandra decided to study dogs for her postgraduate research
  • How the Dog Cognition Lab works and how they conduct their research within an ethical framework
  • What Alexandra is looking at when she is watching dogs play
  • Alexandra’s recent study of how dogs smell and what she learned about the crucial importance of scent in a dog’s world
  • Why humans ascribe emotions to their dogs when they make certain expressions and whether dogs really do feel the emotions we attribute to them
  • Why we see similarities between human behavior and dog behavior
  • The compartmentalization of animals into different categories and how that affects how we react to certain groups
  • How animals are perceived in law, and why Alexandra explores the topic in her book, Our Dogs, Ourselves
  • How Alexandra feels about dog breeding and why she compares it to the practice of eugenics
  • Alexandra’s tips on how to give your dog a fulfilling life

Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Alexandra Horowitz:

Connect with Our Hen House:

awfwlogoThis episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at

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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.

The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by Michael Harren.

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