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By Molly Daly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A best-selling expert in canine behavior will be in North Philadelphia on Thursday evening for a free talk.

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz in the author of Inside of a Dog.

“There are something like 75 million dogs in the US today, and I think they’ve almost outpaced the number of households that have children,” she tells KYW Newsradio.  “So they’ve become a part of our family.”

But Horowitz, who runs the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College in New York, says even though humans have lived with dogs for tens of thousands of years, we can’t assume we know everything about them.

Horowitz says the best way to learn about dogs is to look at their behavior.  Ever wonder why your dog spends so much time smelling something you can’t see?

“They are olfactory creatures, so their primary sense is smell, not sight,” explains Horowitz. “They have hundreds of millions of receptors in their nose that can detect smells. They can get information about individuals, about their health, about how long ago somebody walked by — about all sorts of things that are invisible to us.”

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Alexandra Horowitz in this CBS Phily podcast:

And sometimes they can’t get enough of — and even roll in — things that really stink.

“They don’t have an aversion to smells the way we do. They either really like it or they want to smell like it,” she says.

Horowitz says some behaviors spring from the dog’s wild origins. When your dog licks your face when you get home, for example, it’s not necessarily a kiss.

“We see face-licking among wolves all the time. But it means something a little bit different. It’s sort of a greeting. It’s also a request to regurgitate your food.” But even the most indulgent dog owner has to draw the line somewhere.

Still, Horowitz says, gaining insight into your dog’s thinking can only enhance your relationship with it.

“I love when owners report back to me that now they spend more time letting their dog sniff anything they want to sniff on a walk, imagining the dog’s point of view. I think that’s something we all could spend a little more time doing.”

Dr. Horowitz will present “Observing Dogs” on Thursday, March 14th, at 5:30pm at the Wagner Free Institute of Science, 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue.

To register for the discussion or find out more, visit wagnerfreeinstitute.org.

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