Dog Spies

Dog Spies

Explore the science behind the dog in your bed

Spying on Dogs: Intrigue, drama and science


Taste-testing. © Julie Hecht

Dogs don’t write. At least not in a way easily understood by people, and certainly not with a pen or pencil. You could argue that dogs “write” with their urine. Some dogs seem quite familiar with Morse code -- evident by a trail of little plops left behind -- while others seem to show off their cursive, the urine gracefully spanning the entire width of the sidewalk.

But what is up with all that urine, and on top of that, what’s going on in those doggie noggins? How do they perceive the world from the vantage point of our ankles, knees or even waists? How are dogs similar to or different from other canids? And why are they so keen on devouring your newest, most expensive pair of shoes?

That's where Dog Spies comes in.

Dog Spies is about the mutual spying between dogs and their human companions. Just as people hold up a magnifying glass to dogs, trying to figure out who they are and what makes them tick, dogs in turn, are spying back at us. Dog Spies will share the science behind this mutual spying.

The Science Behind Dogs? Yes. Research into canine behavior and cognition has grown exponentially in recent years. Research groups across the globe are examining dogs from all walks of life -- companion dogs, working dogs, feral dogs, street dogs and even shelter dogs. The hope is to uncover what makes dogs dogs and explore why their relationship with humans is so unique. Because dogs don't write, I'll be speaking on their behalf.

A new friend. © Julie Hecht

Julie and the dogs

I’m Julie Hecht, the human part of Dog Spies. I’m a canine behavioral researcher, science writer and lecturer. I manage Alexandra Horowitz’s Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College in New York City. If you live with a dog in the NYC area, you can sign up to join one of our treat-based studies. Yes, all of our research is with the help of companion dogs and people like you.

I also write about dogs for The Bark Magazine and Do You Believe in Dog? (a joint pen-pal blog with fellow dog researcher Mia Cobb). When I’m not looking at a computer or a dog, I am frequently in front of an audience of dog lovers or students presenting research on all things dog.

I received my Masters from the University of Edinburgh in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare and conducted research with the Family Dog Project in Budapest. This Fall, I’m entering PhD land to study animal behavior with Diana Reiss.

Come and talk dog!

Comments section

First: I look forward to your comments! Period. If you read something here on Dog Spies that churns something in your brain, that is very exciting.

Second: While typing or dictating, please remember that the writer of this blog (aka me) and the writers and readers of other comments, have feelings. Please don’t be mean or rude, to me or anyone else who appears on this blog. Just be kind. And rewind.

Twitter, Facebook and Email

Have a dog thought or comment? Want to ask a question or share a story or a dog behavior/cognition tidbit? I’m on Twitter at @dogspies or Facebook at Dog Spies. My professional page is

Dogs are our future

Dog Spies is about engaging in a dialogue about what we know and don’t know about dog behavior and cognition. After reading any Dog Spies post, your dog will still be your dog. She will still be named Sylvia and she will still lick your legs after you get out of the shower or do those exceptional flips when she hears the word frisbee or even “fris...” But it might be possible that you look at one another with just a wee bit more understanding.

Welcome to this inquiry into all things dogs. All I can promise is that there will be dogs, urine and crotch-sniffing.


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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