Soledad O’BRIEN: Come on, big girl. You ready to go?
My name is Alexandra Horowitz. I’m a scientist and a writer. And my subject is…dogs. I run a lab studying dog cognition in New York City, where we observe the behavior of the local dogs — and their persons. And I’ve written several books about what it’s like to be a dog — and the umwelt of dogs — how they perceive the world around them. Now I invite you to join me on my new show, Off Leash, where we dive deeper into the dogs’ world.
For each episode, I’ve invited an interesting person, and their dog, on a walk. And then, we’ll see where the walk takes us. Because in my experience, things happen on walks — especially on a walk with a dog.
Tejal RAO: Okay, we’ve somehow ended up at a dumpster in a parking lot.
Ian CHILLAG: This is kind of like walking a dog, kind of like water skiing. I’m mostly being pulled here.
Susan ORLEAN: Oh, no, there goes the ball. Oh, Buck.
Each episode, we’ll explore questions about the nature of living with dogs, like: what does it mean to “own” a dog?
Steven WISE: For hundreds and hundreds of years, until the 18th century, probably, dogs really weren’t even legal things. They weren’t even property.
Are the names we give our dogs meaningful — to them?
MALLIKARJUN: Poptart the pitbull, she was enthralled by the sound of her own name. It was one of those things that really stuck in my brain, just how much she enjoyed listening.
And what is it like to experience reality primarily through a sense of smell?
Julianne UBIGAU: His little nostrils would be twitching from side to side. And when the wind blew and carried the odor of the scat on it, he would just snap into action.
I interview other dog scientists from around the world about their research.
WYNNE: I began to think about how could we turn this into a scientific study without actually demolishing anybody’s house and doing them any real harm.
And you’ll hear from some of my sharpest friends — including a few familiar voices from the Freakonomics Radio Network.
Steve LEVITT: He has big, long legs. Kind of reminds me of Scooby-Doo a little bit.
I’m all about dogs, and I never run out of questions about these joyful, mysterious animals. But Off Leash is also about the people at the other end of the leash — and the nature of the relationship between us and the dogs who walk by our sides. It’s about living with and among all animals. And the curiosity and reverence that they can inspire in us.
UBIGAU: If I’m willing and patient enough to slow down and watch that, it’s like I’m piggybacking on his superpower.
Off Leash is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network and coming soon. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
O’BRIEN: You’re such a good girl. Come on. Come on, we’re walking. Come on. You’re too heavy for me to carry you Coco. I can’t do it. I cannot do it.