(Do you want to know?) Our Dogs Love Us Of this, we are pretty certain. Of course, this is the science dog, so we like evidence. One of the ways in which researchers study dogs' relationships with owners is to measure dogs' preferences - called differential responses - in a variety of situations. In many … Continue reading Does Your Dog Love You More than He Loves Food?
You See a Dog... You Read Their Story... You Fall in Love... Dr. Carri Westgarth Senior Lecturer, Human-Animal Interaction, University of Liverpool Studies of importing rescue dogs from overseas In this webinar Dr. Westgarth presents her research studies of the importation of overseas rescue dogs. Despite this being both a very popular and contentious practice, … Continue reading NEW Science Dog Webinar
This week's blog is an excerpt from "Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog." Even those who are not Pink Floyd fans understand this principle. “You cannot have dessert until you first eat your vegetables” This common admonition means that you can only have the thing that you really want if you first complete … Continue reading If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding!
One of the many ways that the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is unique is in how many different roles that dogs have in human society. Most who read this blog share their lives with dogs who are well cared for and who are deeply loved. However, around the world, some dogs lack homes altogether and … Continue reading Did Lassie Love Her Job?
Measuring the Emotional Toll of Aversive Training Methods The tension between dog trainers who use primarily reward-based methods (positive reinforcement) and those who rely more on aversive methods (positive punishment/negative reinforcement) is not new. Many trainers (myself included) believe that not only are reward-based methods more humane than methods that rely heavily upon aversives, but … Continue reading The Eeyore Effect
The taste preferences of dogs are a big deal to pet food manufacturers. After all, a food may contain quality ingredients and be highly nutritious, but it cannot benefit dogs if they refuse to eat it. Traditional Palatability Tests All pet food companies are concerned with their food's tastiness (aka palatability) and they all measure … Continue reading Taste Tests with Your Dog’s Food Toys
The Question: Are dogs less stressed when their owners are present during routine veterinary examinations or do they fare better when examined in the owners' absence? I have written about this issue before (see "Be There"). The study reviewed in that piece reported that having a dog's owner speak softly to and pet their dog … Continue reading Still Be There……Once it is Safe
We started training nose work games with our dogs about 8 years ago. One of the many neat things about this activity is observing the different search styles of each dog. For example, Chippy, our Toller, was very focused and methodical. He stopped and thoroughly sniffed each box before moving on to the next, finally … Continue reading Science Says: “Nose Work is Good for Your Dog!”
Dogs are talented observers of human body language. Dog folks attest to this via boatloads of anecdotal stories and home videos that we are happy to share (and over-share) with others. But more importantly for the purposes of The Science Dog, it is the results of an additional boatload of controlled research studies that support our belief that dogs are paying attention to us. … Continue reading Missing the Point
All four of our dogs like cats and are especially smitten with our current cat, Pete. They play with Pete, go for walks with him and sleep with him. Lucky for us, (and for Pete), our dogs would definitely fall within the category of ailurophile (cat lover). But, of course, this is not true of all … Continue reading Ailurophile? (Or not)
Mike and I and our dogs just returned from a week in Florida at a beach community that prides itself on its dog-friendliness. We met our friends Bob and Karen from Virginia, who brought their two Labs, Gus and Sally. It was an amazing week. We spent hours with the dogs walking the beach, watching shorebirds and dolphins, hiking local trails, … Continue reading (Field) Dogs on the Beach
My last Science Dog blog. "When Sit Doesn't Mean S*it" reviewed a series of studies showing that training shelter dogs to sit on command is not as predictive of future adoption as was once assumed. Those results should not be interpreted as an argument against the benefits of training programs, but rather as evidence that there may be other factors … Continue reading If Sit Doesn’t Matter, What Does?
There is a common cognitive bias, the Fundamental Attribution Error, that is central to the way in which we view others and make judgements about their behavior. It is supported by a large body of research and is one of the most common errors that our brains make on a regular basis. The Fundamental Attribution Error refers to our tendency to explain … Continue reading Excitable You
Many animal shelters regularly use standardized tests to assess the behavior of dogs and to determine adoption suitability. However, while the use of these tests has become ubiquitous, there is a distinct lack of research demonstrating their reliability or validity. In other words, while testing a dog's degree of friendliness, aggression and fear prior to adoption makes intuitive sense and feels like a good idea, we do not … Continue reading Beware the Straw Man
The availability heuristic is a common cognitive error that influences our ability to make accurate decisions. It is operating full-force whenever we base a decision upon evidence that is easily available (i.e. dramatic, obvious, easily measured) but that may not actually reflect reality. In practice, this means that we pay more attention to evidence that is salient (obvious and … Continue reading This test that you keep using……