Dognition Canine Assessment Tests

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Several readers have asked about the new product called "Dognition" that promises (quoting from the website), "You’ll learn your dog’s cognitive style by playing fun, science-based games — an experience that gives you the insight you need to make the most of your relationship with your best friend." I was curious myself, given that the force behind the product is the work of scientist Brian Hare, whose relevant claim to fame is his research on the ability of dogs to inherently understand a person's pointing gesture. I've argued that this claim needs more research, as does his suggestion that the long-standing relationship between dogs and people has resulted in the evolution of special communicatory skills in dogs (especially as regards to pointing). However, I love that his work has Read More

New Seminar in August, Chicago, Illinois

Oh boy, what fun. As many of you know, I'm not doing many more full day seminars anymore, but I couldn't resist pairing up with the Steve White for a two-day seminar outside of Chicago, Illinois on August 10th and 11th of this year. Thanks to a Facebook reader who jumped in with dozens of others with ideas for a title, we are calling the seminar Sense(s) and Sensibility. Thank you Mairi and kisses to your lovely dog, Layla! On Saturday, I'll be doing an updated and expanded version of  "Lost in Translation," or How Dogs use Sight, Sound, Smell and Touch to Communicate. As usual, I'll take a comparative approach, looking at the way our sensory systems (notice the focus on vision?!) affect the behavior of the animals at both ends of the leash. The day will be full of slides, videos and Read More

Safe Off Leash?

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Last weekend Jim, Willie, Tootsie and I stayed in a lovely log cabin owned by friends in the woods in eastern Wisconsin. I mention that because for the first time in her nine years of life, Tootsie got to run off leash in an unfenced area off the farm. Wooo Hooo! Some people might not understand what a huge step that was for a little puppy mill dog, but I'm guessing that many of you get it completely. I was over the moon with happiness that I could unsnap the lead, and trust that she would stop when told, come when called, and as importantly, get to sniff and explore with more freedom than she's ever had in her nine years of life. The decision I made got me thinking about the issue in general: When IS it safe to let a dog off leash? What do you need to know to evaluate the risk and Read More

New Research on Dogs and Music

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I recently read an interesting study about the effect of different types of music on kenneled dogs. ("Behavioral effect of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs," by Kogan, Schoenfeld-Tacher & Simon, J of Veterinary Behavior 7, 2012, 268-275.) The authors' goal was to determine if different types of music, as has been reported in other species, had different types of effects on dogs, and the results indeed confirmed that this was true. The results suggested that 1) "classical music" increases the amount of time the dogs spent sleeping, and 2) "heavy metal" music increased body shaking (or trembling). Surprisingly however, "psychoacoustically designed" music, a piano piece specifically designed to calm dogs, resulted in no statistically significant change in behavior from Read More

fMRI on Dogs: Too Wonderful!

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When I was doing my PhD research in the 1980's I wanted to see how a dog's brain responded to different types of sounds before and after training. This was in the 1980's, and the only method available for animals was to do Evoked Potential tests, in which simple, tiny electrical sensors were glued to the scalp. This allowed one to measure activity in the brain in an extremely general way: What kind of brain waves does one see in the Temporal versus the Parietal lobe, for example, after hearing or seeing specific stimuli? Evoked Potential tests are logistically easy to do on adults: You shave tiny areas of the scalp, glue on the sensors, and ask the subject to stay still for a set period of time. The research subject mustn't move, because muscles move through electrical stimulation in Read More