Dog owners are being encouraged to sign up to a doggy database on World Pet Day (February 20th), by the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre.
It has been almost a decade since Britain’s first facility dedicated exclusively to studying dogs’ ability to understand humans and the world around them officially opened at the Langstone campus.
Since then, hundreds of dogs have taken part in games and been given tasks to solve to better understand how they interact with their environment, other dogs or people.
We’ve worked with dogs of all breeds, ages, genders and temperaments, and are truly grateful to their owners for supporting us in our work
Dr Juliane Kaminski, Director of the Dog Cognition Centre in the Department of Psychology
“We’ve worked with dogs of all breeds, ages, genders and temperaments, and are truly grateful to their owners for supporting us in our work. To continue making great strides in canine cognition research, we would benefit from having a larger database of dogs available to take part, both locally here in Portsmouth, and also further afield.
“Our only requirement is that you and your four-legged friend are eager to get stuck in!”
Research with domestic dogs is of interest to psychologists because, unlike primates such as chimpanzees (and some non-primates, such as elephants), dogs have a long history of living alongside humans – about 15,000-30,000 years!
The findings from the Dog Cognition Centre are useful and of interest to those who work with and rely on dogs, including guide dogs for the blind and people with other disabilities, the police and the military, as well as to those who keep dogs as pets.
Could your dog help answer some big questions in canine research?
[Did you know there's a Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth?]
[It was the first to open in the UK, and investigates how canines communicate and think]
Speaker 1: We run dog research studies here looking into dog human communication, dog cognition, things like that, where owned dogs come in and they basically take part in some fun activities. Mainly where they get dog treats.
For a study, we can work with anywhere between 20 and 40 dogs usually, but we work with all breeds. We seem to have a lot of labradors but I like working with them. So it's great.
So World Pet Day we're looking for dog owners to join our database. It's just answering a couple of questions about your dog. So its age its name, whether they are friendly, whether they like food and then – that was a a loud one, that's just her yawn. Yeah that's right.
So on World Pet Day, we're looking for owners to sign up to our dog register. It just involves them giving the name, some small information about their dog and kind of what their dogs likes, whether they're toy motivated, food motivated and then it means we can contact them and they can take part in studies here at the Dog Centre.
Mainly looking for people, if they're coming to the centre, to be around Portsmouth, in the local area. But then sometimes we might have like an online survey or something that dogs can take part in further away.
[Head to port.ac.uk/news to find out how to sign your four-legged friend up!]
[University of Portsmouth]
The centre’s research explores:
- Human-dog communication
- Whether dogs are sensitive to what others can and cannot see
- Facial expressions in dogs
- how dogs understand their physical environment
- What dogs know about themselves
- Their cooperation with other dogs and humans
The research carried out at the centre is strictly observational, and there are no invasive methods of any kind. Dogs are also always rewarded with food or play for completing their tasks and games.
In one study, the team discovered dogs have evolved new muscles around the eyes to better communicate with humans. Dr Kaminski’s research showed dogs moved their eyebrows significantly more when humans were looking at them. The hypothesis being that these ‘puppy dog eyes’ trigger a nurturing response in humans.
The team has also mapped the facial movements of dogs, naming the movement responsible for a raised inner eyebrow the Action Unit (AU) 101.
Amy West, PhD Researcher at the Dog Cognition Centre, added: “Joining our dog register is just answering a couple of questions, their name, age, gender, if they’re toy-motivated, or food-motivated etc. We’re mainly looking for people who are around the Portsmouth area so they can easily come down to the centre, but we also have online surveys that owners further away can take part in.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the dog cognition research studies can register their interest by filling in this form.