Canine Cognition Studies at Duke University

by Brad  Waggoner

We have just returned from our second trip to Durham, NC where we participated in a study in canine cognition at Duke University. Professor Brian Hare is testing hundreds of dogs to determine how they make decisions. It seems that dogs in many ways process information better than our closest relatives in nature, the chimpanzees and bonobos. Last year Gibson, our 6 year old Aussie, was invited to take part in the study. Now it was Cody’s turn. Cody is a 2 1/2 year old Aussie and is a bit more active than his older brother so we were interested to see how he would do with the tasks he was given. The tasks were a little different from our first visit but still designed to determine whether the dog remembered what he saw first or what he saw last. There were also tasks to determine whether there was a preference for left or right, or one area over another based on his experiences. All the different responses will be analyzed and compared with the responses of all the other dogs to pull together a better understanding of canine cognitive abilities.

All of this, of course, is fascinating to us as it relates directly to how we train dogs. A better understanding of how a dog processes information will lead to better training techniques and a better relationship with our dogs. You can read more about the Duke Canine Cognition Center here.

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is the author of The Original Rocket Recall™: Teach Your Dog to Come. She’s a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company’s trainers enjoy providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals.


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