Britain’s first dog behaviour centre, dedicated to studying the domestic animal’s ability to understand humans and their surroundings, has recently opened at the University of Portsmouth.
Dr Juliane Kaminski, the dog cognition expert who is head of the new centre said:
“The minds of dogs are complex, but more research is needed to identify what mechanisms are controlling their behaviour and how much they really understand versus how much we think they understand.”
The Department of Psychology at the University will encourage the dogs to take part in activities and obedience tasks to study their interaction with other dogs, their environment and humans.
These include the facial expressions of dogs and their communication with humans. Furthermore also studied will be the sensitivity of dogs and the way they learn from humans and other dogs.
Other behavioural studies will look at the amount the animals are aware of themselves and also how they are able to cooperate with dogs and other people.
The findings of the research will not only be of use to people who own dogs as pets, but to those who work alongside the animal such as the trainers of guide dogs, police and military dogs.
Dr Kaminski said: “Research has shown us that dogs have some understanding of their world and are flexible problem solvers. Some of their abilities equal those of young children.”
“We know dogs are sensitive to humans and that they understand our communication cues, such as pointing and looking at something, for example, in ways even our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees or dogs’ closest living relative, the wolf, can’t.”
The University has opened the Dog Cognition Centre to all dog breeds, ages, temperaments and genders. Dog owners are encouraged to bring their pets along to the centre to take part in the observational research and the pets will be rewarded with food and games.
If you are interested in bringing your dog along to take part in the study, you will be asked to answer a number of questions about your pet at the following link: www.port.ac.uk/dogcognition.