Can’t believe so-and-so said that in front of everyone? Is it time for a break from members of your own species? The dogs are here to help.

2014 was a big year for canine science, although that’s not entirely true. Every year, particularly since the late 1990’s, has been a ‘big year’ for canine science — a booming interdisciplinary field exploring who dogs are, where they came from, and their cognitive and emotional lives.

Here are 28 of my favorite dog science pieces of 2014. A few themes stand out, and I hope they carry into 2015:

  • Our bond with dogs is in our hearts, heads, and obituaries.

  • Pay attention to dog welfare, whether it’s fear, appearances, or the beloved ‘guilty look.’

  • When asked, dogs choose the journey, not just the treat at the end.

  • There’s a good case for banning breed bans. Sadly, Dr. Laura isn't up on the latest research.

  • Not all dog professionals (or dog products) are created equal. Expert opinions are informed.

  • Dogs are not only phat, they are increasingly fat. Better to be just phat.

Some pieces are here on Dog Spies, while others will take you elsewhere on the world wide web. When you arrive, take a tour of these dog science friendly sites. Dogs will thank you (and your family can wait).

I. Interspecies Friendships

1. Forever And A Day: Can Our Bond With Dogs Survive Death?

Me, Dog Spies (Twitter, Facebook)

Life-and-death ties with pets run deep. In one unique case, it led to the Museum of Natural History. More often, it leads to the obituary pages.

2. Could Our Love of Dogs Obscure Their Most Important Parts?

Me, Dog Spies

Observing behavior is not a serious matter, but it could be incredibly important.

3. The Dog Mom’s Brain

Virginia Hughes, Only Human, National Geographic (Twitter)

A dog is not a child, but maternal attachments might still be at play.

4. The Kids are Alright

Linda Case, The Science Dog (Twitter, Facebook)

Parent beliefs, not behaviors, could be associated with children being bitten by dogs.

5. Remembering Dr. Sophia Yin

Claudia Kawczynska and colleagues, The Bark (Twitter)

In 2014, animal lovers and practitioners lost a vibrant teacher, and companion animals lost a tireless advocate. We are thankful that Sophia Yin's legacy continues. Get to know Sophia Yin's training and handling resources (website and Facebook).

II. The Big W: Difficult to See, Even When It's Right There

6. Do You Know a Fat Dog When You See One?

Me, Dog Spies

Serious topic made, dare I say, enjoyable. Obesity is a welfare issue.

7. Only You Can Prevent Sniffing of Guide Dogs’ Butts

Me, Dog Spies

Guide dogs are awesome. They are also working. There’s a good chance your dog doesn’t know that.

8. The Unexpected Dog Killer

Me, Dog Spies

No, it’s not zombies, although that would be unexpected. A study found that fear of unfamiliar people predicted decreased dog lifespan. Complex topic with resources for decreasing social and asocial fears.

9. It Makes No Sense to Punish a Fearful Dog

Ilana Reisner, Decoding Your Pet, Psychology Today (Facebook)

Find out why.

10. Naturally Fearful Dogs

Karen London, The Bark (Twitter)

Not all “scaredy” dogs have been mistreated. Why it matters that something else could be going on.

11. How Well Do You Know Your Dog?: Part 2 (Fear and Cantaloupe)

Me, Dog Spies

Dog professionals are better than dog owners at identifying fear in dogs. It doesn't have to be that way.

12. What the Pug is Going On?

Mia Cobb, Do You Believe in Dog? (Twitter, Facebook)

After reading this post, you’ll be asking the same thing every time you see a Pug.

13. The History of Dog Breeds: Victorians, Genetics, and the Importance of Diversity

Jessica Hekman, The Dog Zombie (Twitter)

Problems of and solutions to dog breeds.

III. Here’s Looking at Who You Are

14. Think Your Dog Has A "Guilty" Look? Think Again

Me, The Dodo (Twitter, Facebook)

Why ascribing guilt could obscure a deeper, darker truth.

15. Signatures in Snow

Malcolm Campbell, SciLogs (Twitter)

What do dogs make of other dogs’ urine? The quest continues!

16. How Do Adopters Choose The Pet They Do?

Emily Weiss, ASPCA Professional (Twitter, Facebook)

This is a booming area of research with new findings and publications in store for 2015.

17. Dogs Recognise Other Dogs in a Crowd

Bec Crew, Running Ponies, Scientific American (Twitter)

How dogs do this remains an outstanding question.

18. Lessons from the Schoolyard: Why Do Dogs Hump?

me, Buzz Hoot Roar (Twitter, Facebook), and Jamie Wolf (Twitter)

Top five reasons why dogs get their hump on (with animated gifs).

IV. Put That Cold Wet One to Work

19. Would Your Dog Make a Good Cadaver Detection Dog?

Me, Dog Spies

The answer in Cat Warren’s book, 'What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs' (Twitter, Facebook).

20. One Day, You Will Smell Like a Dead Chicken

Me, Dog Spies

Another of life’s great truths to ponder as we move into 2015.

V. 9 to 5!

Nothing is more ‘feel good’ than animal assisted therapy and service work, but is it all it’s cut out to be? Hal Herzog reports.

21. Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Really Work?

Hal Herzog, Animals and Us, Psychology Today (Twitter)

22. Service Animal Scams: A Growing Problem

Hal Herzog, Animals and Us, Psychology Today (Twitter)

VI. I'm a Dog! My Mind is an Open Box!

23. Do Dogs Get that Eureka! Feeling?

Zazie Todd, Companion Animal Psychology (Twitter, Facebook)

Research finds that dogs prefer to work and solve a problem for a reward than to just receive the reward itself.

24. Click and… Always Treat? Or Not?

Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash (Facebook)

Experts discuss learning and training questions.

25. The Science of Dog Training: Is It Okay To Use A Shock Collar?

Jason Goldman, io9 (Twitter, Facebook)

Important research on learning, training and companion dog welfare.

VII. Are Looks Deceiving?

26. Fooled by the Foobler?

Eileen and Dogs (Twitter)

THIS is what a product review should look like. EileenAndDogs is a space to watch for behavior observation, welfare and training!

27. Aggressive Behaviour in Dogs: A Survey of UK Dog Owners

Rachel Casey, Reigning Cats and Dogs (Twitter)

What does the research say about aggressive behavior and ‘dangerous’ dogs?

28. Breed-Specific Legislation is myth-based and ineffective according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)

National Canine Research Council (Twitter)

The national association of veterinary behaviorists came out in opposition of breed-specific legislation. Find out why.

VIII. Bonus Edition!

LOL Cats Fight Back

John Bradshaw, Animals and Us, Psychology Today (Twitter)

"Research into cat welfare is rare, so it's a shame when it's misreported." I agree entirely. Although not as rare, this statement is also relevant for dog science.

Is the Proof Really in the Pudding? What’s Coming Out of YOUR Cat?

Mikel Delgado, cats and squirrels and other important things… (Twitter)

A must read (and must see).


Photo: Dressed for the season via ausigall Flickr Creative Commons.