"Who are these dogs?"
That's what I used to wonder when I’d see a headline like: 'New Study Finds Dogs Actually Blabity Bla.' Who were the dogs behind the headline? Puppies? Like a gaggle of cute puppies? Were they purpose-bred dogs or lab dogs? Strays? Or were they just any ol’ companion dog? Who were they?
Now I know. Many canine behavior and cognition studies of late rely on your dog. Literally. The dog at your feet could join a study that ultimately produces a headline, 'New Study Finds Dogs Actually Bloopity Bloop.' (In my case, the dog at my feet as I write this post was a participant in one of my studies, so I must really know what I’m talking about).
Yesterday, I explained that one way to participate in canine science is through online citizen science projects aiming to reach anyone on the planet. But when it comes to your dog being a study participant, there are obvious limitations. If you hear of a study taking place in Japan and you live in New York, your dog probably can’t be a participant. But, if there’s a research group nearby looking for dog subjects—and you see where I’m going with this—that’s when things get interesting.
Which brings us to the canine research group in your backyard that you might or might not know about. Here's how companion dogs often become study subjects: researchers looking for participants typically have a website or Facebook page where interested dog owners can sign up on behalf of their dog. Then, the researchers contact owners when studies arise to see if their dog is a good fit and can participate. Alternatively, sometimes researchers solicit particular types of dogs for particular studies, like the Bristol Spinning Dog Study in the UK (Facebook) that is looking for dogs who repeatedly chase their tail or spin in circles (as well as matched dogs who do not spin).
Now the million dollar question: is there a dog research group in your backyard? Let’s find out:
Grupo de Investigación del Comportamiento en Cánidos
Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Lab, Ontario Veterinary College
Dog Cognition Lab, University of Western Ontario
Canid Behaviour Research Laboratory, Dalhousie University
Facebook, Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more on participating
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canis Sapiens Lab, Universities of Milan and Parma
No online signup for dog owners, but opportunities for students
Companion Animal Research, Azabu University
Canisius Canine Research Team
Buffalo, New York
Canine Science Collaboratory, Arizona State University
Science Dogs, University of Kentucky
Dog Behavior Project, Eckerd College
St. Petersburg, Florida
Human Animal Interaction Lab, Texas Tech University
Human-Animal Interaction Lab, Oregon State University
Canine Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Emory University
Of course, this is a fraction of the researchers out there publishing on companion dogs. Some groups may not actively or regularly seek subjects, and others might not have a social media presence or website. But there definitely are more...
So who did I miss? What other research groups are looking for companion dog participants? Shoot me an email — DogSpies@gmail.com — or post below in the comments.