Winnie the therapy dog

When Casaundra played Dognition with her dog Winnie and found out she was a ‘Socialite’ with unusually high empathy scores, Casaundra realized Winnie might have something special to share.

‘Knowing that her empathy scores were off the charts motivated me to pursue our volunteer work as a therapy dog team.’

Winnie was found at a puppy mill that was so horrific that it was shut down by local law enforcement and the North Carolina Humane Society. Winnie was only 10 weeks old, and in such poor health that she almost did not survive.

With extensive medical attention and love from Casaundra, Winnie slowly recovered. Although Winnie still weighs only three pounds, what she lacks in size, she makes up in spirit, which makes her a perfect companion to the children she visits.

‘She knows when it’s time to be engaging or time to be still, and she is always gentle and comforting,’ says Casaundra.

Casaundra also played Dognition with her parent’s dog, and when she compared the results, she found that Winnie relied more on her gestures than her parent’s dog did.

‘Knowing that Winnie looks to me to solve problems helped me realize she wanted guidance from me, especially in the unpredictable environments we encounter in the hospital.’

Over 400 visits and a gold medal from the AKC later, Winnie is dedicated to raising awareness for therapy dogs everywhere. You can follow her adventures using the links below.

Instagram: @winnie_therapydog

Twitter: @TherapyDogWinni

Facebook: Winnie, Therapy Dog

Posted in The Dognition Experience.

Why you make such a great scientist

When Dognition first launched, many people wondered if people at home could collect data of the same quality as researchers in a laboratory. Three years later, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’

Dognition is the biggest citizen science project on dog cognition in the world. Over 20,000 people have taken part in Dognition, and on five of the seven tests, citizen science data replicated the results of researchers at Duke University and elsewhere.

“They’re just games,” says Dr. Brian Hare, founder of Dognition. “The owners love playing them and the dogs love playing them.”

For example, in one of the game-like tests, dogs were found to rely more on their memory than their sense of smell to find a hidden treat. The dogs watched as their owner hid food under one of two cups. Then when the dog was not looking, the owner switched the food to the other cup. (Watch the YouTube video of the experiment at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toJZMfnc8ig)

If dogs could smell the food, they should have been able to choose the correct cup, but owners found that most dogs went to where they last saw the food.

“The data these dog owners are producing is quality data,” says Dr. Evan MacLean, an Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Arizona who is also on the scientific advisory board of Dognition. “It matches the results we see coming out of the top research groups all over the world.”

According to MacLean, the memory-over-smell result has been replicated in seven different research groups and more than a dozen different studies. “Most people think dogs use their sense of smell for everything,” MacLean said. “But actually dogs use a whole range of senses when solving problems.”

Analysis of the unusually large dataset created by Dognition has also found that all dogs have a unique set of cognitive skills that they use to navigate the world around them. Some dogs were found to be good communicators, some had better memories and others were better at taking their owner’s perspective.

“Most people think of intelligence as glass that is more or less full,” Hare said. “But intelligence is more like ice cream. Everybody has different flavors. Being good at one thing doesn’t mean you will be good at everything else.”

Hare said these kinds of findings are only possible with the big data sets that citizen scientists are able to generate.

“‘So much is possible when you have this much data,” Hare said. “I’m looking forward to dog owners answering all the big questions that have puzzled scientists for decades.”

Posted in The Dognition Experience.

New podcast ‘DogSmarts’ with Dr. Brian Hare

Dr. Brian Hare has a new podcast that launches today! ‘DogSmarts’ is sponsored by Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND, the podcast has six episodes that explore the rich mental lives and cognitive abilities of our canine companions. Like, how do lost dogs find their way home? Why do we love our dogs so much? How do dogs learn words?

Brian interviews the world’s leading canine cognition experts, answers penetrating questions, and has a lot of fun in the process.

‘DogSmarts’ is available on iTunes and Google Play and features two short and four full-length episodes examining various dimensions of canine cognition.

Listen today and tell us what you think!

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dogsmarts/id1115304038?mt=2
Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/m/I2hitsjmnxk6y4vcnqo6rnmdtpu?t=DogSmarts

Posted in The Dognition Experience.

Mindfulness and your dog

This month we have been thinking about ways we could be more mindful with our dogs. Technology has become so much a part of our lives, that it is hard to switch off. The time we used to spend just walking our dogs in the morning or evening has turned into a multitasking opportunity for checking emails, returning phone calls, and scanning social media, while trying not to trip over the leash.

This month, we wondered if it was time to switch off, and be present, not just in our world, but in our dogs’ world. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they are so naturally mindful. Every walk is a new walk, even if they have been on it a thousand times. Every time you come home is the best time, although you’ve only been gone for eight hours or eight minutes.

If you’re trying to think of some mindful activities, think about playing some Dognition games. Many of you might be stuck halfway, or in between subscription games. Set aside 20 minutes some time this week. Not to get through the profile or catch up to anything – just because your dog will love playing them, and love playing them with you. After all, there are treats involved!

Posted in The Dognition Experience. Tagged with , .

Do dogs get bored?

By Victoria Stillwell

There is an epidemic sweeping across the nation and it’s having a devastating effect on our dogs’ wellbeing. It’s a disease called boredom and many of our domestic dogs are at risk.

Boredom and inactivity contributes to destructive behaviors such as chewing, house soiling, excessive barking and other anxiety-based behaviors. Dogs that are left alone for long hours on a regular basis cannot be blamed for taking out their boredom and loneliness on the couch. Chewing relieves stress and having nothing to do all day can be very stressful particularly for those breeds that were originally bred to work. Because the domestic dogs’ role has changed to that of family member and companion, trainers like me see too many bored dogs with behavioral issues that are easily solved with a daily schedule of walks and other activities.

Think of it like this. Your dog is a car with a full tank of gas in the morning and it’s your responsibility to make sure that by the end of the day the gas tank is empty. Each dog’s needs are unique but all dogs need daily physical and mental stimulation with plenty of walks, great toys and fun games to play.

A walk not only exercises your dog physically but provides a different environment that challenges and stimulates his senses. Unlike their wild cousins, the domestic dog lives in a sensory deprived environment and walking is the best way to provide the exercise and stimulation he needs by allowing him to experience the world around him while breaking up the monotony of the day. I’m still astounded however, by the number of people I meet who seldom walk their dogs, if at all. Leaving a dog in the back yard all day is not exercise and can become just as boring as an indoor room.

If you stimulate your dog’s senses by allowing her to experience different environments each day and introducing her to new smells, sights, sounds around the neighborhood or at your local park, you’ll be repaid many times with a happy, healthy dog. Walking also relieves human stress and is great way to exercise and socialize with other like-minded people.

If the weather is too hot or cold to be outside you can still play games inside your home such as hide and seek, fetch or tug-of-war. Hide treats around the house and send your dog on a treasure hunt. Vary your dog’s toys by rotating them each day so they remain unique and exciting and get toys that challenge your dog such as treat balls and puzzles.

Dogs do get bored but enriching their lives doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It just means a different approach and an awareness of your dog’s needs. Sharing the responsibility with the whole family ensures your dog never becomes bored and receives the attention and time she deserves.

Posted in The Dognition Experience.
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