We’re kicking off a new series in our blog in which we introduce you to the world-class team of people (and dogs!) behind Dognition. Today, we ask five questions to Locky Stewart, Dognition’s Director of Research.
- What do you do at Dognition and how does that relate to your background?
As the Director of Research, I may have one of the best jobs at Dognition. Every day, I work with the leading scientists in the field
to create new games for the Dognition subscription program. The challenge is to create games that are not only easy and fun to play, but also generate fascinating data. As the data from our members pours in, my team and I comb through it, asking questions, creating hypotheses, looking for trends and patterns, and making discoveries to share with our members as well as the scientific field.
Before Dognition, I studied animal cognition and psychology working with dogs and lemurs at Duke University in North Carolina, and chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.
Why are you excited about Dognition?
Dognition is really easy to get excited about! On one hand Dognition offers us scientists the ability to bridge the gap between the lab and the living room and help people discover and learn more about something that I and they care deeply about, their relationship with their dog. On the other, it’s very exciting to see thousands of people doing real science in their homes, deepening their knowledge about cognition and the way the mind works. The more people that are inspired and engaged by the discoveries they are making on their own, the more all of us can learn about how animals think, and even learn more about how we humans think.
What’s your fondest dog memory?
My first dog was a short haired Dachshund named Barkley. Of the many memories of adventures I shared with Barkley, the fondest is when we first met. A family friend, moving out of town, was on her way to turn Barkley over to a shelter, and she stopped by to give my family one last chance to adopt him. There he was, a six-month-old puppy, on his way to the shelter in a crate in the back of a truck. That was all we needed. The next thing my parents knew, Barkley and I were inseparable, with him often accompanying me to school — much to the dismay of most of the teachers.
What’s your favorite dog name, or the most interesting one you’ve ever heard?
As a scientist, I have to admit that I am biased…I’d say “Barkley,” just because he’s my dog. I also thoroughly enjoy when dogs are named after famous scientists. As you can imagine, after studying animal intelligence for a number of years I appreciate when our canine companions are given names that represent just how intelligent they are!
If you could wave a wand to do one thing for all dogs, what would it be?
All of us at Dognition, of course, love puppies. That trend extends to the rest of the world, and there have been numerous studies looking at why that is so. There are even hypotheses that dogs may have evolved specific morphological trails to trigger baby-caring behavior in humans.
What that means, however, is that older dogs or those with physical deformities often get left in shelters, while younger dogs are taken home. Once again, having studied dog cognition, we know that these older dogs are just as bright and intelligent as their puppy counterparts. If I could wave a wand, I would let everybody know every dog deserves a second chance. Next time you are in a shelter, think about taking a look at the dog that everybody else might have ignored!