Blue, the high-energy Expert

Blue, is an adorable 2-year-old male Catahoula mix living in Maryland. He was rescued as a puppy from the Pet Rescue Alliance in Alexandria, VA.

Blue is a Dognition “Expert,” a great problem-solver with an excellent memory. Blue’s Mom considers him to be “an incredibly important part of our family, and enriching his life enriches our lives too.” His mom shared some fun facts about Blue and what she learned about him after playing the Dognition science-based cognition games.

The Blue Scoop. Blue is HIGH ENERGY. He’s like a dog-shaped pogo stick, bouncing all the time. He loves to play, especially fetch, and he outruns me on every jog. He is very independent: not much of a cuddler, but he’s affectionate, always coming by for a pet and to give kisses. He likes other dogs, but he isn’t great at a crowded dog park: he’ll only play with us and doesn’t like when other dogs pester him. So we mostly just have a few other dog friends over to play instead. (We have another, younger rescue dog at home now too.)

Blue’s Puppy Days. Blue was a mischievous puppy – he ate hats, sunglasses, part of a couch, etc. We wanted to find out how best to occupy and interest him, and learn more about training him ourselves. That’s why we decided to try Dognition, after seeing it on the 60 Minutes episode about Chaser, the Border Collie.

Blue the Expert. Blue’s cognitive style is a Dognition ‘Expert’ [see Blue’s Profile Report].

Blue is not as food-motivated as many dogs seem to be, which was surprising! He was good at choosing the right cup or hand to find the treat, but once he knew how to do it, he wasn’t interested in repeating it too many times just for the treat. When we’d go to the next game, he’d get fully interested again.

Once we realized how well he solves problems, we started being much more careful about putting away things he might want, closing doors fully, etc. to keep both him and our belongings safe! We also got some problem-solving toys that aren’t just about treat rewards to keep him occupied much longer.

Blue’s Hobbies. Blue is a fantastic Frisbee dog, making very acrobatic catches, and he absolutely adores swimming. We take him on our stand-up paddle board, but he usually leaps off and swims ahead, so it looks like we’re chasing him.

Follow Blue.  Say hello to Blue on Instagram @blue.houla

A big thank you to Blue and his mom for sharing their story with us. ??

Learn more about how Dognition works and read about other Dognition Expert dogs.

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Lola the true Renaissance dog

Introducing Lola, the 9 year old, purebred Coton de Tulear female therapy dog from NYC. We interviewed Lola’s mom who shared with us the surprises and insights about Lola she gained from playing the Dognition science-based dog cognition games.

Dognition Profile.  “My little Renaissance dog and I completed the evaluation, and we loved the process so much that we signed up for the monthly games! I am so happy that I was introduced to Dognition.” said Lola’s Mom.

The origin story of Lola. I never considered myself a “dog person” – I grew up with a wonderful cat and the thought of having to walk a dog several times a day AND pick up after it just didn’t appeal to me. Years ago, I was dating someone who desperately wanted us to get a dog, so after a year of researching dogs we came upon a rare breed that met all of my “demands.”

The Coton de Tulear was hypoallergenic, didn’t grow to be much more than 15 pounds, didn’t need a lot of exercise, wasn’t too “barky,” was easy to train, and was a wonderful companion breed. We discovered a wonderful breeder down South who happened to be having a litter born in NJ, so I was able to meet Lola when she was only weeks old (and named Maggie Moo). She came to live with me at 11 weeks, and nine years later, she is going strong. [The boyfriend, however, didn’t make it another six months.?]

Lola, an original. I have always been a fan of Broadway musicals, and when I saw that little puppy’s face, “Whatever Lola Wants” came into my head. I thought naming her Lola was very original, only to later discover that “Lola” is one of the most popular female dog names in NYC.

Lola the Diva. I will never forget when I first went to pick out a puppy from the litter and decided on Lola, the caretaker whispered to me, “You don’t want that one, she’s a bitch.” I couldn’t believe it because she was so sweet and loving and since she was the only female in the litter (and I only wanted a female dog), I was determined to take her.

Well, Lola is not a Bitch… but she is a Diva. She has very specific likes and dislikes. The easiest way to boil it down is that if something was meant for a dog, she will NOT like it – dog food, treats, toys, beds, etc. However, if something is meant for a human, Lola will be interested: food, bed, pillows, blankets, etc.

Lola is incredibly smart, eager to please, extremely cognizant of my moods. She craves human companionship, avoids canine companionship, and is the the best cuddler you will ever meet. However, she makes her feelings known to all through her expressions – especially her eyes. She hates mornings, being left alone, getting wet, and humidity.


Fun Facts. When Lola was about a year old, an agent signed her to be a “model” and she booked the first gig that she went out for – a national print ad for The Children’s Place. We would have loved to pursue this career for her, but it was too hard to balance her availability for bookings and my full time job, so it is now just a fun memory.

Lola, Therapy Dog. Because Lola enjoys being with people so much, when she was around two years old, she completed Therapy Dog training through the Good Dog Foundation.


Why we tried Dognition. My real motivation to try Dognition was that like most dog Moms, I believed  MY dog was a genius. She seems to pick up skills after only experiencing something one or two times, remembers every location we’ve been to in the city, and she seems to have a VAST vocabulary (in English and Spanish), so I wanted proof that she was as smart as I knew her to be!

Dognition reveals big surprises. Lola is not food motivated so I was very surprised that the games held her interest. As for the individual games, I was shocked that Lola wouldn’t steal the treat when I wasn’t looking but totally did WHEN I was looking. I actually respected her for that one.

Dognition confirmed what I already suspected – that Lola relies on memory and sight over smell. This insight goes against everything that you grow up learning about dogs, and reading the explanation that Dognition provided was very insightful.


The real Lola. It is so interesting to really understand what makes your dog “tick” –  I knew that she and I are incredibly bonded, so those particular insights didn’t surprise me. But I was shocked to learn more about her reasoning skills. To be frank, I always thought she just depended on me 100% to show and do things for her, but I learned from Dognition that she really will figure things out on her own if left to her own devices.

For this reason, I bought her dog memory games to play, and we signed up for the Dognition monthly games. I think every dog owner will be surprised by at least one or two of their dog’s results.

Tribute to LolaLola is my best friend, my ‘child,’ my confidant, my “ride-or-die” partner in crime. She has changed my life over the course of these nine years, and all for the better; I have met some of my dearest friends through her and when she is around me, I am happier than when she isn’t.

Follow Lola.  Say hello to Lola on Instagram @lolabellenyc and use the hashtag #lolabellenyc

A big thank you to Lola and her mom for sharing their story with us. ??

Learn more about how Dognition works and read about other Dognition Renaissance dogs.

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Moona the Einstein loves a mental challenge

Moona is a high energy, 2 year old Belgian Malinois female dog living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Moona’s mom Sarah learned about Dognition from their dog trainer, Josh Taylor, owner of Canine Education in Montreal, who incorporates the Dognition dog cognition assessment as a diagnostic tool when getting to know his new dog clients.

Sarah shared her story with us about some of the challenges and joys of living with Moona, and how the results of her Dognition cognition assessment helped them build a more effective training plan tailored to Moona’s particular cognitive style and needs for mental stimulation.

Background on Moona 

Moona has always been a very ‘special dog.’ We adopted Moona at 4 months old from someone who could no longer take care of her.  We instantly knew there was something different about her.  First, we had never seen a dog that looked like her before. We live in Montreal, Canada and the Belgian Malinois breed is not very common here.

Secondly, her behaviour was completely different from anything we’ve ever seen. We began to have issues with her right away, beyond the normal puppy behaviour.

Moona was finding ways to escape the backyard (such as pushing a chair to the fence, climbing on top of it, and then going over the fence…), chasing after small animals, barking at strangers, etc.

So we contacted Josh Taylor, a dog trainer and the owner of Canine Education in Montreal, who helped us out tremendously. He understood Moona and never gave up on her. He recommended that we start our training with a Dognition assessment to help us understand her approach to learning and problem solving.

Moona is now almost two years old and she has some social issues. She is nervous around new people, and on walks she will bark and lunge at dogs who walk past her, but as soon as she is next to them she is ready to play. She is good one-on-one with dogs off leash, but as soon as the dog park gets busy, she becomes aggressive if she is not being entertained.

Moona may be the most dominant-tough doggy at the park, but as soon as we get home she is a big baby. She always sticks close by to us and is a major cuddler!

What We Learned from Dognition

“Moona is an Einstein! It explains quite a few things as to why Moona has the reactivity she does when she sees other dogs, and how we need to think outside of the box when associating certain social cues to get her to pay attention to us, especially when there is a possibility she is choosing to ignore our social cues!”

– Josh Taylor, Owner, Canine Education

Dognition has helped us better understand how Moona’s mind works. We initially thought there was something seriously wrong with her. She was inconsistent when listening to our commands and had a lot of issues socially with other dogs. Now we understand that Moona is a more independent dog.

For example, Moona has got to be the most stubborn dog I have ever seen; she won’t back down until she gets what she wants. She is determined – there was a time when one of her toys rolled under the dishwasher (we were unaware) and she tried to get the toy for days, finally destroying the panel on the bottom of the dishwasher to get it. The Dognition assessment explained that she is an independent problem solver and more individualistic.

Moona has an incredible memory, through the testing process Moona scored sky high in retrospective memory; she remembered where the treat was located almost every time. She always remembers where she puts her toys, where we hide things etc.

Reading Moona’s Einstein profile has helped us better understand Moona’s behaviours, especially socially. From what we have learned from Moona’s profile, we believe the best way to help Moona is Classical Conditioning. When Moona sees another dog (when on leash) she will stare at the dog all the way down the street until they come about 10 metres away and than she will begin barking and lunging at the dog. We have been trying to get Moona to have positive associations with other dogs, by using her favourite treat (a piece of hot dog) every time she sees another dog. So far this technique has been helping us.

Josh has helped us think of additional games that can not only physically but mentally stimulate Moona, such as hiding treats around the house, hiding her balls outside, and even hiding treats under cups. We now understand that Moona needs more than just to run around in a field, her brain needs to be working as well.

Fun times with Moona

Moona is a very high energy dog and her favorite way to release that energy is playing fetch. We will throw the ball for her non-stop for a good hour. One of her favourite games is when dogs (or even us) chase her, although no one can ever catch up because she is so fast.

Every person that meets and gets to know Moona falls in love with her.  Some of the words people have described Moona as are “highly energetic,” “too smart,” “eager,” “mischievous,” and “loyal.”

Every dog has its strengths and of course weaknesses as well. Moona’s profile helped us better understand why she behaves the way she does. This insight has helped us be more patient and understanding of Moona, which has helped us help her improve and shine in many ways.

Moona may have some problem areas that we are working hard on, but all the amazing things she does makes up for it. We are so proud and lucky to have a little Einstein on our hands!

We want to thank Sarah and Moona for sharing their pawsome story with us! Say hi to them and follow Moona’s adventures on Instagram.

Learn more about how Dognition works and read about other Dognition ‘Einsteins.’


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Dinsford says old dogs can learn new tricks

Dinsford is an 11-year-old, male black lab living in Washington, DC, and was adopted by his fur-mom, Sarah, right around Halloween of 2015.

Sarah learned about Dognition after reading the June 30, 2016 Reddit AskScience AMA that Dr. Brian Hare hosted. Intrigued, she played the cognition games with Dinsford, and found out that he’s a “Socialite.”

We asked Sarah some questions about her experience playing Dognition games with Dinsford and what she learned.

What surprised you most?

I was really surprised by the Cunning tests.  Dins is usually a bit of a food thief (he prefers to be called an opportunist) so I was expecting him to go for the treat the moment I turned my back.  But he actually waited a little!  And in the Communication tests, I love watching him decide between following my point and following his gut.  The only set of tests that didn’t surprise me at all was the Empathy tests – he’s a big love bug, and we’re very close even though I haven’t had him for very long.

What was the best part about playing the games?

The best part about playing the games was getting to do something totally new with Dins.  It was fun starting a test, wondering how he would act, and then getting to see what he did.

How are you applying the Dognition profile report to your life with Dinsford?

The Dognition tests and Dinsford’s result have been super helpful.  I feel like I understand him better now.  I think dog lovers have a tendency to unintentionally anthropomorphize our pets, and the Dognition games reminded me that his brain works differently than mine.

The Dognition assessment has helped us with training too – it’s helped me prioritize his strong suits – like communication skills and looking to me for feedback – and use them to work through new tricks and commands.

Mostly, it has made me even more fascinated by dog behavior.  I’ve always been really interested in the different personalities that dogs have, but now when someone tells me they have a dog, I have to ask them what they think the dog would do if they put a treat under a paper cup. 😉

Fun Facts about Dinsford

Dinsford’s name has a very cool origin story. My favorite childhood movie was “101 Dalmatians.”  Towards the end of the movie, there is a black lab who helps the Dalmatians get back to London.  We don’t learn his name in the movie, but he lives in a town called Dinsford, and that inspired me to name him Dinsford.

What are his favorite activities?

Dins is one of those dogs who is happy doing just about anything, as long as he’s with his human.  I’ve been taking him to swimming lessons in Middleburg, VA – since he’s an older boy, swimming is the perfect low-impact exercise for him.  We also like to hike, explore our city (DC), and visit our local pet supply shop.

What are his favorite toys?

As for toys, he loves all of his food-dispensing puzzle toys.  Favorites include the Odin and his trusty Kong.  He’ll eat just about anything, but I’m going to say his favorite food is pizza (he likes it best when it’s stolen from unsuspecting pet sitters).

Does Dinsford have any weird or silly habits?

His silliest habit is hiding slimy antlers and bones and Kongs at the foot of the bed for me to find when I stick my feet in at bedtime. 🙂  And we sleep with our head on the same pillow, sometimes nose-to-nose (not really goofy, but one of my favorite things he does).

Why did you adopt a senior dog?

I would say that old dogs make the best dogs. 🙂  There’s a certain appeal in puppies, for sure, but I would encourage anyone thinking about adoption to consider a senior dog.  He has changed my life and I feel so lucky to be spending his golden years with him.

Parting Thoughts

I would recommend Dognition for any relatively new dog owner. It’s a great bonding experience, and knowing how your dog’s mind works is so helpful.  The Dognition assessment has gotten me totally hooked on learning about how dogs thinks, so I’m excited to check the “Dog Emotion & Cognition” Coursera course and DogSmarts podcast too!

Follow Dinsford’s adventures on Instagram: @dinsford_the_labrador

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Back to school: lifelong learning opportunities for you and your dog

While kids everywhere are going back to school, Dognition has a ton of educational opportunities for you and the other bright minds in your house.

The free online class from Coursera, Dog Emotion and Cognition, will introduce you to the exciting new study of dog psychology, what the latest discoveries tell us about how dogs think and feel about us, and how we can use this new knowledge to strengthen our relationship with our best friends. If you’d like to get a certificate, there is a fee. The course runs every 6 weeks.


Dognition’s Dr. Brian Hare joined Reddit’s Ask Science ‘Ask Me Anything’ on June 30, 2016. You can read through the Q&A and learn more about the inner workings of your dog’s brain, how they see the world, and the cognitive skills that influence your dog’s personality and behavior.

The DogSmarts podcast, hosted by Dr. Brian Hare, explores a dog’s brain through the lens of human cognition. Through stories and interviews, he tackles questions about memory, word learning, navigation, nutrition, and love in six podcast episodes. Available on iTunes and Google Play.

“DogSmarts” is sponsored by Purina® Pro Plan® BRIGHT MIND®, a breakthrough in pet nutrition created to nourish a dog’s mind. Discover more at

‘Citizen Science as a New Tool in Dog Cognition Research”

This research paper evaluates the quality of the first data on dog cognition collected by citizen scientists using the website.  This analysis suggests that in the future, citizen scientists will generate useful datasets that test hypotheses and answer questions as a complement to conventional laboratory techniques used to study dog psychology.

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