Why do dogs act the way they do?
This is the central question behind a new research initiative at the University of British Columbia. His human-animal interaction lab has just opened and is looking for dog owners and their four-legged companions to help researchers explore how different dogs perceive and respond to their environment.
“We take a behavioral angle in our research and look for differences between dogs on a small scale. For example, we’ll look at how dogs interact with the world and what kinds of differences we might see in fundamental aspects of their learning, such as the speed at which knowledge is acquired and how fast or slow the dog can engage. with a new element,” lab Alexandra Protopopova, director and assistant professor of animal welfare at UBC, said in a press release.
For example, a dog might learn to touch its nose to one of its owner’s palms. The researcher could then change the rules and have the dog learn to touch both palms of its owner. The researcher would monitor how long it took the dog to learn the different rules and adapt.
The goal of the research is to learn how different breeds of dogs and dogs with different characteristics respond to prompts. This knowledge can then be used to improve animal shelter practices and the use of therapy dogs for behavioral rehabilitation in other pets, according to the lab’s researchers. It will also provide a learning experience for UBC students.
The lab itself has specialized flooring for easy cleaning, 360-degree cameras, and a one-way mirror so researchers can observe the dogs from the outside without them noticing.
For a puppy to participate, its owner must give consent and the dog must show interest.
“It is important for us to ask dogs if they would like to participate in the same way that we would invite children to participate in studies. Dogs always have the opportunity to engage and re-engage in the experience. If the dog does not want to move forward, or if we observe signs of stress, we inform the owner and immediately stop the experiment,” Protopopova said.
No matter how far they go, each dog will receive a certificate of participation and the possibility of a photo with a graduation cap and belt. Protopopova calls it earning a “Ph-Dog.”