Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let's Play! Dog Facility Introduced

Brian Hare is launching a "Duke Canine Cognition Center" to investigate the unique cognitive abilities in domestic dogs.
He needs help from the public -- and their dogs.

The DCCC will be enrolling pet dogs to participate in fun problem-solving experiments that the dogs will enjoy. Experiments will be starting in March/April.

UPDATE (Nov. 2009) -- Here is the website for the Canine Cognition Lab:

To learn more about this program, come to the kickoff Thursday night or email

Thursday, 26 February 2009, 6 – 7 pm
Room 111, Biological Sciences Bldg
Duke University, West Campus
Reception with light refreshments to follow
in Biological Sciences 001


Barbara Puccio said...

This is awesome! I have a German Shepherd from working lines - dad was police dog and mom was search & rescue/herding champ. I'd be very interested in how she does, as problem solving is what she was bred for. She has definitely been a challenge to train because of all her drive.

KL Bates said...

...but can she understand what you mean when you point at the fridge and say "get me a beer, Helga?"

Drop Brian a note at
and sign her up!

Sandy Tomezik said...

I have seen the pointing to the treat under the cup I do believe dogs observe and interprethuman gestures, but I windered how you controlthe experiment to rule out scent as the means the dogs uses to select the correct cup, rather than following the gesture? If I trow a stick into a pile of sticks, my dachshund Clancy will check all the sticks and bring back the one that has my scent on it. I didn't teach him this; he does it naturally. I'm sure any dog can determine where a treat is hidden by scent, whether or not anyone points to it.

Also, I you may want to look into dogs' ability to distinguish right-handed from left-handed gestures. I had a deaf dog who would run to me if I made a "come here" gesture with my right hand, but not if I made the gesture with my left.Again, I didn't specifically teach her this, she learned on her own.

Anyway, your work looks interesting, I look forward to reading more about your work.

Sandy Tomezik

Josie said...

Hey Sandy,

I heard the answer to your question on a radio interview with Dr. Hare.

Control experiments were performed where food was still hidden under one of the cups, but dogs were not given the signal from the human. These dogs were unable to figure out how to get the food. This shows that the dogs were not able to use smell (at least from the distance used in the experiment) but rather relied upon the human signal to find the food.

Anonymous said...

Hi Josie,

I wouldn't say that the dog couldn't smell the treat. It's incredibly difficult to trick a dog's sniffer. I have a search and rescue dog and have done a lot of research into scent theory and how a dog's nose works. What may be the case is that there was so much of the treat scent lingering in the area (think of "Playpen" for the Peanut Gallery here) that the dog couldn't identify which cup the scent was actually coming from.

Have a great day!