University of Western Ontario Canine Cognition Research

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from Krista Macpherson, a dog cognition researcher from the University of Western Ontario.  She found When Hounds Fly and reached out to us because she was looking to partner with a dog trainer with a sound understanding of science-based dog training.  I was floored!

After meeting with her last week and geeking out over dog cognition and experiments, she shared two published studies she worked on.  The first was a radial maze study that was published in Science.  The other was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology and it asked whether Dogs seek help in an emergency (the popular press picked it up and coined it the Lassie Experiment).  Owners faked heart attacks and also faked having bookshelves fall ontop of them.  Unfortunately, the dogs didn’t go out and seek help like Lassie would.  Oh well, that just means we can train “Get help!” as an operant behavior, put it on stimulus control, and have it handy just in case.

Lassie!  Go get help!  Or just sit there.
Lassie! Go get help! Or just sit there.

I’m so excited about this project for a bunch of reasons.  Firstly, clicker training exists because of the work done by scientists like B.F. Skinner in the 60s.  Without science, we would still be stuck following archaic training methods prescribed by old-school compulsion trainers like Koehler or the Monks of New Skete.  Secondly, having an affiliation with a researcher from the University of Western Ontario will help undecided dog owners make a good decision to enroll their dog in a humane, positive reinforcement dog training school instead of choosing a yank-and-crank compulsion trainer.  Lastly, the geek in me (I trained a goldfish after all) gets fired up at the thought of helping run science experiments involving my students’ and friends’ dogs!

If you’re interested in volunteering and having your dogs help out science, check this article out on our main site and let us know.  https://www.whenhoundsfly.com/resources/articles/75-caninecognitionexperiments.html

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