The Doggone Data

I love dogs. I love science. And I especially love how science helps me love my pups better.  It’s incredible how far we’ve come in terms of nutrition, veterinary care and training for our dogs thanks to new data from a variety of fields.


Officially, dogs haven’t led any of these scientific studies. After he goes to college Eko hopes to change that

I try to keep up to date on the latest canine science, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recent studies here. One study from the University of California examined whether dogs exhibit jealous behavior.


Jealousy? Never around here. Eko was totally fine with puppy Penny getting all the attention.


Oh wait, no he wasn’t

A study from the Messerli Research Institute showed that not only can dogs distinguish between happy and angry faces, but they could also do so when only seeing part of the face (eyes, mouth, etc). 

Penny didn’t need to see my whole face to know it wasn’t happy at being woken up early

A study out of Kyoto University suggesting dogs can tell if you’re untrustworthy is one of my recent favorites. In this study they played the same cup game I do, but the heartless scientists lied about which cup the treat was in! Never fear, the pups quickly learned who the fibbers were and no longer took direction from them.


Luckily the pups trust me, both inside and outside the operating room

“Smell ya later,” takes on a whole new meaning with this study from Emory University. According to researchers, our pups love each of our signature scents. You know that crazy reaction you get from your pup when you walk in the door? Turns out it can be elicited in your pup even when you’re not around. All they need is a whiff of your scent and it elicits and powerful, positive emotional reaction.


Excuse me, are you wearing eau de Will? It’s simply divine 

As my mother once asked me, I often ask my pups, “Sounds good. How does it taste?” Eko and Penny are food crazy so I found this info from Dr. Ann Hohenhaus particularly interesting. Dogs have such a powerful nose, you would think they have an equally powerful sense of taste. However, it seems our pups might not have quite so discerning a palate. Thus explaining why my two might no be so concerned with savoring their food as much as inhaling it.


“Tough choice. Get me one of everything.”

A smaller study from the University of Sweden found that dogs prefer rewards (treats) more when they are earned than when they are freely given. Of course it’s tough to pin down the exact reason for this preference, but some aspect of having control over the reward certainly pleased the pups.


Sometimes, pups even work for rewards you thought were well hidden

I’m always fascinated by how animals of different species interact. Usually this means I’m fascinated by how Penny and Eko ignore me when it’s bath time, but there is a growing body of research about other cross-species interactions.

One of the more well known and successful experiments pairs zoo cheetahs (normally skittish) with puppy partners in order to build up the cheetah’s comfort with people.  (Note: In what might be the greatest scientific errors of our time, Penny was NOT the Ridgeback chosen to be paired with the cheetah at the San Diego zoo)

We haven’t had a ton of cross-species interaction, but this horse in Charleston had a grudge against Eko or me. Never got close enough to figure out which one of us it was. 

Of course none of these studies are bulletproof. And there is a certain, “Well, of course!” factor to some of the results. But what’s most important for me is that there are still lots of people around the world working to help man understand our best friend. A pretty worthy endeavour in my opinion.

The above studies only scratch the surface, so if you’ve seen or read about any interesting pet research please share in the comments. There’s always more to learn and I’d love to check out whatever you’ve got.

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