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Duke dog study fetches national attention

Posted September 30, 2013
Updated October 1, 2013

— Have you ever wondered what your dog was thinking? Now there may be a way for you to figure out what is going through your dog’s mind.

Studying dogs is a fairly new science. Dr. Brian Hare, an anthropology professor, uses science to help people understand how their dogs think.

“That’s been the big thing in the past 10 years,” Hare said. “Science has sort of woken up and said, ‘Oh my gosh, dogs are a really interesting species to study,’” he said.

Debra Morgan of WRAL first visited the Duke Canine Cognition Lab with her pup in the winter of 2010.

“Anyone could bring in their dogs, so I brought mine here to take part in the initial tests,” Morgan said.

These initial tests were a huge success.

“We had a thousand dogs and a lot of it was due to WRAL,” Hare said. After WRAL ran a story about the study, a lot of people found out about the study and signed up.

"One of the things we learned from that experience was there's a lot of demand. People really want to understand their dogs better, but at Duke of course we can only help people here locally," Hare said.

So he expanded his research to include a New York Times best seller, “The Genius of Dogs,”  and a web site, dognition.com. Dog Man's best friend, also a genius?

Dognition games allow pet owners to gain a fresh perspective on their furry friend’s mind, from how the dog communicates to how he or she solves problems.

"The goal here is not to prove that your dog is smart or not," Hare said. "The goal is to understand what are the strategies that your dog is using in different areas of intelligence and what is your dog's special genius."

Morgan's 6-year-old yellow lab, Harper, uses her memory and learned hand signals to know where to find a treat.

Dogs are very smart creatures. “When they are together with people and they are solving problems socially, they are absolute geniuses,” Hare said. “They can solve problems faster and more effectively than almost any other species. They use [humans] as tools essentially,” he added.


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  • Mon Account Oct 1, 2013

    "I'd be interested in knowing if this waste of time is being taxpayer funded." - wayneboyd

    "Much of our work is supported by public funds..."

    Google. It's your friend who helps you not waste time.

  • martina Oct 1, 2013

    “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened”

  • Trixie Oct 1, 2013

    Wayneboyd - Dogs sniff out bombs, find survivors in natural disasters, serve with the police, assist disabled people and some even detect cancer cells. I think studying how they think is something worthwhile for us.

  • grandmagail Oct 1, 2013

    wayneboyd I feel sorry for you. You evidently have never known the love and devotion a dog can give you. Even if it is taxpayer funded at least my money isn't being given to some person who is sneaking into this country and having babies so they can get more money that they are not entitled to.

  • wayneboyd Oct 1, 2013

    I'd be interested in knowing if this waste of time is being taxpayer funded.

  • MzLadySmiling Oct 1, 2013

    With proper training and invested time, dogs are marvelous creatures...
    Great companions that offer little, if any, resistance to a cohesive living
    arrangement for the family... Only pre-requisite is commitment and love....

  • seeingthru Sep 30, 2013

    I knew it!