We can learn about dog cognition through cognitive games in the lab, but the small sample size limits our ability to find associations between performance on different cognitive tasks, or with other variables such as their personality. However, citizen science allows us to expand our sample size and answer questions like this. The unsolvable task (where dogs find food they need human help to access) has been interpreted as a form of communication with humans, a measure of self-control, or simply a tendency to make eye contact. Which of these tasks is it most linked to? Do dogs' performance on cognitive tasks in fact match up with the owner's assessment of the dog's abilities?
In 2013, Dognition was launched by Dr. Brian Hare and collaborators. Dog owners sign up to complete a series of cognitive games with their own dog and learn about their dog's cognitive profiles. The data is added to a large database of over 20,000 dogs. I am diving into these large dataset to find associations between cognitive tasks and with the survey questions owners answer about their dogs.
If you are a dog owner who wants to join participate, please visit the official Dognition site.
- Brian Hare