UBC researchers looking for open-minded canine participants

Researchers at the brand new Human-Animal Interaction Lab at the University of British Columbia are looking for four-legged participants. The goal: To understand the minds of dogs, including what makes them happy

Researchers at British Columbia’s largest university are looking to exploit dog owners in a study to find out what dogs are capable of.

This is the first time the University of British Columbia (UBC) has called on the public to bring their four-legged friends to the Human-Animal Interaction Lab, which opened on Tuesday.

Dogs are believed to have lived alongside humans for decades. thousands of yearsand during that time, they’ve developed remarkably strong habits of looking to their keepers for several social cues, said Alexandra Protopopova, lab director and assistant professor in UBC’s Animal Welfare Program in the Systems Faculty. land and food.

“People know very well that dogs pay attention to us. But I think they really underestimate how much,” she said. how they respond regardless of the person.

UBC animal welfare researcher Alexandra Protopopova interacts with students. by Alexandra Protopopova

Protopopova and her colleagues will ask these “questions” through a series of cognitive games and puzzles, often involving food.

Researchers hope to find out how receptive dogs are to learning new rules of a game and how mood affects their ability to navigate their environment.

As Protopopova said, “From the dog’s perspective alone, how do they see the world?

What should dog owners expect?

UBC’s newly opened lab was recently renovated and now includes specialized flooring, 360-degree cameras and one-way mirrors for observing canines.

The experiments will never last more than an hour and the researcher claims that at no time will they seek to alter the human-animal bond.

Instead, dog owners will stay with their pets the whole time they move around the lab.

A few lucky dogs will be offered an abundance of toys, games, and treats to see how mood affects their cognitive abilities. Others will be left in a basic environment. Protopopova, who is also a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, has spent her career investigating domestic animals, including how fit pets to a changing climate.

UBC Canine Lab 2
UBC’s new Human-Animal Interaction Lab includes one-way mirrors to observe dogs during several noninvasive cognitive experiments. Lexis Ly/UBC

Protopopova said dogs would never be put in uncomfortable situations.

“We’re never going to add negative experiences for dogs,” she said. “We take this very, very seriously.”

Going forward, canine cognition research aims to improve the functioning of animal shelters and provide insight for pet owners.

If all goes according to plan, Protopopova and her colleagues hope to figure out what creates good moods in dogs, why good moods can be helpful, and how pet caretakers can better ask dogs if they’re in a good mood.

Studies will also look at the use of trained therapy dogs and how the educational relationship between children and dogs can be more comfortable for everyone involved.

What kind of dogs are they looking for?

Protopopova said all breeds and sizes of dogs are welcome to apply to participate in the study, as long as the dogs are vaccinated and comfortable in new environments and situations.

Researchers will constantly monitor the dogs for signs of discomfort, and if a dog stops participating in a game, it will take a break.

Since the UBC team will be conducting a number of non-invasive experiments, some participants will be asked to come for one session and others will be asked to come back for multiple lab visits.

As the research progresses, Protopopova said she will ask owners of specific dog breeds to join experiments to understand how it might affect canine cognition.

All dogs that participate in the study will receive a certificate of participation and a photo wearing a “dog graduation cap and belt, if desired.”

“We want to make sure it’s really fun,” she said.

Dog owners interested in participating in research at UBC’s Human-Animal Interaction Lab are asked to complete a quiz.

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