Citizen Science, it's all about everyone getting involved!
Updated: May 21, 2020
The field of animal science have been evolving over the last few years.
With the help of cloud technology and the many ways we humans can now communicate and exchange information is evolving at such a fast pace.
Science is now able to move beyond the laboratory and study dogs in what I believe is their natural habitat, in our homes.
Right by our sides cohabiting with humans and other animals, just where they belong and thrive.
For many years behaviorism has taken the limelight in animal training but slowly people have accepted that we are not the higher beings and that actually humans and many other animals are similar in more ways than history might want us to believe.
Acceptance and evidence of the emotional animal gave physiology and ethology more weight and started to open up more questions about these strange creatures that become our friends and that we share our life
(you can read a bit more about emotions here Illis ABC Emotions Blog)
Now we live in a world rich in canine science and trying to understand what makes a dog a dog is still a huge question, what makes them different to wolves, how does their cognition work, how have the different traits been evolved in each breed and what effect does this have, how have they evolved a unique form of social cognition that enable them to now be domesticated and live and understand humans and other species so successfully, how do they communicate with us so effectively without uttering a word?
That`s one of my big questions,
how do dogs understand us much more successfully than we understand them and why do some people seem to hold a connection to dogs without doing anything even when they are not dog owners themselves?
Has the human race got a genetic component to dog communication, are some of use born different to others?
Dogs (and many other animals) are no longer considered as stimulus response machines but highly complicated individuals with personalities and I personally rejoice that, it's an exciting time for people that geek out on dogs!
What is Citizen Science Then?
Citizen science is all about you and your dogs and how you can help scientists and researchers gather data on our best mates, it's usually made up of questionnaires sometimes actual tests you can carry out at home whilst sat with a cuppa and a cake, you could even get your children involved.
Why is it important, how can you help?
One thing about data is that the more you gather the better your chances of being accurate, sample size is often a weakness in canine science studies because of the availability and suitability of the candidates. This in itself can also lend a bias to the test group, if a laboratory can not facilitate a reactive dog then they can never become part of that data set.
That said citizen science has its own drawbacks, one of which being test criteria and accuracy by the untrained home scientist another being owner bias, I`m sure we all have rose tinted glasses for our dogs we have a bias towards their success, that in itself should be investigated!
Never the less it can ask questions, they might throw up trends that then steer further research and all of it is about working towards our canine companions being understood better so welfare needs can be kept up to date and their lives can be enriched further.
Do you want to get involved?
So you're interested in doing some science, how do you start? Well we have made a list of some of the projects we know of below, go and take a read, see if you can get involved somehow.
Lets do this!
Generation Pup is a groundbreaking study of the health, welfare and behaviour of our dogs throughout their whole lives.
‘Generation Pup’ is a unique type of research project – known as a cohort study – where lots of individual dogs are followed over their lifetime. This has some big advantages over other approaches, as it enables us to investigate whether events or environments early in life influence the development of conditions as dogs get older.
The Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) is a standardized, behavioural evaluation tool for dog owners/guardians, handlers and professionals.
It was developed and validated by Yuying Hsu and James Serpell in 2003, and has been available for completion via a publicly accessible online website since 2005.
At the time of writing, the C-BARQ database at the University of Pennsylvania now contains detailed behavioural evaluations for approximately 50,000 pet dogs comprising more than 300 different breeds and cross-breeds.
Family Dog Project
The Family Dog Project was founded in 1994 to study the behavioural and cognitive aspects of the dog-human relationship. It is currently the largest dog research group in the world.
Assist in research investigating the evolutionary and ethological foundations of dog-human relationship by taking one of their online surveys.
Participate in one of their projects by scrolling through this page