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Arizona researchers learning how dogs think, connect with humans

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 6:51 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Dogs have earned the title “man’s best friend” and researchers at the Arizona Canine Cognition Center are learning what makes the connection so strong. Their research is finding how dogs think and perceive the world.

“We try to see if there are specific aspects in their behavior or the way they perform in some of the cognitive tests that we do that will predict if they’ll be a good service dog,” said Evan MacLean, the director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center.

He said genes may explain why some dogs perform better with social tasks and interacting with humans.

“We have simple tests that just look at simple things like how much a dog wants to look at your face or if you point to something to show a dog where it is. Do they understand?” he said.

They’re finding the answer through studying puppies. Researchers found social skills, like following pointing gestures, may come naturally and aren’t necessarily learned.

“That’s something people have been interested in for years and years but was unclear why dogs do that. Is it something they do because they grow up around humans or is it something that is really in their biology,” he said.

The research grabbed the attention of actor Jeff Goldblum and Evan has since made an appearance on his show The World According to Jeff Goldblum.

“It’s exciting to see that not only are they a fun man’s best friend but also people want to understand how they think,” said Abby Flyer, a project coordinator at the center.

The Arizona Canine Research Center has studies that are open to the public and your dog can participate. One of their studies is recruiting eight-to-ten-year-old kids who have pet dogs to study their interactions. Learn more, here.

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