I recently came across a paper published in the online journal PLoS One entitled Citizen Science as a New Tool in Dog Cognition Research. Scientists evaluated “the quality of the first data on dog cognition collected by citizen scientists using the Dognition.com website” and found:
Results from citizen scientists and their dogs replicated a number of previously described phenomena from conventional lab-based research. There was little evidence that citizen scientists manipulated their results… This analysis suggests that in the future, citizen scientists will generate useful datasets that test hypotheses and answer questions as a complement to conventional laboratory techniques used to study dog psychology.
Using owners to generate data with their own dogs—what a cool notion, and it looks like it might actually work!
I then went to the Dognition website to get some more information. It looks to me like you play some games with your dog (ample instructions are included), upload the results, and then get a report on your dog that “will give you individualized insight into the cognitive strategies your dog employs, and in-depth breakdowns of the results of each game.”
The report also puts your dog into one of nine “Profile types,” each of which “represents a distinct combination of characteristics that shape your dog's approach to everyday life.”
So far, the program has divided dogs up this way:
- 10% “Ace” Aces are the dogs with it all—pros at reading and understanding social information, and just as good at solving problems on their own.
- 16% “Charmer” Charmers have exceptional social skills, meaning they can read human body language like a book, [but] these social skills are paired with just the right amount of independent problem solving skills.
- 22% “Socialite” [Socialites] rely less on independent problem solving skills than other dogs… They rely on a very specific strategy—using the humans in their pack to get what they want.
- 7% “Expert” Dogs with the Expert profile have a relatively strong memory, along with the ability to solve many types of problems they've never seen before. Due to these cognitive abilities, Experts tend to be less reliant on humans than other dogs.
- 12% “Renaissance Dog” Rather than being completely dependent on individual cognitive strategies, Renaissance Dogs show impressive flexibility across all 5 cognitive dimensions.
- 15% “Protodog” Protodogs are… flexible when it comes to solving problems on their own, but with sufficient social acumen to turn to humans for help when needed.
- 3% “Einstein” Einsteins have an excellent comprehension of the physical world. They also show one of the key qualities of genius: the ability to make inferences, [but they] occasionally struggle with social situations.
- 7% “Maverick” With cognitive characteristics closer to their wolf ancestors than most other dogs… Mavericks definitely prefer to tackle problems independently.
- 8% “Stargazer” Generally [Stargazers’] cognition is geared towards self-reliant and present-minded strategies, rather than being overly concerned with past events and human collaboration.
[Descriptions are taken from the Dognition website]
If I had to guess, I’d say that my boxer, Apollo, is a “Socialite,” but before I shell out the money to test him (and provide some data to the researchers), I want to hear if any of you have used the Dognition website and what you thought of the experience.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Citizen Science as a New Tool in Dog Cognition Research. Stewart L, MacLean EL, Ivy D, Woods V, Cohen E, Rodriguez K, McIntyre M, Mukherjee S, Call J, Kaminski J, Miklósi Á, Wrangham RW, Hare B. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 16;10(9):e0135176.