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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


24 April 2013

A room with a view: what do dogs want?

Putting the woof in tweet! (source)
Hi Julie,

Wow! Thanks for sharing the amazing fun tweet-week we had posting for @realscientists on Twitter. It was great to engage with so many people about so many areas of dog (and other animal!) behaviour and research. And poo. So many questions about dog poo!  Some things can be relied upon in life; it’s good to know people are always curious about dog poo.

If you want to revisit any of those posts or links we exchanged as part of the Real Scientists project, check out the amazing collection of our tweets, compiled via Storify by the fabulous Sarah, genius behind Science for Life . 365

This week, they have an astrophysicist/cosmologist who studies exploding stars and dark energy tweeting – so interesting! He has a beagle named Bagel who has learned to open doors on everything – the house, the fridge, the microwave – he’s keeping himself and everyone following on Twitter entertained!

Over recent weeks I have been talking to working dog industry groups and visiting a variety of kennel facilities as part of my ongoing work with the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. It’s been great being back around the wagging tails and eager faces of working dogs again. Seeing a wide range of kennel facilities has been fantastic and has given me some good motivation to complete my PhD research in the area of kennelled working dogs.
Kennel facilities (including shelter, boarding/breeding and working dog kennel contexts) are often built to house as many individuals as they can in the space available and to be easily cleaned (usually via chemical wash down and hosing) in order to maintain a hygienic environment. This has historically resulted in spaces formed in concrete and metal that we (as people) readily perceive as barren and sterile.
Modern facilities are often built with different materials, and can seem more pleasing to our eye, but I wonder if they’re actually any different in meeting dogs’ behavioural needs? It’s been interesting while visiting the recent facilities to consider the dogs’ experience of living in them. 

One point of difference that I noted was that some facilities offer the dog/s a view. 
Others didn’t. 

This view might be limited to the dog opposite their kennel run, or fairly open to many other dogs, people, surrounding scenery, traffic, animals, etc. especially in areas where dogs have a choice to be in- or outside. The limited research in this area suggests that in situations where dogs are housed singly and have the opportunity to view other dogs, they take it. 

I find it interesting that human studies have illustrated positive effects of proximity to windows with a view in hospital and workplace environments: improved recovery times and reduced job stress. A review paper by Taylor and Mills (see below) suggests that sensory overstimulation may occur in kennel environments, so what does that mean when we consider what provision should be made for dogs to see outside of their kennel?

Someone thinks it's important, with a fence porthole having been launched for pet dogs a few years ago. So is this marketing to the dogs' needs or the people's perceptions? Dogs certainly seem to actively seek out visual information about the world around them. 

I understand that offering a 'room with a view' is just one part of the whole sensory experience of dogs housed in kennel facilities - but maybe it's a really important one. Especially for dogs housed in kennel facilities for extended periods of training or during their entire work life. 

Perhaps we can discuss some of the other elements of the kennel environment in coming weeks. 
What do you think dogs want? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as ever.
Have a great weekend,


Further reading:

Wells D.L. & Hepper P.G. (1998). A note on the influence of visual conspecific contact on the behaviour of sheltered dogs, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 60 (1) 83-88. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2004). A review of environmental enrichment for kennelled dogs, Canis familiaris, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 85 (3-4) 307-317. DOI: 

Taylor K. & Mills D. (2007). The effect of the kennel environment on canine welfare: a critical review of experimental studies, Animal Welfare, 16 (4) 435-447. Other: Link

Sop Shin W. (2007). The influence of forest view through a window on job satisfaction and job stress, Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22 (3) 248-253. DOI:

Verderber S. & Reuman D. (1987). Windows, views, and health status in hospital therapeutic environments, Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 4 (2) 120-133. Other: Link

© 2013 Mia Cobb
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16 April 2013

Let's Tweet Up!

Do You Believe in Dog? Tweeting @realscientists -- in a shell
I am loving our time tweeting at @realscientists

What a great idea to showcase, “scientists, science communicators, writers and artists to talk about their lives and their work.”

Apparently, people who engage in the sciences are "real people" too.... ;)

Our @realscientists Introductory Post, STOP. PUPPY TIME, kind of had me in stitches. Yes, I did/do like MC Hammer, and apparently he's even big on Twitter.

Live Tweetup/Q&A tomorrow!!
Very much looking forward to our Live Tweetup/Q&A session tomorrow. Anyone, anywhere can join to talk science, dogs, cognition, welfare etc.

Follow using #realsci

Given our time zone difference, here's the date/time: 

NYC Date: Wednesday, April 17
Time: 8:30 PM

MELBOURNE Date: Thursday, April 18
Time: 10:30 AM 

(convert to other time zones here)

More than just dogs...
We've only been @realscientists for 3 days and we've hit a number of expected (and unexpected) topics:

Dogs using mirrors, play, cancer, poo, animal welfare, bunnies, drop box, dingoes and tool use, Working moms are not superwomen, personality and temperament of dogs (and working dogs), #dogsciencepuns, PhD, research, welfare of PhD researchers, veterinarians, careers in behavior, Australian Working Dog Survey, TIM TAMS!!, 

See you tomorrow!!

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12 April 2013

Real Scientists Tweet

Hi Julie,

I hope you have an awesome time at Science Online Teen tomorrow! I hope you get asked lots of questions about your presentation, Dogs: Science in Your Living Room. It's so true that dogs make for a sensational gateway to scientific enquiry - and they're right there, in front of us!

If anyone happens to ask you "What's it like being a scientific canine behavioural researcher?", be sure to tell them to tune in to the @realscientists Twitter project from Sunday (or Saturday evening, USA time). 

They can follow you and I for a whole week as we tweet from the @realscientists account, giving insight into our every day activities as canine scientists. 

Will our tweets sound like woofs? (source)
If anyone out there isn't already on Twitter and/or hasn't been following @realscientists, you really should! It's a super fun insight into the world of science, science communication, writers, clinicians and more. Each week features a different flavour of scientific endeavour and I like to think we'll be bringing the real lab science into the spotlight! 

So far, I've seen wild jaguars while canoeing down a river in the Amazon with Phil Torres; learned about mosquito-borne disease management from Cameron Webb and whisked along for the ride of a week in the life of futurist, with Kristin Alford

Hypnotised by the eyes (source)
It's so much fun and really important, because some people genuinely believe that scientists look like this and that conducting science looks like this

Scary stuff! 

I'm hoping that while we might not be in particularly exotic locations, we can make up for that with our enthusiasm for all things dog and science. Plus, between the two of us, being here in Australia and there New York, we're always here. 

The-blog-that-never-sleeps can now be be the scientists-who-always-tweet!

If anyone out there wants to know how to find out how we spend our week, you can:

Here's hoping we can drum up some more interesting scientific questions about dogs during the week!

See you in the twittersphere,


Further reading:
Real Scientists: blog / @realscientists: twitter

Brossard D. & Scheufele D.A. (2012). Social science. Science, new media, and the public., Science (New York, N.Y.), 339 (6115) 40-41. PMID:

Wilcox C.  (2013) Guest Editorial: It's Time To e-Volve: Taking Responsibility for Science Communication in a Digital Age, The Biological Bulletin, 222 (2) 85-87. PMID: 

© 2013 Mia Cobb

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4 April 2013

Ask scientific questions about dogs


Hi Mia!

Glad to hear your meta-analysis pool is filled with data, or better said, 5,000+ salivary cortisol samples, translating to roughly 1.3 gallons of canine saliva. Never did I think I would see a sentence written about that much saliva, from dogs or any other species. 

It's amazing what we can learn just from studying dog spit. Somebody, somewhere had to think to themselves, "Hey! Why don't we examine hormone levels in spit?" And then, they had to create a system for doing so (and now, this field of research has gone so far as to have Spit Camp, where people learn how to collect saliva samples). This all kind of leads into what I've recently been thinking about... 

Science = Questioning
One of the challenges of science is to question what we already think to be true, to challenge what is possible.

Neuroscientist Beau Lotto recently reminded me of this when I was watching his 2012 TED talk. He begins:

TED Talk Science is for everyone

“Perception is grander than our experience. The brain takes meaningless information and makes meaning out of it. Which means, we never see what’s there, we never see information, we only ever see what was useful to see in the past.

Perception underpins everything, our hopes, our dreams. If perception is grounded in our history it means we are only ever responding to what we’ve done before. But that creates a tremendous problem. Because how can we ever see differently?

All new perceptions begin the same way. They begin with a question.”

New perceptions begin with a question.

Questioning is especially relevant in The Age of Dog where so many of us wake up to a dog’s nose pressed into our face, and we spend countless hours telling tales about the dogs in our lives. And outside of our own experiences, we are bombarded by advertisements telling us, “This is who dogs are” followed by, “And this is what they want, so buy THIS product.”

As applied researchers, we ask scientific questions about our perceptions of dogs and the stories we tell about them. To name a few possible questions: Are we able to visually recognize a dog’s dominant breed? What is the welfare of working dogs? What are the mechanics behind dogs drinking water? What does the “guilty look” mean for dogs? Do dogs have paw preferences and if so, what might that mean? Do all dogs share the same rates of behavioral development?

By asking questions, we are trying to unearth dog perspectives and dog storylines.

Video about ScienceOnline Teen 2013
ScienceOnline Teen!
Which is why I am incredibly excited to participate in ScienceOnline Teen on April 13th (connection coming soon).

Beau Lotto reminds us that young people, in particular, are pretty awesome at asking questions, and significant questions at that.

ScienceOnline Teen is an “unconference conference”, where teens and people involved in science and scientific inquiry coming together “to build connections between students & teachers and the online scientific community and discuss how new media is changing the world of science.”

My hope is to remind teens that we can ask scientific questions not just about atoms and cancer cells but also about the species we interact with on a daily basis.

My short presentation at ScienceOnline Teen is Dogs: Science in Your Living Room. Sure, everyone blogs, tweets and posts pictures of cute dogs, but can our interest in dogs be part of an actual learning experience? The session discusses how a well-known and often beloved companion species, the domestic dog, can help everyone learn about science and scientific principles.

Your post last week on meta-analysis of salivary cortisol research is a prime example of the interplay between learning about dogs and learning about experimental design and data collection.

I’m also participating in the Women in Science Panel by Maia Winstock with Hilda Bastian, Krystal D’Costa, Cynthia Duggan, Delaram Kahrobaei, Gabrielle Rabinowitz, and Jayne Raper (Bios found here). Based on my early titrating challenges and fear of fire (and the Bunsen burner), it's cool to see how much can changed.

Do you have a scientific question about dogs?
Which leads to my last thought: people of any age can ask scientific questions. So, people out there in Internet Land. What scientific questions about dogs do you have?

Bye for now!


More reading
Cobb, M. 2013. Thinking laterality: steps, jumps and wonder-whorls. DYBID
Cobb, M. 2013. The heat(map) is on... The colours of canine welfare. DYBID
Cobb, M. 2013. Throw another dog in the (data) pool. DYBID
Hecht, J. 2012. . Dog Spies
Hecht, J. 2012. What kinds of dogs are troubled by fireworks & what to do about it. DYBID
McConnell, P. 2009. Podcast report; Breed ban info; MARS Wisdom Panel. The Other End of the Leash

© 2013 Julie Hecht
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