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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...


31 May 2014

Dogs Are Like Porn: All Over the Internet and Waiting For You

Hi Mia,

I’m coming to you hopped up on 3 cups of coffee, a chocolate chip cookie and a barrel of excitement. This weekend, I’m participating at Science Hack Day: Science in the City, an event in its second year running. The host is Francois Grey (Twitter:@FrancoisGrey) a physicist and the head of Citizen Science at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.

This two-day event is built on a simple premise:

Life in the city is complicated, and sometimes the only way to solve an urban problem is with a hack–a science hack, that is.

Science hacks are low-cost, elegant workarounds that create useful scientific projects. Science Hack Day is a two-day event that brings together scientists, designers, developers and innovators who will invent, build and test their projects.

On Saturday morning, thirteen hacks were pitched, and anyone who is interested can drop by to participate in Downtown Brooklyn. I’m surrounded by people either tinkering away on computers or other robotic-looking structures. Others took to the streets to record the sounds of the city or set-up hi-tech trash cans. Tomorrow I have the pleasure of sitting on a panel that will give out awards for the best Science Hacks.

You know exactly what I'm talking about because you were all jazzed after attending  Science Rewired (and covered the experience here), and a while back, I listed some of my favorite #citsci projects, including projects involving laughing babies, otters and clouds. 

For those less familiar with public participation science projects, here’s a short, quick and dirty video describing the wide range of projects that anyone can join. Being involved is not only about participating in research and helping researchers, it's also about learning more about local communities, collecting relevant data (say on air quality in your neighborhood), and in some cases, making new discoveries:

But what about dogs? Much of the canine research in recent years is conducted in academic lab spaces or owner homes, but over the last few years, we’ve seen immense growth in virtual, online projects that require active participation from anyone in the world. As examples, we've previously blogged about Project: Play With Your Dog as well as Poo Power!

Here are online, public participation dog science projects that anyone in the world can join:

C-BARQ (Free)
A questionnaire designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized evaluations of canine temperament and behavior. 

A variety of science-based games that Dognition members can sign up for and play with their pup.

Emotional Content of Vocalizations (Free)
What is the emotional content of dog and human vocalizations? Listen and submit your answer (I covered this study on Scientific American, dedicating a lot of words to making fun of Bret Michaels, as is appropriate).

Howl Coder (Free)
The Canid Howl Project is the work of a large number of scientists, trying to understand the range of different vocal behaviours of canids, primarily wolves, dogs, and coyotes. Participants listen to vocalizations and analyze the recordings.

Woof! (Free)
The Woof! experiment explores how people respond to dog barks. The study is trying to better understand how we respond to everyday sounds.

Risk factors for low-appeal shelter dogs (Free) 
This online study investigates how descriptors and physical appearance affect shelter dog length of stay and adoption success. Participants help by tagging images of dogs.

Factors contributing to aggressive impulsivity in the dogs
This is a serious welfare problem for both humans and dogs. PhD student Fernanda Fadel is trying to identify genetic risk factors in dogs which may allow researchers to develop a simple test to identify at-risk individuals. These dogs may need specific management measures to help them live happy and fulfilling lives, at minimal risk to others. Participate by completing a short questionnaire. 

Canine Researchers! Do you have an online, public participation project that we haven't listed here? Email us, and let us know!

Projects often revolve around researchers and participants, and each group can have slightly different needs. 

RESEARCHERS! I imagine that many of our colleagues are looking for study participants. Hooking up with citizen science project aggregators, like those listed below, is a great way to find interested participants. Researchers spend months and months on project design and methods, but recruiting and engaging participants is an entirely different bag of worms. Some of the below websites focus on participant recruitment and engagement. For example, SciStarter has many tools and resources for citizen science projects seeking participants.

PARTICIPANTS! It's not just about dogs, although dogs are very excellent. Many public science projects need help collecting and analyzing data on a wide range of topics. Interested in plants? Interested in birds? Interested in whale vocalizations? There's something for everyone. Take a look below:

“SciStarter is the place to find, join, and contribute to science through recreational activities and citizen science research projects. Our database of citizen science projects enable discovery, organization, and greater participation in citizen science.”
“ supports your research by providing tools and resources that allow you to customize your scientific procedure - all in one location on the internet."

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
"Anyone who watches birds, from backyards to city streets to remote forests, can help researchers better understand birds and their habits."


"Zooniverse contains projects produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance. The member institutions of the CSA work with many academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers."

Scientific American

An aggregator of many public engagement projects.

Your Wild Life 

Many projects that "explore the biodiversity in our daily lives." I’m pretty psyched about the new Cat Tracker project

These are just a sampling of non-canine projects flying around the Internet. If anyone has contributed to public participation projects, we'd love to hear about your experience.

See you in T minus 2 weeks!!!!


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21 May 2014

Preventing dog bites when you don't have a hero cat

Hey Julie!

So much going on I need to take three deep breaths to calm down!

Firstly - we have a winner! Actually - thanks to the awesome crew at SPARCS, we have two! Very excited to meet Marsha P and Kristi M at #SPARCS2014 and want to thank all the excellent people who responded to our giveaway shoutout on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. We hope those of your who weren't successful will consider still coming along or joining us on the livestream broadcast.

Secondly - I loved learning about the differences in UK and US shelter workers perceptions of pit bulls and all the associated bits and pieces that went along with that in our latest guest post by Dr Christy Hoffman. Really, really interesting research and I look forward to the next piece of the puzzle (aka 'new science') in that area.

National Dog Bite Prevention WeekThirdly - it's dog bite prevention week in the USA right now! We can't all own Tara the Hero Cat (and to be fair, as much as she is worthy of her notoriety and 20million+ hits on the viral video showcasing her ninja skills, she didn't actually prevent the bite - although I'm pretty confident she helped prevent it being a whole lot worse). If you somehow missed what on earth I'm talking about - check out this clip of amazing Tara (but a warning, it does show security camera footage of a child being attacked by a dog and the subsequent wounds):

Which brings us back to Dog Bite Prevention Week. We don't have a week like this in Australia, so I did some web trawling to check out what you guys have going on over there. 
The AVMA have put up a whole lot of great information and resources about dog bite prevention, including this neat summary infographic:

Dog Bites by the Numbers

I was really pleased to see this analysis of information about the role of breed in dog bite risk and prevention, which reminded me of this piece on The Conversation by researcher Dr Rachel Casey from Bristol University in the UK, who has been part of a team investigating aggressive behaviour in dogs.

The broader research in this area (see below for references) highlights similarities across Australia, the UK and the US with most serious dog bites occurring to children by a known dog in a familiar area without direct adult supervision at the time of the attack. But of course - as Hero Cat Tara has shown us this week, not all dogs stick to these trends.

It seems that there are many commonalities to serious dog bites that we can all be aware of to help reduce the risk, given that any dog can bite:
  • Supervise children <14yo around dogs, even known dogs
  • Don't try to pat a dog you don't know, even if it is on the other side of a fence
  • Make sure your dog is well socialised and trained in basic commands
  • Keep your dog healthy
  • Teach your children to be mindful and careful of their actions around dogs, especially when the dog is tied up, eating or sleeping
  • If you are threatened by a dog, remain still and calm with your hands balled by your sides - don't run
  • If you are attacked by a dog, curl up in a ball and protect your face
I'm off to reinforce messages of safe dog interacting with my pre-school aged daughter now - hope you have a great week. 

Only one month til #SPARCS2014! Squee!



Further reading:

Meints K. & de Keuster T. (2009). Brief Report: Don't Kiss a Sleeping Dog: The First Assessment of "The Blue Dog" Bite Prevention Program, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34 (10) 1084-1090. DOI:

Schalamon J., Ainoedhofer H., Singer G., Petnehazy T., Mayr J., Kiss K. & Höllwarth M.E. (2006) Analysis of dog bites in children who are younger than 17 years., Pediatrics, PMID:  

Keuster T.D., Lamoureux J. & Kahn A. (2006). Epidemiology of dog bites: A Belgian experience of canine behaviour and public health concerns, The Veterinary Journal, 172 (3) 482-487. DOI:  

Langley R.L. (2009). Human Fatalities Resulting From Dog Attacks in the United States, 1979–2005, Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 20 (1) 19-25. DOI:  

Ozanne-Smith J. (2001)  Dog bite and injury prevention--analysis, critical review, and research agenda, Injury Prevention, 7 (4) 321-326. DOI:

Thompson P. (1997). The public health impact of dog attacks in a major Australian city., The Medical Journal of Australia, 167 (3) 129-132. PMID:  

© Do You Believe in Dog? 2014
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14 May 2014



SPARCS is an international initiative to promote research & education in dog science. 
Each year, SPARCS holds a three-day canine science conference with each day 
dedicated to a different dog behavior topic. 

This year's topics include: 'Aggression & Conflict,' 'Personality & Temperament,' and 'Science in Training.' Attend in-person or watch via free livestream.

20-22 June 2014 | Newport, Rhode Island | USA

Ray Coppinger, Simon Gadbois, Sam Gosling, 
Kathryn Lord, Patricia McConnell, James Serpell, 
Monique Udell, Clive Wynne and Prescott Breeden. 

Enter to win free registration to the 3-day conference
Let us know why YOU want to attend this major canine science event
and who will benefit if YOU attend.

You can make your submission here on the blog, or over on Facebook, or Twitter.
Mia and Julie will select who receives a free registration to #SPARCS2014

Tag your comment with #SPARCS2014

Competition closes: 20 May 2014
Winner announced: 21 May 2014

Competition is for SPARCS 2014 conference registration (valued US$499) only.
Travel and accommodation expenses to attend not covered. Judges' decision will be final. 
If selected, but unable to attend, please contact so another person can be selected.

Click to enlarge

Follow Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science:

Follow Dog You Believe in Dog?

 © Do You Believe in Dog? 2014

Thanks to everyone who participated - look forward to 'seeing' you on the live #SPARCS2014 broadcast :)

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4 May 2014

Isn't it a Pitty? USA & UK shelter worker differences in Pit Bull identification

Hi Julie and Mia,

Guess what? We have something in common!
Do You Believe in Dog? started as a result of you two meeting at a conference, and my latest publication also resulted from a conference-inspired, long-distance collaboration. Dr. Carri Westgarth and I met at the International Society for Anthrozoology meeting in England in 2012. We quickly realized we share both personal and professional interests in dogs. During one of our chats, I showed Carri pictures of dogs I’d worked with in a US shelter. As I flipped through the pictures, I noted out loud that many were pit bulls, and Carri responded, “We wouldn’t call most of those dogs pit bulls here in the UK.”


This conversation motivated us to conduct a study investigating differences between which dogs shelter workers in the US and UK consider pit bulls. Following the conference, Carri and I collected pictures of shelter dogs and designed a survey to learn more about shelters’ intake policies and assess how shelter workers determine breed identity. We wanted survey participants to look at pictures of shelter dogs and then tell us what breed they thought the dog was and which characteristics led them to their conclusion. Then, we had participants go through the pictures a second time and tell us whether or not they felt each dog was a pit bull.

One of the hardest parts of this project was narrowing down the pictures to just 20. We would have loved to have included more but didn’t want to make our survey so long that people became frustrated and quit before finishing. Our final set of pictures included 11 bull breeds. Twelve of the dogs were from the US, and the remaining 8 were from the UK.

Some of the dogs used in our survey (excerpt from publication)

We launched the survey at the end of 2012 and recruited participants via social media and an e-mail campaign directed at shelters. We ended up with responses from 416 US participants and 54 UK participants.

Eleven percent of US participants reported working in shelters that are impacted by Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Although all UK shelters are impacted by BSL due to the Dangerous Dog Act, the survey results indicated that not all UK shelter workers were aware of this. That surprised us!


We were even more surprised by participants’ thoughts regarding which dogs were pit bulls. Over half of US participants considered 7 of the 20 dogs to be pit bulls, whereas over half of UK participants considered only 1 of the dogs to be a pit bull. Furthermore, US participants were significantly more likely than UK participants to consider 12 of the dogs to be pit bulls.

When we provided participants with a list of 10 bull breed and Mastiff breed names and asked if they considered any of these breeds to be pit bulls, US participants were more likely than UK participants to say that 6 of the breeds were. The biggest discrepancy between US and UK participants’ responses was regarding the Staffordshire bull terrier. Two percent of UK participants considered this breed to be a pit bull, whereas 69% of US participants did!

Carri and I were astonished by how much UK and US shelter workers’ perceptions of what a pit bull looks like differed. We also were surprised by how much disagreement there was amongst shelter workers within our respective countries. We thought about how many times we have seen news reports that identify aggressive dogs as "pit bulls" and how infrequently pictures of the impounded dogs accompany these articles. It made us wonder how much of the pit bull’s reputation is affected by dogs being identified as pit bulls in one location, even though they may not be considered pit bulls elsewhere.

We tried to figure out why there is so much disagreement regarding what a pit bull dog is and 
concluded it may in part be because the American Kennel Club and the UK’s Kennel Club do not have breed standards for the pit bull or American pit bull terrier (although the United Kennel Club does!). According to the UK’s Dangerous Dog Act, a pit bull dog is one that meets the physical features described for pit bulls in a 1977 issue of the American periodical Pit Bull Gazette. American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers fall under the UK’s definition of a pit bull. Notably, Staffordshire bull terriers are not classified as pit bull dogs in the UK, although as our results showed, they tend to be considered pit bulls in the US.
One might wonder if our findings indicate there should be alternative ways of identifying shelter dogs. Recently, there has been a push to label US shelter dogs of unknown lineages as American shelter dogs, but based on our survey results, this strategy has not taken off. Perhaps, at least, our findings will inspire people to question the morality and efficacy of legislation that is based on a dog’s appearance, particularly when disagreement is so pervasive.

Christy Hoffman, PhD  
Assistant Professor
Department of Animal Behavior,
Ecology, and Conservation
Canisius College

Further reading:
Hoffman C.L., Harrison N., Wolff L. & Westgarth C. (2014). Is That Dog a Pit Bull? A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1-18. DOI:

Voith, V. L., Trevejo, R., Dowling-Guyer, S., Chadik, C., Marder, A., Johnson, V., & Irizarry, K. (2013). Comparison of visual and DNA-based breed identification of dog and inter-observer reliability. American Journal of Sociological Research, 3(2), 17–29. DOI: 10.5923/j.sociology.20130302.02

Marder A. & Voith V. (2010). The American Shelter Dog: Identification of dogs by personality, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 5 (1) 26. DOI: 

Voith V.L., Ingram E., Mitsouras K. & Irizarry K. (2009). Comparison of Adoption Agency Breed Identification and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 12 (3) 253-262. DOI:


Relevant links on breed and breed identification:
Dangerous Dogs Act (UK):

Description of the physical features of a pit bull type dog based on the 1977 issue of the Pit Bull Gazette: (p.14)

American Kennel Club:

Kennel Club:

United Kennel Club:

© Do You Believe in Dog? 2014

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