What do our dogs think of us?

By Nov.23, 2015

large_1447926210-dogsresizedusnewschannelDogs may be man’s best friend – but aren’t they a member of the family too?

Dog-lovers can now help find the answer to this by contributing to a ‘citizen science’ project to examine the social intelligence of dogs and their sense of place in a human world.

Researchers at the University are seeking dog-owning volunteers to conduct a series of simple observations of their dog’s behaviour around the house, in a bid to learn more about what our dogs are thinking, and what they think about us!

“We know that dogs feel comfortable around humans and feel part of the group, but how do they see their role in that group and how do they interpret or even manipulate us?” asks Dr Sean O’Hara, a lecturer in wildlife cognition and behaviour in our School of Environment and Life Sciences.

To help answer these questions, Sean and his PhD student Hannah Worsley are seeking 50 dog-owners to record videos of specific dog behaviour around the house including of the techniques dogs use to communicate.

The researchers believe the study, which also looks at dog’s ability to recognise humans and to understand our relationships, is one of the first of its kind conducted in the dog’s natural environment – the family home.

And they say the findings could help animal welfare, if it were to provide more evidence that dogs feel part of the family.

“Dogs don’t live with dogs anymore; they live with humans, who have become their ‘group’, explained Sean. “The more dogs are seen as part of the group and not simply as pets, the stronger those family ties become.”

If you would like to volunteer for the study, you need to have lived with your dog for a minimum of 5 months, live in the Salford/ Bolton/ Bury area and welcome a researcher to your home.

To get in touch with the research team, contact Hannah Worsley on h.k.worsley@edu.salford.ac.uk


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