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Welcome to the Canine Science Collaboratory!
The Canine Science Collaboratory is dedicated to improving the lives of dogs and their people.
We are interested in many aspects of the behavior of dogs and their wild relatives, in particular:
Dog Welfare at the Animal Shelter: Millions of dogs live in shelters. We are determined to reduce the stress of their lives and help them find lasting human homes.
Behavioral Problems in the Home: We seek new, more science-informed, methods of dealing with the problems that can arise when dogs live in human homes.
Human-Dog Interaction: What is the impact of owning a dog? How do dogs respond to human behavior? How and when does the social bond form between dogs and humans?
Dogs’ Wild Relatives: Dogs are members of a genus that includes their ancestors, wolves, and several other species. We are interested in dogs’ wild relatives both for what they tell us about what makes dogs unique, and also for their intrinsic interest as often endangered species.
Cognitive Aging in Canines: We are interested in how dogs’ cognition declines as they age. This is valuable because it may help us find ways to help older dogs, but may help us understand human cognitive aging too.
Dr. Clive Wynne is Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and Director of Research at Wolf Park, Indiana. He was educated at University College London and Edinburgh University in Scotland and has studied animal behavior in Britain, Germany, the U.S. and Australia in species ranging from pigeons to dunnarts (a mouse-sized marsupial). Several years ago he founded the Canine Cognition and Behavior Lab dedicated to the study of dogs and their wild relatives. As well as numerous scientific papers, he has also written for Psychology Today, American Scientist, the New York Times, and other outlets. He is often quoted in print media and radio, and his science has been featured on several TV shows such as National Geographic, Nova ScienceNow and others. He is the author of a textbook Animal Cognition now in a new edition, and former editor in chief of the journal Behavioural Processes. His most recent book is Do Animals Think? (Princeton Univ. Press, 2004). See more about Clive at his web page.
Dr. Lisa Gunter, is a Maddie's Research Fellow at Arizona State University in the Department of Psychology and conducts her research in the Canine Science Collaboratory. She currently leads the Maddie’s Fund Nationwide Fostering Study. Before beginning her graduate studies, she worked for nearly a decade with dogs in animal shelters and with pet dogs and their owners. The goal of Lisa's research is to better the lives of dogs. To this aim, she has investigated the breed labeling of shelter dogs, their breed heritage, post-adoption interventions focused on owner retention, temporary fostering, and behavioral indicators of welfare for kenneled dogs. Under the mentorship of Clive Wynne, Lisa earned her Masters in 2015, and her PhD in 2018 as a graduate student in the behavioral neuroscience program at Arizona State University. She has published her research in scientific journals, presented her findings at numerous conferences, and received national and international media attention for her work. See more about Lisa at her web page.
Josh Van Bourg received his BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California Berkeley, where his primary undergraduate research focused on comparative morphology and ecology of carnivorans. As an undergrad and postbac, he collaborated on a diversity of behavioral, physiological, and ecological projects throughout the US, Central and South America, and Australia. Josh hopes to utilize the diversity of ecological and cognitive characters exhibited by canid species to examine the mechanisms that drive cognitive and social complexity. To this end, he is also fascinated by the unique evolutionary mechanisms that shape cognition and behavior in domesticated canids. Josh’s current dog research focuses on cognitive aging and prosocial behavior. His ongoing comparative work is examining associative and reversal learning, and memory in coyotes and wolves.
Rachel Gilchrist, is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. She joined the Canine Science Collaboratory as an undergraduate research assistant in 2014, and graduated from Arizona State University in 2017 with a BS in biological sciences with a concentration in neurobiology, physiology and behavior. Her undergraduate research looked at the effects of primary versus secondary reinforcement in teaching new behaviors to dogs, while her graduate research will explore problem behaviors of dogs in a home environment.
If you are a Psychology major or an ASU undergrad in the sciences and would like to gain research experience, we'd like to hear from you! Please submit this form and someone from the lab will contact you for additional information. For more information about PSY 399 or PSY 499 course credits, visit our Research Opportunities page.
Dog Welfare at the Animal Shelter: Every year millions of dogs enter animal shelters in the United States. Although euthanasia rates have been dropping, too many dogs live impoverished lives in kennels. We are carrying out several studies looking at improving the quality of life for dogs in shelters and improving their opportunities of finding lasting human homes. These include investigations of the value of short-term fostering programs, behavioral training to improve adoptability, the impact of breed labels on adoption success - among many others.
Behavioral Problems in the Home: One of the major reasons people give for abandoning their dog is a behavioral issue like problem barking, separation problems, inappropriate toileting - to name just a few. We are developing novel, humane methods - better informed by the latest behavioral science - to help people and their dogs live more contented lives together.
Human-Dog Interaction: We are not only interested in the problems that can arise when people and dogs share their lives, but also in the positive aspects of human-dog interaction. We study the impact on people of interacting with a dog and how dogs respond to human behavior.
Dogs’ Wild Relatives: Dogs’ wild relatives interest us for two reasons. First, the only way to understand what makes dogs unique is to compare them to the wild animal from which they are descended. Second, wild canids are intrinsically interesting. Some are endangered and all can cause problems in interaction with people. We seek humane behavioral solutions to the problems of coexistence with wild canids.
The Effects of Aging on Dog Cognition: Ongoing studies are investigating the effect of aging on cognition in memory and attention tasks. Since dogs show several impacts of age on cognition that are similar to the human condition, as well as helping dogs, this research may also shed light on the human condition. Photo left: Xephos in a maze remembering where the treats were located!
The overarching aim of this 100 shelter nationwide fostering study supported by Maddie’s Fund is to learn more about how fostering programs affect dogs awaiting adoption (such as their adoption success and length of stay) as well as the staff and volunteers at these shelters.
We’ll be studying the impacts of three types of fostering. 1) Field trips: a few hours out of the shelter, 2) Sleepovers: a night or two away from the shelter, and 3) Longer-term fostering: stays in a foster home of a week or longer.
We are looking for shelters to join our study!
Shelters that join our study will receive at no cost: foster program training and implementation support from Maddie’s Fund. Our research teams at ASU and VT will work together with you and your shelter staff to collect data on the foster program. To learn more about this foster study, please complete the form below and a member of our research team will be in touch with you shortly.
We are tremendously grateful to the following organizations for their current and past support of our research, as well as to several private individuals.