Luther College Psychology professor Dr. Kristy Gould and Luther student Jacob Noble are conducting dog cognition research this summer. They will be looking at how dogs learn a task demonstrated by a human and how their owner's interaction during this process influences the dog's behavior.
Gould explains, "The domestic dog has been bred by humans to be responsive to us and the cues we provide, both verbally and through body language. Therefore, they tend to look at us for information, help, encouragement, and signals." Previous work done by Dr. Gould found that pet dogs gazed more at humans during a task than did shelter dogs from the Northeast Iowa Humane Society. However, shelter dogs were more persistent with the task than pet dogs. "Pet dogs may be more likely to expect help from humans because they have a stable relationship with one or more humans and those humans help them in many ways, including feeding them, taking them outside, and retrieving toys for them. Therefore, pet dogs may have been looking at their owners for cues, feedback, or help," says Gould.
The current study will be investigating owner-dog interaction during a task and how this influences the dog's learning and persistence on the task. The results from this study will be combined with data collected at Knox College by Dr. Jennifer Templeton, who will be investigating the same question using stranger-dog interaction.