Service dogs at the seminar
I really enjoyed the broadcast on research at the Family Dog Project in Budapest. In addition to onsite attendees, hundreds of viewers attended from around the world. A dozen presenters gave summaries of their recently published research. The seminar was divided into sections, beginning with What dog-machine interaction tells us about dogs’ social skills. Here, researchers discussed topics such as using a remote controlled car as a social partner that could help direct dogs to goals such as food. Then came Mechanisms of social behavior, with various topics icluding some effects of oxytocin on dogs. Finally came The Human dog relationship, the longest and most varied of the topics. Each topic ended with a roundtable discussion among the presenters in that section.
Here are some tidbits of what I learned:
Dogs can figure out that a small robot is providing information on how to find something important such as food. What matters to the dog is what the “social agent” does, not what it looks like. If researchers can get dogs to accept robots as social agents, complicating human factors such as unconscious clues given to the dog or feelings the dog may have about that particular person could be eliminated from much research on canine intelligence and behavior.
Research indicates that when a person points to an object to alert a dog, the dog interprets the pointing to indicate the location pointed to, rather than the object in that location.
When tested to determine whether a dog uses sight or scent to find its special person in a room, the dog first uses its eyes to search, then uses its nose up close.