Researching Social Cognition

Dogs finally get some respect
By Karen B. London PhD, September 2009, Updated June 2021

Science recently ran an article about the importance of dog research. It’s an understatement to say that times they are a-changing. The fact is that times have changed so much that it’s a whole new era. This journal is among the most prestigious of scientific publications, and to see a big article about the value of dogs as research subjects is mind-blowing to those of us whose discussions of dog research over the years were usually met with derisive comments about dogs that all fit into the category of “familiarity breeds contempt.”

Although Charles Darwin and Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz studied dogs and found them scientifically interesting, there soon followed a gap of many generations of researchers who mocked attempts to study dogs. In the last decade, the tide has turned, and now excellent research on dogs is being done in many areas of the world. Some of the most exciting studies are coming from a lab in Hungary where scientists, such as Vilmos Csányi and Ádám Miklósi, are exploring the canine mind. Along with American scientists, such as Marc Bekoff, Alexandra Horowitz, Colin Allen and Clive Wynne, some very revealing studies about the canine mind have come out in recent years. Canine research is finally getting the respect and attention it deserves. Hurrah!

 Image: iStock

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life