Ask An Expert

At Dognition, we believe that shared inquiry and discovery fuel the greatest benefits for dogs and their owners. Therefore we’ve partnered with the world’s leading canine cognition experts and canine-focused institutions/organizations.

Now, you also have the opportunity to inquire and learn from our experts.

Scientific Advisory Board- The experts on dog cognition and psychology
Dr. Brian Hare
Dr. Juliane Kaminski
Dr. Josep Call
Dr. Richard Wrangham
Dr. Laurie Santos
Dr. Adam Miklosi

Expert Panel- The experts on everything else dog!
Kyra Sundance – Expert Trainer
Victoria Stilwell – Expert Trainer
Nina Ottosson- Dog Toy Designer
Richard Hawkins – Vet
Paul Mundel – Canine Companions of Independence
Betsy Saul – Petfinder Foundation

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  1. Answered- What's the best way to stop barking when someone is at the door?

    I appreciate the dog alerting us that someone is at the door, but he doesn't stop until I open the door or grab his collar. He usually responds if I can get him to look at me. I point at him and say "NO!" and **** stop, but he usually beats me to the door and I can't get him to turn around. I realize he's doing his job as a terrier, but just a few barks is enough!

    65 votes
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      1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

      Vanessa Woods, Author of the Genius of Dogs answered this month’s question-

      Barking is one of the reasons humans adopted dogs for the long haul. For our ancestors, barking would have been an invaluable early warning system against intruders. However, excessive barking in the modern world can be annoying, leading to frustration in sleepless neighbors and helpless owners.
      Researchers have assessed several different methods for controlling barking, some of which were more effective than others.

      Citronella spray collar
      These collars work by releasing a cloud of citronella spray whenever the dog barks. Research has shown that this method was most effective when the collar was worn intermittently (e.g. every other day for 30 minutes), rather than continuously. This is surprising, since most would think it would have worked best if it sprayed the dog every time it barked.
      However, the study also showed that collar did not stop dogs from…

    • Does a dog miss another dog that died? Will the dog be sad about it?

      If one dog in a household dies, will the other dogs miss it? Can they get sad or stop eating because of another dog's death?

      57 votes
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        0 comments  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
      • Licking

        My dog likes to lick the carpet, dog bed & anything else she happens to lay on. Is this a self calming behavior?

        55 votes
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          0 comments  ·  Other  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
        • Answered- Teaching dogs how to learn rather than tricks

          I heard an interview with Dr. Brian Hare and he describes another dognition expert, Dr. Adam Miklosi taught dogs how to learn by mimicking people. I'd like to know in more detail how this is done. I think it could greatly increase the speed in which dog can then learn new trained behaviors.

          51 votes
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            4 comments  ·  Training  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

            Video of a dog doing the Imitation Experiment:

            http://youtu.be/PHb9ZFkuv1s

            An Answer from Dr. Adam Miklosi:

            Are dogs able to imitate the action of others?

            In 2006 we published the first scientific study on imitation in dogs (Topál et al 2006). This was followed by some debate whether one can really speak about ‘imitation’ in this situation. We defined imitation as the ability to perform a functionally analogue behaviour after seeing in done by others (humans or dogs).

            We believe that dogs, as a social species, are able to imitate an action shown by others but it is very difficult to provide a clear evidence for this under controlled experimental conditions. Our procedure was the first to provide strong evidence, despite the fact that dog trainers or people working with dogs (e.g. shepherds) probably relied on this ability already many 100 years ago. Given the assumption that dogs have the ability…

          • Answered - Keenu doesnt like other dogs. What should I do?

            When ever I take Keenu to the park, he attacks other dogs that come near him. Why does he do this? How do I stop it?

            39 votes
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              1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

              Answer from Victoria Stilwell:

              Dogs attack other dogs for a number of reasons but the root of most reactive and aggressive behavior is insecurity and fear. Keenu might be reacting negatively because he feels threatened by social interaction or has had a traumatic experience around other dogs. He could also be protecting you or the space around him which is important for his safety. Whatever the cause, dog to dog aggression is a serious problem.

              In a perfect world our dogs would be social and comfortable around all dogs they meet, but this is an unrealistic expectation. Although the behavior is frustrating, try not to punish Keenu if he reacts badly and quickly remove him from the situation by walking him in the opposite direction until he calms down. Punishment will only make him more insecure and shut him down, making learning impossible.

              Keenu needs to feel more in control.…

            • Answered- Is my dog practicing hypnotic suggestion?

              My dog is very good at communicating what she wants. Most of the time her desires are completely reasonable but her method makes me feel as though she has trained me better than I have trained her. She stares very intensely into my eyes. I usually guess what she wants but It feels like she is trying to push her thoughts into my head. What is up with this?

              35 votes
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                1 comment  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                Vanessa Woods, Author of the Genius of Dogs answered this month’s question-

                Your dog’s stare can be so hypnotic, it might seem as though she is trying “jedi mind tricks”. But probably more likely is that she is getting a fix of oxytocin.

                Oxytocin is a peculiar little molecule. It is known as the ‘hug hormone’ because it is what makes you feel good when you are touched by a loved one, get a massage, or enjoy a good meal. Oxytocin has pain relieving properties and can also decrease stress and blood pressure.

                We humans experience oxytocin in many of our social relationships, including bonding with our children or partners. What is surprising is that we would also experience a change in this hormone when bonding with a completely different species.

                In a study with 55 dogs from Azabu University in Japan, people whose dogs gazed at them for longer…

              • 35 votes
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                  1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                  Answer from Dr. Richard Hawkins:

                  This is a very common behavior which many dog owners will experience at some point. There are many potential causes as mental, physical, and training based issues can all contribute to this sort of behavior. Unfortunately, there is not much research on the cognitive reasons behind this behavior as it can be very challenging to recreate in a laboratory setting.

                  In my experience, your dog may be sitting down and holding fast for a number of reasons: She may be distracted by something else in the environment, uninterested or even afraid of proceeding in the direction you were walking, or there even may be a health issue causing her some discomfort.

                  There are several health issues that come to mind when I hear of this in my patients. Just like humans, dogs can get gastrointestinal discomfort, or a stomach ache, from many causes such as…

                • Answered - Does living in a shelter or pound have impacts on a dog's long term behavior?

                  My new adopted dachshund was in a no kill pound for 3 years. What kind of behavioral pitfalls should I be watching for? and how should I correct them? - one big thing I am dealing with now is that he HATES a bath, and for the first time growled at me afterwards.

                  33 votes
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                    0 comments  ·  Adoption  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                    Answered by Betsy Saul- Founder of the Petfinder Foundation

                    You’ve adopted a shelter dog and that makes you awesome in my book. You may have also made the eternal solemn promise to your shelter dog. “You will never be abandoned again.”
                    I have a ritual on the car ride home that’s always pretty much the same.

                    “I’m Betsy. We’re going to take some time to figure out what your name is. This may seem strange now, but we’re going to love each other. And I promise you, you’re never gonna be (lonely, hungry, etc) again and you are part of this family forever.”

                    Most of the time, things go without a hitch, because dogs, like kids, are amazingly resilient and tough and forgiving. But every once in a while an adopter will find themselves with a pet that either ended up in the shelter because of some unattractive personality trait,…

                  • Answered- Is it ok to leave my dog with friends when I travel?

                    When ever I travel, I take Benni to doggy daycare so somebody can take care of him. It's a lot cheaper to just leave him with friends but then he doesn't interact with other dogs. Which is better?

                    32 votes
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                      0 comments  ·  Dog Ownership  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                      Vanessa Woods, Author of The Genius of Dogs, answered this months question. Enjoy!

                      That’s a fantastic question, and lucky for us, there is research that may be able to shed some light on it! In a study by Dr. David Tuber at Ohio State University, researchers looked at the expression of stress hormones when dogs were placed in a strange new context, in this case an unfamiliar room.

                      What they found was that when dogs were alone, their stress level went up significantly. The scientists were able to detect this due to a spike in stress hormones. Furthermore, the researchers found that even when dogs were with a familiar dog in the unfamiliar room, their stress hormones still spiked up. However, when placed in the unfamiliar room with a familiar human the dog had little to no increase in stress hormones. Throughout the time in the room, the dog stayed…

                    • Answered- How do dogs express their creativity?

                      I heard part of a discussion on NPR of animals and creativity. Well, WHETHER they have it. They seemed to be considering a very human definition of creativity --- making art or music, things like that. My dog makes up games with me and with other dogs. I am wondering whether you have ever investigated how dogs express creativity and how we can help them develop their creativity.

                      32 votes
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                        1 comment  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                      • Answered- Can dogs read people's emotions?

                        Research out there says that dogs know what you're feeling and I've noticed that my dog picks up on when someone in the house is mad or sad, but I wanted to know how true this was.

                        32 votes
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                          1 comment  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                        • Do Dogs Know When They Need to be Gentle?- Answered by Dr. Brian Hare

                          When dogs play with younger, older, or smaller dogs, do they know that they need to be gentle?

                          31 votes
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                            0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                          • 29 votes
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                              0 comments  ·  Training  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                            • Answered- What is the relationship between cognitive style and temperament?

                              My two dogs, Mira and Clare came up with the Ace profile, but their personalities are very different. Mira is dominant and Clare is submissive. Mira is high energy, loves to play and retrieve, loves training and seems tireless in training sessions. Clare is more low key, enjoys learning tricks to a point, then wanders away to take a nap. Clare doesn't play much at all, but it's partly because Mira is always trying to take her toys away. Clare seems uninterested in a thrown ball. The two get along well for the most part, but Mira will try to…

                              28 votes
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                                1 comment  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                              • Answered- Do dogs get bored?

                                I have to go to work on the weekdays and often leave Sophie at home for 7 or 8 hours. Will she get bored and lonely? Should I get another dog to keep her company?

                                26 votes
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                                  1 comment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                                  Victoria Stilwell has answered this question:

                                  There is an epidemic sweeping across the nation and it’s having a devastating effect on our dogs’ wellbeing. It’s a disease called boredom and many of our domestic dogs are at risk.
                                  Boredom and inactivity contributes to destructive behaviors such as chewing, house soiling, excessive barking and other anxiety-based behaviors. Dogs that are left alone for long hours on a regular basis cannot be blamed for taking out their boredom and loneliness on the couch. Chewing relieves stress and having nothing to do all day can be very stressful particularly for those breeds that were originally bred to work. Because the domestic dogs’ role has changed to that of family member and companion, trainers like me see too many bored dogs with behavioral issues that are easily solved with a daily schedule of walks and other activities.
                                  Think of it like this. Your dog…

                                • Answered- Do dogs have memories?

                                  As a college student I am gone for long periods of time while at school for the semester, yet every time I return home my dog is extremely excited to see me. Does he remember me specifically? Or is his excitement a result of the excitement of my human family members?
                                  -Olivia

                                  24 votes
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                                    1 comment  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

                                    An answer from Dr. Josep Call:

                                    Dear Olivia,
                                    Thank very much for your inquiry, which touches on a crucial topic in the area of Animal Cognition.

                                    There is no question that dogs remember several aspects of their daily lives including things like the places where they go (e.g., the park) and the routes that they take to get there (e.g., by the lake rather than across the woods), the activities that they engage in (e.g., playing catch), the objects that they use for those activities (e.g., Frisbee) as well as the people that share those activities with them. Without memory not only those activities would be vastly impaired, but even some more basic things like recognizing familiar smells and people or learning new things would be impossible for dogs.

                                    Memory plays such a crucial role in our mental lives as well as those of our furry best friends that it…

                                  • 24 votes
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                                      0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                    • How do I get a fearful and presumed traumatized dog to trust me?

                                      We got Purdy about a month ago. All we know is that she was adopted out of shelter in Atlanta, and ended up in shelter in Boulder, Co where she was adopted by a family in Denver, from whom we got her. Somewhere along the line she got the label "fearful" and that she is. She has warmed up to my son in law and daughter (she likes men rather than women), but she looks at me with such fear that it is heart breaking. I have been a dog person since babyhood and I would no sooner hurt a…

                                      17 votes
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                                        0 comments  ·  Other  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                      • Does breed heritage beat temperament?

                                        My dog is a mix, probably of Boxer and an American Pitbull. She is a very smart and sweet dog at home, but ever since she was attacked by another dog, she developed an aggressive behavior towards other dogs. Could it be because of her Pitbull origins? If so, how do you treat problems that occur as a result of genes?

                                        16 votes
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                                          0 comments  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                        • Do dogs have self esteem?

                                          I am studying dog motivation and would like to know if dogs have self esteem. I have surveyed several owners and find that owners of more primitive dogs such as Border Collies and GSDs think not while small dog owners such as pugs and other toy dogs say yes. What are your thoughts on this. Many thanks (love Dognition)

                                          11 votes
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                                            0 comments  ·  Canine Cognition  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
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