Forums » Mental Stimulation and Behavior

Cognition and Emotional Development in Assistance Dog Puppies

    • 397 posts
    December 5, 2022 8:56 PM EST

    A dog's temperament, ability to learn, and trainability are keys to their success as a family pet or in service as a working animal, and a great deal of work has been undertaken over the past decade or so to better understand canine cognition and predictors of working dog performance.

    A better understanding of how dogs learn and their emotional development can help to streamline our process of selecting dogs for work (or as family pets) as well as provide us with an opportunity to implement interventions to help that dog succeed in whatever role they take on in our lives.

    Dr. Brian Hare, MA, PhD (at Duke University) and his research group are focused on studying cognitive development of puppies including how they think and solve problems. Dr. Hare is the Director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and its Puppy Kindergarten where they have also studied the impact of different rearing techniques of puppies and the potential impact on the success of that dog in life as a service animal. 

    We recently presented some preliminary findings of Dr. Hare's research in an AKC Canine Health Foundation-sponsored webinar Cognitive and Emotional Development of Assistance Dog Puppies. We also sat down with Dr. Hare to find out more about the background and basis for his work, and the implications that these findings may have for all of us who work with or care for dogs. Here's what he had to say: 


    When asked about the preliminary findings of this research he went on to comment: "I think the big surprise for me - which I would not have predicted - is that there's been no effect of the rearing histories of these dogs. I would have thought there'd have been some changes, especially in how they interact with people. That, perhaps, one group would have been better at, or would have had a stronger tendency to approach humans unknown to them. Or, perhaps, would have been better at reading gestures or making eye contact ... something. But we saw no difference. So I think it's important for people to understand this because many people have really strong beliefs about how to be raising our dogs, but much of it is based on personal experience or observation, but not something that's been actually tested."