Dog Science is a fairly new and growing field. It can be overwhelming and intimidating to dive into scientific research studies. Petminded is here to help! We reviewed three studies and are sharing what can be learned from them and applied to your daily interactions of caring for and teaching your dog.
In this study, Dr. Duranton and Dr. Horowitz looked at two common enrichment given to dogs, nosework and heelwork. Nosework involved owners teaching their dog how to find treats and heelwork involved owners teaching their dogs to follow in their steps. Both groups involved the same amount of training time and the same amount of "playtime" in these activities.
The researchers hypothesized that dogs in the nosework group would be more optimistic after 2 weeks of the activity at home with their owners. They knew that sniffing is an important canine behavior and believed that allowing the dogs opportunities to express themselves through sniffing could improve their welfare. They measured this improvement by the dog's level of "optimism."
Indeed, they found their hypothesis to be true! When tested for optimism, dogs in the nosework group approached an ambiguous treat bowl quicker and more often then before they did nosework. This suggests they were more expectant of a treat!
Takeaway: Give your dog opportunities to sniff. It can help increase their optimism and build confidence.
Chewing is as an important behavior for dogs. Puppies chew when they are teething, dental chews are recommended for healthy teeth, and chewing is generally used as an enriching activity to prevent boredom and relieve stress.
In this recent study, researchers took a closer look at what we give our dogs to chew on and how that effects them. Overall, most people in this study (94%) gave their dogs something to chew on. Dogs were more likely to chew when left alone or when walks (or other regularly scheduled activities) were cancelled. This suggests that either dogs chew to relieve stress or that owners were more likely to give their dog's chews to compensate for other missed activities.
Finally, dogs who were given food-filled chews (e.g. kongs, food puzzles, etc.) had calmer interactions with owners. If your dog enjoys chewing on things, it can be a great activity to keep them occupied but whether or not you regularly give chew things to your dog, always supervise your dog.
Takeaway: Chewing can be an alternative activity if you're in a pinch, just remember to supervise.
If you're reading this, you probably have a lot of questions about enrichment. Like, what type of enrichment does my dog need? And how often should I provide enrichment?
In this study looking researchers looked at two types of enrichment schedules in working dogs. One group was given a regular and consistent schedule of working duties, training sessions, and exercise with their handler. The other group received the same amount of each activity but across two randomly scheduled days.
What the study found was that dogs who received regularly scheduled activities became less stressed over the course of the study. This is likely because dogs knew what to expect during their day. On the other hand, dogs who had a random schedule with lots of downtime between activities may have become anxious about when they will get to do something.
While giving your dog something new to do is important, giving them a time frame gives them more control over their day. For example, you can give your dog a special treat everyday at 7pm. While the treat can change, they can always expect that they'll get something yummy at that time and learn will be excited for 7pm to arrive!
Takeaway: Various forms of enrichment should be included in your dog's everyday life. Consistency is key to let your dog know when to expect something next in order to reduce stress and anxiety.
Know of a dog study you'd like us to review? Or have a pressing question that a dog study may be able to answer? Reach out to us on Instagram and we'd be happy to dive into the science for you!