Science and Research
For the past 20 years, Canine Companions has been the pioneer in canine research, setting the path and leading the service dog industry to success. Take a peek at what the Canine Companions Science and Research team is studying! Our team of researchers are working to actively support not only the mission of Canine Companions, but also the service dog community, as a whole. By studying canine cognition, health and genetics, it is our goal to improve the success of service dogs and the dogs’ impact on their handlers.
Canine Behavior and Cognition Studies - A Chronological History
Cognition & Behavior
Understanding how dogs think and behave helps us support dogs in their many jobs in society, from being a part of the family to enhancing independence for people with disabilities. One of the research goals of Canine Companions is to better understand which traits lead to a successful service dog. We study dogs’ cognition and how they problem solve, and how these abilities develop and change over time. We also connect how dogs’ individual experiences and genes contribute to these skills. Through our collaborations with university and industry research programs, we are expanding our knowledge of canine wellness and cognition, as well as the formation of the human-animal bond.
Inside the brains of aging dogs
In a citizen science project, thousands of pet dogs are helping scientists to understand what happens to memory and cognition in old age
Dr. Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, is exploring ways to identify the best dogs for different jobs – before they start the long and expensive training process — by looking at their cognitive abilities.
Becoming an assistance dog is like going to college. It’s tough to get in and not everyone graduates. “We want to identify those features that are going to be linked to success,” said Brenda Kennedy, DVM, MS, Canine Companions national director of canine health and research.
What makes a successful life-changing assistance dog: brains, brawn, or behavior? A new study of thousands of Canine Companions for Independence® dogs may have some answers, identifying predictors of success in a field where the majority of dogs don’t make the cut.
Canine Companions dogs stood apart from the pet dogs in one interesting measurement—the fMRI determined that the reward center of the brain acted differently when our dogs were rewarded by their familiar handler than by a stranger. Pet dogs didn’t have the same biomarker changes.
Dr. Evan MacLean and Dr. Emily Bray with members of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona are exploring how a puppy’s early abilities are associated with their later success as an assistance dog.
Health & Nutrition
A nutritionally complete diet is essential to a dog living a healthy and happy life. Studies increasingly show that balanced age-appropriate diets and a healthy weight are key to preventing and managing disease. Canine Companions has participated in multiple collaborative studies looking at nutrition and how it impacts dogs, many with a focus on diets and supplements for dams and puppies. These studies, some which are ongoing, have included assessments of the properties of milk for young puppies, microbiome development in puppies, and the impact of supplements on brain development and immune function. It’s critical to get puppies off to a good start to help ensure they will have strong minds and bodies as they start their journey as future service dogs!
Canine Companions launched a study in 2022 with Royal Canin and Waltham Petcare Science Institute on the efficacy of an enriched diet for puppies.
Giving pregnant dogs supplements high in DHA helps increase the rate that a dam’s puppies go on to become service dogs.
Impact of Service Dogs
Canine Companions paves the way in the service dog industry by studying the impact of service dogs on people with various disabilities and their families. By better understanding the needs of our clients and how a dog is most useful to them, we can raise, train and select service dogs that will support them best to lead more independent lives.
Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute Fellows Suggest Ways to Improve Selection and Performance of Working Dogs
Members of the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute* published a paper this week entitled “Enhancing the Selection and Performance of Working Dogs”* in the international peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
The results of an important research study completed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shows significant benefits from service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As the number of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder continues to rise, so does the demand for a popular treatment – service dogs.
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