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

2002: First publication

First abstract published on the behavior of Canine Companions dogs and the benefits of facility dogs in a hospice setting

2006: CBARQ

Canine Companions becomes the first service dog organization in a collaborative effort to use a behavioral questionnaire developed by the University of Pennsylvania to look for associations between success vs release of service and guide dogs

2011: Adult Dog Cognition

Duke University teams up with Canine Companions and is the first to evaluate the cognitive skills of service dog candidates in professional training using the Dog Cognition Test Battery

2014: fMRI

With Emory University, Canine Companions is the first and only service dog organization to explore using fMRI technology to look at changes in brain activity in an awake dog as a window into their suitability for service work

2016: Puppy Cognition

Researchers from the University of Arizona and Duke University created and implemented a series of cognitive tasks for 8-to-10-week-old puppies, known as the Dog Cognitive Development Battery

2017: Maternal Style Study

In a 5-year study examining the effects of the early days with their mother, 59 dams and their litters were observed from birth. Puppies were subsequently cognition tested and followed over the course of development

2018: Duke Puppy Kindergarten

In the first program of its kind, Duke welcomes the first class of Puppy Kindergarten. Canine Companions puppies are raised for the first few months on a college campus and their cognitive skills are assessed weekly

2021: Heritability of Traits

Using information about relatedness and each puppy's performance on our cognitive tasks, we have been exploring how much of the variation in our dogs can be explained by their genetics

2022: Dog Cognitive Aging

In partnership with the University of Arizona and The Dog Aging Project, Canine Companions develops a series of tasks, focused on memory and impulse control, to investigate cognitive aging in dogs and the factors that affect it

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.

Highlights:

Screenshot of "Inside the brains of aging dogs" article on Knowable

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

Click here to read the full article.*

Two people working with a Canine Companions puppy

Which Dogs Will Make the Grade as Service Dogs?

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.

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person in wheelchair next to Canine Companions service dog

What Makes a Successful Assistance Dog

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.

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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!

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.

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