National Geographic

Big Dog Data

It used to be that many people who studied animal behavior thought dogs were too weird to bother with. We had bred them far away from the “natural” state of animals, so their brain had little insight to offer us.

That’s changed a lot in in the past couple decades. We have transformed wolves into some cognitively remarkable creatures, it turns out, and the diversity of breeds we’ve produced can serve as an unplanned experiment in the genetics of social behavior.

Of course, one of the biggest rules in all science is the more data the better. Which in this case means the more dogs that scientists can study, the more they may be able to discover about them.

All of which is introduction to an article I’ve written in today’s New York Times about a new push to gather Big Data about dogs–and to provide some insights from that data to dog-owners themselves. Check it out!

There are 2 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Paul Knoepfler
    April 24, 2013

    I really enjoyed that NYT piece, Carl. When I was half-way through the thought that popped in my head was whether the same kind of approach could be used to gather Big Data about humans via Internet webcams. Of course there would be human subjects regs to follow, etc., but in principle with willing subjects it seems like a powerful approach to study human behaviors either at the computer (e.g. multitasking) or away depending on the power of the webcam.
    Paul

  2. mark van cleve
    May 1, 2013

    Dogs seem to inherit behaviors. Young retrievers, for example, having never seen a body of water before, will excitedly splash in there and attempt to bring you something from it. It seems to specific to be a natural trait that’s been highly selected for by breeding. Right?

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