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New UNL lab studying dog behavior and their interactions with humans

Posted at 8:08 AM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 09:08:11-04

It is a concept from another country.  Jeff Stevens, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Center for Brain Biology and Behavior at The University of Nebraska, modeled his Canine Cognition and Human Interaction lab at UNL after the Clever Dog Lab in Vienna after taking a sabbatical there. 

At the lab in Austria's capitol, researchers seek to learn things like problem-solving abilities of dogs and look at their relationship with humans.  Stevens saw the opportunity for similar studies here at home. 

"Understanding how dogs inhibit and how we can help them inhibit things that we don't want them to do is really important," said Jeff Stevens. 

Through a series of games involving treats, Stevens with the help of students and graduate students, hopes to study things like patience and risk attitudes in dogs.  Through community events like a dog fest and word of mouth, Stevens and his team are signing folks and their pups up to take part in the new lab set to officially start in the coming weeks. 

Graduate student Elise Thayer is a fan of their set-up.

"To actually see what you are doing and how you are helping is great," said Thayer. 

Surveillance cameras record each test session and help owners watch while not distracting their dogs.  But, there will be times when canines and their owners are tested together. 

"We want to know how interacting with dogs affects us.  Specifically, things like our stress levels which can then translate into influencing our cognition and decision making," said Stevens. 

Stevens hopes to learn more about how dogs affect human behavior and also study therapy dogs and police K9s.  The whole study will take years, but the results should be rewarding in the end. 

Stevens is always looking for dogs to test if you would like to sign-up head here