19th June 2006




How clever is your dog? Even though he can’t talk, how much of our language does he really understand?


Can he understand instructions relating to general ideas such as above and below or left and right, or is he limited by understanding their context?


A new study being carried out at the University of Lincoln aims to find out how dogs interpret the space around them and gain insight into the minds of both humans and our canine companions.


It may also help us improve training for animals such as search and rescue dogs.


The team are particularly keen to hear from anyone who thinks their dog already understands the commands left, right, above and below or who can train their pet to respond to these commands.


But they are also looking for volunteers to undertake a specific structured training programme and series of tests.


“The study aims to discover whether dogs are capable of using the spatial prepositions ‘above’ and ‘below’ in a new situation, where they have a choice between them,” explains researcher Natalie Lagstrom.


“This will provide information on whether language is key to the formation of concepts of space or whether the evolution of human language simply allows us to describe concepts already understood.”


Thirty-two dogs are needed for the study, visiting Riseholme Park for training and testing but living at home with their owner the rest of the time. The study is non-invasive and reward-based methods of training will be used throughout – if the dog does not succeed in its task it simply will not receive a reward.


“The dogs will be trained to respond to two unique commands” says Natalie. “On hearing these commands the dogs are trained to press a button with their nose, and they are rewarded with food only for a correct response.


If you would like to take part in the study with your dog contact Natalie Lagstrom at the University of Lincoln on  07852 370309 or email nlagstrom@lincoln.ac.uk


For more information contact: Jez Ashberry, Press and Media Relations Manager

01522 886042             07843 658943             jashberry@lincoln.ac.uk