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TRAINING DOGS TO USE SYMBOLS TO COMMUNICATE PREFERENCES

About this project

Most of us know what our dogs like, and what they don't like. We work this out by observing their behaviours; specifically their reactions and their body language. However it is possible that dogs are capable of telling us what they want much more directly. Symbols have been used in a number of species to allow individuals to communicate their preferences to human caregivers. Most notably many non-human primate species have been trained to use sign language or symbol boards to request objects, activities or experiences. In 2016 this system was used to allow a group of horses to communicate their thermal comfort. The horses were trained to interpret just 3 symbols "rug on", "rug off" and "no change". Within a short training period the horses were all making clear choices that were rational in relation to the external environmental temperature.


This system is simple to train and may open up a greater 2-way relationship with your dog.


Any dog owner is welcome to join this project. We already have participants from a number of countries and the training skill level of the owners varies from "no experience training dogs" through to professional dog trainers.


It is a multi-step process, however if you have already undertaken target training with your dog then you can jump straight into STEP 2. If you have had little experience at all in this area then you start at STEP 1.


Once you have achieved each step along the way, you send a short piece of video footage and we send you the next training step.


If you have any issues during the training process just send us an email explaining the issue and a short piece of video footage showing what's happening. We will get back to you with some suggestions as to potential reasons, and a strategy to try to resolve the issue and move forward.


There are presently over a dozen different activity symbols, with new ones regularly being added. You can choose the activities your dog likes, so that when asked, he/she can tell you what they would like to do next.


This is a relatively new area of study in dogs. Data and video collected will be used for scientific and education purposes.

Keen to open up 2-way communication with your dog?

If you would like to get involved in this project, please don't hesitate to contact us. The training is conducted by you with your own dog/s, however we are here to help guide you through the process. There is no fee at any point, but you will be asked to provide small pieces of video footage along the way.

Everybody is welcome to participate from first time trainers to seasoned professionals.