La Trobe launches pioneering dog lab

Australia's first dedicated dog behaviour and cognition laboratory has opened at La Trobe University's Bendigo Campus.

The lab will allow the university's researchers to advance the world's knowledge on our canine companions.

Associate Professor Pauleen Bennett and her research team will be looking at the science behind some common beliefs about dogs; are they really colour blind, do they see optical illusions, do they see the same things humans see when they watch television?

The research could have major implications for the ways we interact with dogs for work, aid and play.

The first project underway in Bendigo will test dogs' visual processing.

Psychology and Counselling research officer Tiffani Howell said we assume dogs see the world as we do, but scientifically, we don't know that.

"To determine this we're adapting a technique commonly used on human babies to test reflective eye movement," she said.

Dogs will be presented with images of moving vertical bars to determine if they follow them with the same involuntary eye movement as humans.

"As the bars move closer, we see them as one dark blur and involuntary eye movement stops," she said.

"We will be testing if dogs experience the same. This is one way to test if dogs can see things as clearly as we can see them."

Dr Howell said there were already several projects lined up to take place in the lab, which opened this month.

"It will allow us to do research that we've really struggled to do up until now," she said, adding that the local community will be critical to the success of the lab.

"We're always interested in knowing pet owners from the community who are willing to bring their dogs in.

"The sort of testing we do is always fun, it's never difficult, painful or harmful to the dog.

"The owners enjoy seeing what their dogs are capable of and they get to say they helped advance knowledge of dog behaviour and dog cognitive processing."

The team is now building a database of potential pet participants for current and future research.

To add your dog's name to the list email bendigo@latrobe.edu.au

Media; Lauren Mitchell; 03- 5444 7922 

Image Credit; Millie by Leah Humphrys

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