The English love dogs—but do they own (m)any?

I live on an island that is famous for quite a few things, among them the apparent love affair between its human and canine inhabitants. According to an English journalist writing for a mainstream newspaper, “Many Englishmen reserve their deepest feelings for dogs and other dumb beasts.” (Her words, not mine).

According to another journalist, the Queen’s corgis, which have been described as a “moving carpet” preceding her as she walks round her royal residences, have become almost as emblematic of the British crown as their famous owner.

Notwithstanding the royal endorsement and popular stereotypes, the UK does not actually rank very high in terms of per capita dog ownership. The results of a survey by market researchers are shown in the figure below: Dog ownership is represented by the dark blue numbers.

What explains the attraction that humans have towards dogs? Why do dogs, seemingly, also love humans in return?

From tomorrow (3 December 2018) onward, the next digital event of the Psychonomic Society, #caninecog, will take up those issues. The Digital Event was triggered by a recent special issue of the Psychonomic Society’s journal Learning & Behavior. The special issue comprises around 20 articles that are “entirely devoted to the cognitive (and sensory) abilities of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris).

The special issue is explained thus:

“There are, of course, many practical reasons for bringing dogs to the forefront. The species’ enormous impact on society, spanning a range from man’s best friend to “bad dogs” is evident, as is the practical importance of a better understanding of the variables controlling dog behavior for the growing number of industries that utilize the behavior of domestic dogs. But there is also much to learn about dog’s learning abilities. Although dog research has a long history, with the studies of Darwin, Lubbock, and Pavlov as famous historical examples, there are still many gray areas, with ambiguous evidence and hypotheses under revision.”

The articles in this issue will remain free to access by the public for a month (until the end of the year). Here is the list of contributions:

The Society’s next digital event, #caninecog, will discuss some of the papers in the special issue. The following posts, listed in the likely order of their publication, will contribute to the event from Monday (3 December) onward:

Much to look forward to—please tune in for all of next week.

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