Lab Updates

Come visit this page every two weeks to hear about any updates or goings-on in the lab!

Lab Update #3 – July 28th, 2021

Throughout these past few weeks, we’ve once again been accepting in-person participants for our studies! If you’re in the BC area, please consider signing up for our studies!

For those of you who have recently had your dog come in and work with us (in-person or online), congratulations! After much consideration, your dogs have been admitted to Boston College! Check your SONA inbox for your admission letter and certificate!

Our dog of the week this week is none other than our very own Vader, a 9-year old lab-pit mix. Seeing as he is professor Johnston’s dog, he cannot directly participate in studies, but he’s been around to help run pilot studies for studies that are just taking off!

Lab Update #2 – July 12th, 2021

In these past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work at the BCCC collecting data for our three studies. Thanks to everyone’s generous contributions of time to the lab, we’re thrilled to announce we’ve completed data collection for our Treat Under the Couch study and we’re approximately halfway through data collection on our other studies! Please continue spreading the word about us!

Additionally, we’re beyond excited to welcome our newest member of the lab, Anya, who will be working as our lab coordinator! Anya comes from a background of canine cognition at Duke University, and is working towards her PhD in animal cognition and behavior!


Lab Update #1 – June 27th, 2021

 This week, we have a few different announcements to make! First and foremost, our Re-engagement study has officially gone live and is accepting participants! For more information, please check out the re-engagement graphic below. Additionally, our Treat Under the Couch study still needs 10 more participants, so please sign up on SONA if at all interested! Lastly, we’re happy to announce that we will begin taking in-person studies once again in the near future, so if you’re in the Boston Area, be sure to keep an eye out for future updates!

Summer Studies!

While classes at BC have been let out for the Summer, we’re still hard at work on our research here at the Canine Cognition Center! Over the next few months, we’ll be running three different studies, all of which will be held over zoom! Because they are all held over Zoom, we can accept participants from anywhere, regardless of their physical proximity to BC. For more information, check out the descriptions below, and if you have any questions for us about anything, feel free to reach out to us at

Re-Engagement Study

How do dogs think of us while cooperating on a task?

We’d all love to know exactly what our dogs think of us. While we won’t claim to have the answer quite yet, this study looks to lay the groundwork in aiding us to better understand what goes exactly through their heads when cooperating with partners on a task. By observing intervals of play with one of two human participants and the dog react when play is interrupted, we’ll get a sense of if dogs comprehend that you specifically want to play with them. “Of course they do,”  you might be thinking. Though, believe it or not, outside of humans, this social tendency that’s so essential to how we interact with others isn’t quite so intuitive for other species! At present, this social ability to generate this mutual understanding of cooperation, better known in the Developmental Psych community as Joint Intentionality, is only believed to exist in humans. Depending on our findings from this study, though, we might be able to suggest that this may also exist in dogs, cluing us in on just one more way that they’re similar to us while also opening the door to many, many more studies.


If any of this sounds interesting to you, please consider clicking the link below and signing up for the study!


Sign up!

Still Face Study

When faced with a particularly unnatural situation, how do our dogs react?

Think of all the ways you communicate with your dog. You probably pet them, talk to them, play with them, or maybe even just sit idly by them for companionship. This study is simple: we want to see how you interact with your dog. Or, more importantly, we want to see how your dog interacts with you! “Still Face” refers to the infamous Still Face paradigm in which throughout the course of many studies, infants have demonstrated an understanding of different communication methods with their caregivers. Canines and infants are remarkably similar, and if you think about it, humans communicate with both similarly with methods such as high-pitched “baby talk,” pronounced facial expressions, and eye contact. Thus, we want to explore whether dogs understand the ways that we communicate with them as well, and how they react when we defy their expectations about social interactions. In this short and simple study, all we ask is that you bring your natural self, your dog (of course!), and your best “still face,” as you take on the role of the researcher and show us a glimpse into you and your dog’s communication methods. Through this, we can learn more about interspecies communication as we attempt to discover how dogs perceive our communication methods, and in turn, communicate back with us.

If you would like to help us deepen our understanding of how dogs react in this unique situation, consider signing up through the link to participate in the study!

Sign up!

Treats Under Couch Study

This study is no longer taking sign ups! Thank you to everyone who has participated!

Research has shown that dogs are good communicators with humans. When an owner talks in a high pitch voice, or points to a specific location, dogs use these cues as valuable information (Benjamin & Slocombe, 2018; Miklósi et al. 1998). In addition to understanding human communication, dogs also communicate with humans by looking back at their owners in certain situations (Miklósi et al., 2003). Research has also shown that dogs are sensitive to human attentional states. (e.g., Braüer, 2014; Marshall-Pescini et al., 2013). With this in mind, we want to see how dogs deal with obstacles or problems that they cannot solve on their own. A great place to test these obstacles would be in a naturalistic context – in the dogs’ homes. For example, a ball that your dog was playing with rolls under some furniture, or one of their favorite tasty treats goes under the couch. In the Treats Under Couch study, we are interested in how dogs interact with their people. We want to observe how dogs attempt to get treats from under the furniture. Owners will put treats under a couch, or furniture, and then act in a specific way. This will then lead us to discover the strategies that our dogs use to try to get the treats based on the way that you act!

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