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Dog Education Institute
De Roedel

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Dog Cognition

The Dog Cognition research is based upon a number of aspects that play an important part within The Roedel Method. For many years, we of De Roedel have been performing our own research, mainly in an empirical way. This means; a lot of observation, comparing research, field studies and literature studies.

Topics for the Dog Cognition research are for instance;
          The relationship between scent and body language,
          How this expresses itself in cognitive behaviour,
          What way do stimuli from the environment influence this behaviour.
Dog Education Institute De Roedel started the Dog Cognition research in 2003, together with the department of Artificial Intelligence of the Free University in Amsterdam and Prof. Dr. Catholijn Jonker, who, at the time, was working for the department of Cognitive Artificial Intelligence of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.

We wanted to review our empirical findings by objective research. Objective research also makes it possible to compare the results of this research with results of other scientific research that is done all over the world. And thanks to this scientific research, we can learn more about this dog language and how it is expressed.

Before we could start, a whole lot of preparatory work needed to be done. Thankfully, three students of the Amsterdam University were prepared to help us. We needed to compose a reliable protocol in which all research subjects would be covered in a verifiable way.


Making a ‘dictionary’, the ethogram, in which every detail is described

All aspects of the ethogram had to be manageable in a program in ‘formal language’, so that not people (subjective) but computers could process all the data and provide results (objective).

Thus statistically supported research makes it possible to gain more clarity on the topics. Learning more about the dog language and how this is expressed, is useful information for everyone who works with dogs in any way!


Only after these preparations we could finally go to work practically, armed with all the equipment needed for execution of the protocol; two cameras to film everything, plenty of tapes, a storyboard, measuring tapes and the list goes on…

We found two dog-schools and a dog-walking service that were prepared to cooperate with our research. They managed to stimulate many of their students to go through with each part of the test, no matter how tough the circumstances! Our thanks to all these test-persons for their great commitment and to;

Dog-training centre KC Pampus
Dog-walking service Kyno Logica in Amsterdam

In total, with 2 cameras, the students made over 100 recordings of the test-persons and their dog from two different angles. After that, these recordings had to be processed, transcripts needed to be made, by means of the ethogram and the software.

With their great work, both Tibor Bosee and Ildiko Frank (Free University Amsterdam) were of great aid in this research. Ildiko worked very hard, and on July 30th 2004 she finished off her work and held a presentation about her thesis. With a 7 as her final grade, she could go back home, to Hungary. Well done, Ildiko!! We wish you all the best in Hungary!

The first part of the research was finished off and resulted in an article; “Paw Preference Correlates to Task Performance in Dogs”
You can read the article here:

From this research, it became clear that for a dog, the use of the left or right front paw is a part of the dog language. This is completely in line with The Roedel Method. Whether a dog steps away with either left or right is related to motivation. Of course, this will also be subjected to further research. However, it is clear that the sausage used in many of the tasks was not enough motivation for many of the dogs to carry the task out correctly!

The article ‘Paw Preference” was sent in for the Cognitive Science Conference, which took place in July 2005 in Italy.

The article was accepted as a poster and Catholijn Jonker was present in Italy for the presentation and the design of the poster.

On June 18th 2005 an article with the title; ‘Rechtspoters zijn dwarsliggers’ (‘The Right-Pawed are opposite’) appeared in the Telegraph. A remarkable study on dogs’ motivation

Attention was given to the research in a number of other magazines;

If a dog respects it’s owner, it will give its best paw”

Linkspoters en dwarsliggers. “Left-footers and opposite”, If a dog respects it’s owner, it will give its best paw” (Vox, magazine of the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen)

“Research; Dog behaviour
Obedient dogs give you their best paw. However, if a dog starts walking with its right paw, the owner can forget it, as research shows.”
ZIN, a monthly magazine for 50 plussers

In the quarterly magazine Lost Vast of O & O (, an article by Leo Leunissen appeared in August 2005;
Dutch research about body language and motivation; The Right-footed are “opposite”.

Further research
As with any scientific research, the results of ‘Paw Preference’ brings on quite a number of questions for further research:
- Why does the performance decrease in the three trials, particularly in the third trial?
- If the sausage is not motivating enough for the dog, then what is?
- Where does the obvious difference between the performance of young, untrained dogs and older, trained dogs come from?
- Why did we not see any difference between sexes and paw preference, while this has come forth from other research?
- Is the relationship between the owner and the dog of influence? How and in what way?

Thanks to two Van Hall trainees, Manou (2006) en Wieke (2007-2008) a lot of important and time-consuming work has been done.

We still have transcripts that have to be described in ‘formal language’. Making ‘long transcripts’ is a huge task, as you can see here
All recordings, per dog and from both camera’s, need to be described here (frame by frame!), but slowly but surely, there is progress. If all goes well, we hope to be able to finish off another part of research and publish a new article in 2009.

In april we sent in an article for this conference.
224 articles were sent in, but only a very few were accepted as ‘excellent paper’. Our article was judged as a ‘good quality paper’, not bad at all!
(image by image!), but slowly but surely, there is progress. If all goes well, we hope to be able to round off another piece of research and publish a new article in 2009.

Tibor was the right person to present our Dog Cognition article, since he would be presenting his own (a different one) article (congrats Tibor!) at the International Conference in Vancouver as well. The name of our article is “Improving Interobserver Reliability by Artificial Intelligence Techniques in Behavioural Research”, by Arjen van Alphen, Tibor Bosse, Catholijn M. Jonker, Francien Koeman.

Subjectivity is in behavioural research a huge and familiar obstacle.
In the research methods we use at Dog Cognition the human subjectivity is severely reduced, because it are not people who are scoring the results, but a computer. Therefore is it also possible to use the data all over again without having to watch the tapes in detail for another time.
Downside: entering all the exact data into the computer program for the program to analyse is an awful lot of work.

At het end of August Tibor left for Vancouver for the presentation of the article.
Please contact us if you would like to read the original article, we are happy to send the article directly to you.

Meanwhile we are working on a next article…

More information about Catholijn Jonker;

More information about Tibor Bosse;


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