There are many reasons that Darwin’s Dogs is an exciting and unique new project: it includes ALL dogs both mutt and purebred, it is looking at more common behaviors as opposed to just diagnosable behavior problems, it is crowd-sourcing information from the people that know their dogs best, and on and on. But perhaps that most exciting piece for many of those involved is that it started with the focus on dog behavior by involving actual certified dog behavior consultants from the very, very beginning. This is not a project designed by “just” geneticists that thought dogs would be a good “model”- those amazing scientists started by first approaching people that have dedicated their lives to the study of dog behavior and grew the project from there. This will make the project ultimately so much more accessible to the dog owning public and will give us some real insights into how genetics relates to well-defined behaviors that we see dogs performing in “real world” contexts.
Who are these dog behavior people? Nearly every person involved in developing the survey and determining how questions could be asked is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). The IAABC is a truly international organization that is working towards standardizing what you can expect to get from an animal behavior consultant anywhere in the world. They provide excellent educational opportunities for their members and encourage them to be at the forefront of behavioral science and the research that is always ongoing. They also have the most rigorous certification process of any certifying body for dog behavior consultants. To become a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant a person must have 500 hours of consulting experience, write three detailed case studies, offer suggestions on tackling several different scenarios, and answer a myriad of questions that poke at their behavioral knowledge. Having been through it, I will say that it is by far the most rigorous process I have encountered and that there are many who don’t quite make it because they miss on client communication, depth of behavioral understanding, or knowledge of behavioral sciences.
So when you’re reading the questions in the survey, know that while some come from other tested and documented surveys, we have also managed to place questions in there that we consistently get from clients or see as odd behaviors frequently manifested by the dogs we see. And know that when we say “dogs we see” that includes thousands and thousands of dogs from every corner of the country and every breed and mutt you can imagine using the experience of the very best behavioral observers in the industry.