Dogs have rich and complex minds. But since dogs can’t talk, we need scientists who can decode dog minds. So in this episode I interview Dr. Ellen Furlong, a scientist who studies dog psychology and the author of the course, “Decoding Dogs: Inside the Canine Mind,” which is available from Audible and the Great Courses.
Ellen Furlong is an Associate Professor in Psychology at her alma mater, Transylvania University, where she studied Mathematics. She subsequently earned her PhD in Psychology from The Ohio State University. Before joining the faculty at Transy, she taught at Illinois Wesleyan University and spent three-years as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University where she helped found the Canine Cognition Center, and studied rhesus monkeys at a research station on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico.
Ellen teaches courses on Animal Cognition and Dog Cognition and has team-taught travel courses on animal cognition and welfare with her father, a bioethicist. She has won several teaching awards, including, in 2018, the inaugural Most Influential Professor award at IWU.
Ellen directs a research group exploring cognition in dogs and zoo animals. She has published papers and presented work at academic conferences on chimpanzee, orangutan, and dog cognition. Ellen recently authored a textbook on learning entitled Learning and Behavior. Her works have been featured in numerous media outlets including, most recently an ABC Australia documentary, A Dog’s World.
00:00 Decoding Dog Minds with Dr. Ellen Furlong
00:11 Ellen’s research and background
02:03 The evolution of dogs
12:59 Belyaev's russian farm fox breeding experiment
22:38 animal cognition vs animal intelligence
29:30 Smartest dog breeds
35:04 Neuroimaging for dogs (brain scans)
42:40 Do dogs care about you or just that you feed them?
44:04 Is episodic future thought a uniquely human ability?
48:59 Oxytocin in dog and human brains
51:52 Reward vs Punishment for training dogs
01:01:22 Are dogs really man’s best friend?
01:05:21 Social facilitation
01:09:04 Decoding dog barks is universal among humans
01:11:47 Do dogs understand human speech?
01:16:52 Williams Syndrome (the similarities to dog genetics)
01:19:45 What do we owe to dogs? (our ethical obligations)
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About Sense of Mind
My goal: Give you an accurate and clear picture of how the brain and mind work at various levels of analysis. I do that by carefully reading and reporting the science as I understand it.