Citizen science, or crowd science, is a form of scientific study in which members of the public volunteer to collaborate with professional scientists to improve knowledge and understanding. Large networks of volunteer citizen scientists enable researchers to conduct studies that would be too expensive or time consuming to achieve through other means. Citizen science has been made possible by the internet and has the potential to transform the speed at which we gain new insights into many important subjects, especially in relation to us and the way we live.
Dog Citizen Science allows dog owners to contribute to ground-breaking, fascinating studies into dog health and behaviour. This kind of collaboration allows scientists to collect huge amounts of data from a large and widespread population of dog owners. This is especially important in dogs as we try to understand differences between breeds in terms of behaviour, health and lifestyle. There is no animal species on Earth that is so physically diverse – all shapes and sizes from the tiny Chihuahua to the giant Great Dane. So different in so many ways, yet they are all one species.
Dog Citizen Science projects reach around the world. Sometimes are conducted entirely online, other ask participants to go out into the world, do something and report back. Some projects ask for volunteers to bring their dogs in for study trials within a University or other scientific institution. Projects may involve a number of different activities, from filming dogs during training or play sessions, to completing online surveys about specific aspects of the way dogs live, what they do and how they interact with other animals and, of course, with us. And, it’s not just about behaviour. Dog Citizen Science projects are conducted to study dog behaviour, canine health and, more broadly, dog welfare.
This website was set up by vet, Dr Mark Evans and dog behaviour scientist, Dr Emily Blackwell following the success of two Dog Citizen Science studies they conducted in 2013 and 2014 – one in to the behaviour of dogs left home alone and the other into dog play. Both were part of a television series called Dogs: Their Secret Lives broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK. In all around 20,000 dog owners completed online surveys and almost all said they would like to help with other studies.
Mark and Emily hope that this website will help interested dog owners find, and join in with, the growing number of Dog Citizen Science projects that are being conducted by Universities and other study groups around the world.