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Duke University

Dog Emotion and Cognition

Duke University via Coursera


Dog Emotion and Cognition will introduce you to the exciting new study of dog psychology, what the latest discoveries tell us about how dogs think and feel about us, and how we can use this new knowledge to further strengthen our relationship with our best friends.


  • Course Information
    • Dog Emotion and Cognition is a course designed to introduce the exciting new science of dog psychology to any level of dog enthusiast. In learning about dogs you will be introduced to evolutionary and cognitive theory, learn about experimental methodology, see how dogs compare to other species, and even have the chance to try some of the cognitive games you learn about with your own dog. The course is a great introduction to the field of animal cognition and animal behavior but is also relevant to anyone interested in human evolution or even dog training. When you finish you will think about your dog in a new way, will be ready to apply your new knowledge, and will be prepared to take higher level classes in the evolutionary or cognitive sciences.
  • The Paradox of a Best Friend That Evolved From Our Worst Enemy
    • This module will provide an introduction to cognitive psychology and evolution, while having direct application to your dog. At the beginning of each lecture, Dr. Hare will suggest an optional reading from his book The Genius of Dogs, as well as free Dognition games to play at Dr. Hare discusses how our evolutionary relationship with dogs is a puzzle. He describes the meaning of cognition and what it looks like with modern research on animals. Last, he discusses what Dognition is and how can be used like a laboratory for the class.
  • How Biology Studies Cognitive Evolution
    • In this module, Dr. Hare describes how the internal processes of the mind are studied through experiments. He explains how animal problem solving is best explained as scientists work toward better understanding the topic. Next, he describes the ecological approach to cognition through an evolutionary lens, which involves Tinbergen's four levels of analysis.
  • Dogs Are Cognitively Remarkable
    • In this module, Dr. Hare describes how dogs are cognitively remarkable. He begins by explaining theory of mind, which, when viewed through the ecological approach, suggests that social problem solving drove primate and human cognitive evolution. Next, he describes how good dogs are at understanding communicative intentions, especially compared to apes. Dr. Hare has three hypotheses to explain the remarkable communication found in domestic dogs.
  • Evolutionary Accidents and Survival of the Friendliest
    • In this module, Dr. Hare explores three of his research studies he's done with foxes, New Guinea Singing Dogs, as well as research on wolves. He describes how early dog-wolves may actually be a product of natural selection rather than artificial selection, contrary to popular belief. He introduces a hypothesis called Survival of the Friendliest, which may explain how dogs, bonobos, and modern species evolved in contrast to close relatives, such as wolves and chimpanzees. Last, he relates the high level of social tolerance of these species to human by looking at human self-domestication.
  • Problems That Dogs Can and Cannot Solve
    • In this module, you will learn about the genius of dogs. Brilliant examples of the canine mind will be explored. Dogs seem to be capable of inferential reasoning using the "principle of exclusion" as well as learning new words by imitating humans. Next, Dr. Hare discusses dog's abilities to understand physical problem solving compared to other species (hint, this isn't most dog's strong suit). Last, he will discuss how dogs are not cooperative breeders, do have a relaxed social system, and are excellent hunting companions for humans.
  • Finding Your Dog's Genius
    • In this module, Dr. Hare will discuss the common myths of breed differences and what research (including citizen science Dognition data) has actually been done to understand potential differences between breeds. You will also listen to Dr. Hare debunk "aggressive dog breed" stereotypes by learning about the literature and studies that have been done on dog aggression. He poses an interesting question about the actual culprit for the dog aggression problem, which is not even a dog! Next, he will explain how important understanding dog cognition is to training strategies. Dr. Hare will discuss how, unfortunately, not all cultures love dogs, and some see them as food and pests. He suggests ways that humans can live with dogs for mutual benefit. Taking all that you've learned into account, Dr. Hare then discusses how Dognition is revolutionizing what we know about dogs and how beneficial it could be to your relationship with your dog as well as for science!
  • Final Exam
    • The final exam covering topics from all modules.

Taught by

Brian Hare


4.2 rating, based on 18 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 4513 ratings

Start your review of Dog Emotion and Cognition

  • Making references to studies on apes, human children and a few other species, the course explores some of the cognition capabilities of dog compared to other animals and to us, with an interesting insight on domestication and self domestication. Whi…
  • Anonymous
    With all due respect It seems more like a publicity campaign to sell both the book and dog games subscriptions in order to be able to do the course, I don’t think it helps you learn that much like that, better to buy what they are selling and just use that, than to even try the course.
  • Profile image for Kelli Santistevan
    Kelli Santistevan
    The class was interesting and it helped me to understand dogs better. Dr. Hare did a good job of explaining everything he taught every week. I felt like I understood everything I was learning in his class. I would recommend this class to anyone who wants to understand dogs better.
  • I really enjoyed this course. I would have given it 5 stars if all the dognition exercises had been open to participants.
  • Anonymous
    I just have to take my final exam but this course was so much fun. I purchased the book and did the exercises on dognition. I learned so much.
  • Jan Shedden
    This course was informative and educational. I learnt new ideas and information about dogs and other animals that has helped my understanding of their behaviour and made me love them even more!
  • Anonymous
    I just have to take my final exam but this course was so much fun. I purchased the book and did the exercises on dognition. I learned so much.
  • Emily Carpenter
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    Jamie Parker
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