Can Cognitive Tests of Shelter Dogs Improve Their Chances of Adoption?

Heidi Lyn

The University of Southern Mississippi

This project ended on:
1 September 2014
Our laboratory has partnered with the Humane Society of South Mississippi (HSSM) to do a large-scale study on the cognitive and communicative capacities of dogs. With this research, we aim to investigate the evolution of intelligence by directly comparing the abilities of canines with those of other species. We also hope to use our findings to create an assessment tool that will allow HSSM to better place dogs into adoptive homes.


Budget Overview

Your donations will be used to provide the necessary support for the researchers and for the animals. A portion of the funds will provide salary so that the principal investigator can replace one summer class with time spent focusing on the project. Additional funding will purchase an iPad and a video camera for data collection on the ground, a hard drive for storing the data, testing materials such as cups and mats, and dog treats.

Meet the Researcher


Heidi Lyn has worked everywhere from Hawaii to Harderwijk (the Netherlands) studying animal intelligence and communication. She has published studies on chimpanzees, bonobos, and dolphins, and has also studied the behavior of belugas, sea otters and walrus. She has been written up in Science magazine as well as in two books and has been interviewed on the PrimateCast, by major newspapers, and by the Today show.

Some of Dr. Lyn’s recent articles have shown that environment has a strong effect on the cognitive and communicative abilities of apes. This led her to expand a battery of tests for multiple species to directly compare how different animals think.

Dr. Lyn has had long standing connections to the dog training world as both her sister and one of her closest friends have been trainers for over 15 years. Many discussions of animal intelligence have led to the question – but what can dogs really understand? This project aims to explore that question. CV


PrimateCast - a podcast about primates from Kyoto University
The Comparative Cognition and Communication Laboratory's website
Today show interview about blindfolded imitation in dolphins

Some of the students and dogs involved in the project!