Materials & Set Up

  • This experiment typically requires two people that the dog is familiar and comfortable with. One person will be acting as the experimenter and the other will be acting as the handler. The handler’s job is to keep the dog at “start position. However, if your dog reliably knows “stay” you may be able to run this study without a handler.  

  • You will need a phone, a computer with a video camera, or some other means to take a video recording of the experiment.

  • You will also need two to four identical opaque cups. Solo cups or clean, empty, opaque Starbucks cups work quite well. 

  • You will also need food that your dog will be excited to eat. We prefer that the food does not ‘rattle’, so if you are using kibble or a hard treat please soak it in water first to soften it. If you have the food in a treat pouch or bowl please place it so that the dog does not see it (for example, place it behind your back or on a piece of furniture the dog cannot reach). If your dog is not food-motivated you may also use a favorite toy, so long as it fits under the cups without making too much noise. In this case you may want to use identical bowls instead of cups. 

  • And finally, you will need some form of occluder so that you can manipulate the cups and your dog cannot see what you are doing. In the lab we use a tri-fold poster board, but you may use anything convenient at home. Some ideas include a large cardboard box, a suitcase, or anything approximately 1 foot tall by 2 feet wide.  You can use anything that is tall enough to block the dog's view when the dog is sitting or standing.

Set Up

  • Set a chair for the dog handler at one end of the room. The dog handler should sit here and hold the dog’s leash, collar, or harness until the experimenter gives the cue to release the dog. If you are working without a handler please still place a chair or other object there and have your dog sit and stay in front of it. This will ensure the dog is always starting from the same place. 

  • The experimenter will set themselves up about 5 to 6 feet away from the chair. The experimenter should sit, kneel, or stand directly across from the dog’s chair such that the dog and the experimenter are facing each other. 

  • The camera should be placed behind and to the side of the dog such that it captures the handler, dog, experimenter, and cups. If it’s not possible to capture all of this in the video you should set up the camera to, at a minimum, record the experimenter and the cups so that the dog’s choices are recorded.

  • If possible you could set up a second camera behind and to the side of the experimenter (to capture the dog and the handler). The best way to set the camera up is for it to be elevated off of the ground (consider using a chair or other piece of furniture to prop up the camera). You may have a person in the room recording the video if you cannot set up the camera any other way. 

  • We ask that you film each experimental trial (condition 1, condition 2), and odor control trial so that they can later be coded by students in our lab. To assist the students, please verbally announce your dog’s first and last name (for example, “Cleo Furlong”), the condition (condition 1, condition 2, or odor control) and the trial number (1 - 8). 

  • You may choose to start and stop the video between each experiment, between each trial, or you may send in a continuous video recording. A continuous recording will be harder to upload, so shorter recordings may make the video transfer easier for you.