Science, Dog-Gone It!

by Kim Moldofsky 

School is back in session (or soon will be). The dog days of summer are coming to an end, but not without a celebration of our canine companions. National Dog Day is August 26 and ought to be a real howl. Although the day is largely focused on dog adoption and welfare, it can also serve as a launching pad for scientific exploration.

For example, humans and dogs have been BFFs for a long time. Some scientists think this relationship started 30,000 years ago. Researchers like archeologists and geneticists have heated debates about how and when wolves were first domesticated into dogs.

Genetics

Has anyone in your classroom administered a “doggy DNA test?” Although some critics are skeptical of these, especially when administered to mutts that may come from generations of mixed breeds, other dog owners say the test provided valuable insights on their pooch’s appearance and behavior. More importantly, a DNA test is a unique entry point to a discussion about this important area of science.

Dogs in the Young Scientist Challenge

Two recent Young Scientist Challenge finalists found inspiration in their canine pals. Andrew Masek took advantage of his dog’s boundless energy by capturing it to recharge batteries. 

Brooke Martin not only earned second-place honors in the Young Scientist Challenge for her Internet-enabled dog treat dispenser, but she was also invited to pitch her invention on ABC’s Shark Tank. 

Anatomy, Physiology and Physics

Have you ever watched a dog drink from a bowl? You may have noticed that much of the water seemed to land on the ground. So how do pups manage to lap up the liquid? The poor things can’t generate suction like we do because they lack cheeks. Thankfully, physicists who study fluid dynamics solved the mystery for us. Learn more and watch a video to put it all in context here

Psychology

Where would the field of psychology be without Pavlov’s dog? Although Ivan Pavlov is best known for his research on conditioned response, it was actually tangential to his Nobel Prize-winning work studying digestion.

Dogs in Space

Space exploration is always a hot topic, but did you know some of the earliest cosmonauts were canines Learning about the Russian Space Dogs provides a history lesson as well as a scientific one. Be warned, though, the fate of these animals was not always a happy one.

Olfaction

Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell. Although we don’t have as many olfactory receptors as they do, learning about their noses helps teach us about the science of our own sniffers. Listen, learn and experiment.