Dog studies can be a little intimidating to read, particularly scientific studies and so we often avoid them opting instead for articles on the topic. It’s quite important though to be able to read the study at least just a little bit because that puts us in the best place for proper understanding.
Articles are great – in fact this is one of them. Yet when we look for facts in articles we are often sifting through the writer’s opinion, than pure objectivity. By learning how to read the actual studies we get things that help us to understand how the study took place, how many dogs were involved and whether the dogs could have been naturally led to make a choice, as opposed to being an a completely neutral environment.
If we read the study itself we can ask the right questions of it. For example imagine if a dog’s choices were studied and yet there was a bias obvious in the original study that affected the dog’s choice. But the bias was very subtle in the study, yet the article writer also has a personal bias towards the results of that study they might miss the obvious questions you would ask. If we then just read the article writers convincing view on the evidence and never went to the source of their information – we could easily form an opinion based on the “not quite truth”.
This kind of thing happens all the time in our society. It’s why newspapers and social media are so full of half-truths and bias. It’s also why we don’t see the truths behind our choices and how they affect others in the world. Yet we are representing dogs in our profession so for their sake we need to know the facts. We need to base our opinion on the truth, or we can easily be perpetuating a myth without even knowing it.
It’s hard to get going when learning to read scientific studies. The language used can make them seem impenetrable and purposely difficult to read. But, just by pulling out the facts you can learn so much. For example things like how many dogs were observed, what breeds were they, what was their home life like, what was their guardian doing when they made the choice and so on. Then the most important thing to do then is if you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right about the results – you could be right. Then you are more informed when deciding what you want to take from that study and what you would like to leave behind.