We know old dogs can learn new tricks, but how much does aging affect canine cognition? A citizen-science initiative known as the Dog Aging Project aims to find out.
Understanding Dog Aging
The project is a joint effort led by researchers at the University of Washington and Texas A&M University. It involves a dozen partner institutions and nearly 40,000 dogs. Having started in 2014, researchers expect it to last at least 10 years.
The initiative aims to understand the biology of canine aging, then develop strategies to help dogs live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Researchers are tracking various aspects of dogs’ lives to identify patterns and links between lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors, and long-term health.
Scientists are using various data in their research, including veterinary records, DNA samples, questionnaires, and cognitive tests. Some dogs are also participating in more advanced studies and evaluations.
An Open Resource for Scientists Around the World
Dog Aging Project researchers are collaborating with those at the Family Dog Project, developed in 1994 at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest. Specifically, the Family Dog Project is studying the behavioral and cognitive aspects of the human-canine relationship. Like the Dog Aging Project, it involves tens of thousands of participants. By combining efforts, scientists can gather more data to substantiate their findings.
Because the project is an open data study, scientists worldwide can access the research. Experts say the project could be significant for our four-legged friends and various fields of study.
“It is an honor to share our work with the scientific community,” said Dr. Kate Creevy, lead author and Dog Aging Project chief veterinary officer, according to a UW Medicine press release. “The Dog Aging Project is creating a resource with the power to transform veterinary medicine, aging research, and many scientific and non-scientific fields of inquiry.”