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Study reveals how dogs perceive objects
Pictured: Nalani the dog, image (C) Sonja De Laat Spierings.
Researchers suggest dogs experience multisensory mental images.

A new study has shed light on how dogs think about their toys, suggesting that dogs experience a multisensory mental representation of objects.

Researchers from the Family Dog Project, led by ELTE University, Budapest, found that dogs have 'multi-modal mental image' of their familiar object – when thinking about an object, they imagine the object's different sensory features.

Three Gifted Word Learner (GWL) dogs – those who can learn the name of objects – and 10 typical family dogs were trained to fetch a toy associated with a reward, using treats and praise. 

Following this, researchers then conducted an experiment to observe how the dogs searched for the targeted toy, placed among four other toys. 

This was done both with the lights on and with the lights off, and all of the dogs were successful in selecting the trained toys in both conditions, though it took them longer to locate the toys in the dark. Detailed behavioural analysis revealed that all of the dogs sniffed more in the dark.

Another experiment was then conducted with the GWL dogs to discover whether hearing the verbal label of the object activates a multisensory mental representation. The GWL dogs were tested on their ability to recognise objects based on their name under both light and dark conditions. 

The success rate in recognising the toys was the same under bother conditions, but the search behaviour used did, suggesting that the dogs could use different sensory modalities flexibly. 

Published in Animal Cognition, the study reveals that when dogs play with a toy, they pay attention to its different features, and register the information using multiple senses.

The full paper can be accessed via this link, and is open access. 

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on minsmere@rspb.org.uk outside of these times."  

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Moredun Foundation Award opens for applications

The 2022-2023 Moredun Foundation Award (MFA) is now open for members, with up to £2,000 available for successful applicants.

The MFA honours the contribution that education, teamwork, life experience, and travel have made to the understanding of cattle health and welfare. Through its charitable endeavours, Moredun offers its members the opportunity to pursue projects that support personal development.

The prize is open to a wide range of project applications, including those that include producing educational tools, conducting a small research project, or studying farming methods in other nations. For more information and to apply, visit moredun.org.uk