Do our dogs truly love us? Who makes them happier, their human caretakers or fellow canines? How can we most effectively communicate with our pets? What is the best way to train them?
Sandy Springs dog trainer Mark Spivak and Emory University professor Gregory Berns have answered the first two questions and are in the process of answering the last two, along with many other questions about what goes on inside the brain of working and pet dogs. As a result, Spivak and Berns appeared in the April 16 broadcast of the PBS “Nova” series “Inside Animal Minds.”
In September the British Broadcasting Corp. flew a production crew from London to Atlanta to film a segment for a planned documentary on animal cognition, entitled “Inside Animal Minds.” After obtaining additional footage and completing the edit process, the final version of the documentary aired in the United Kingdom on BBC2 Jan. 28. The re-edited domestic version aired in the USA April 9, 16, and 23, focusing on birds, dogs and the smartest animals, respectively.
Spivak owns Comprehensive Pet Therapy in Sandy Springs. Berns is Emory’s distinguished chairman of neuroeconomics and neuropolicy. For the past 2.5 years the two have collaborated on a groundbreaking research project that has achieved notable acclaim throughout the scientific community and amongst pet owners.
The Nova program April 16 featured interviews with Spivak and Berns, showed dogs during live scans and explained the process, notable research findings, and the benefits of the project. The promotion video for the program is available on the PBS Nova You Tube channel or by typing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JBF5dvmYYk]www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JBF5dvmYYk.
“The ‘Nova’ program should be both entertaining and interesting for anybody interested in learning about dog behavior and how the workings of the canine mind,” Spivak said. “The production crew was great and we were impressed when viewing the promo and the finished product. ‘Nova’ is a well-respected program and Greg and I appreciated the opportunity to play a major role in “Inside Animal Minds.”
Spivak and Berns became the first researchers worldwide to effectively use the tool of fMRI to study dog behavior. fMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging. fMRI examines brain activity over time, which allows for many avenues to non-invasively study the operation of the canine brain.
Berns and Spivak wish to expand their canine team to a total of 40 dogs. They invite interested Atlanta dog owners to volunteer. Metro Atlanta pet owners wishing to participate in the project will need to attend a tryout. If accepted into the program, owners and dogs will then need to attend complimentary biweekly training sessions and diligently complete homework exercises. Once their dog reaches proficiency, participants will receive a brain image of their dog, an MRI-certified diploma and compensation for each successful scan.
To register for a tryout session, pet owners should contact Comprehensive Pet Therapy by phone at (404) 236-2150.