PHYLLIS ERDMANDr. Phyllis Erdman talks about her experience in the Neurodiversity Lab at Washington State University.

We were excited to have access to the Neurodiversity Lab to create the canine eye-tracking equipment based on models that have been used on humans. When Winter, my honor’s student, first thought about this study, we wanted to see if the left gaze bias was really present in dogs in the same way it is in humans. However, we really did not have an accurate way to measure this. We knew we had human equipment and software to measure this in humans, but did not know if dogs’ eyes worked the same as humans.

So we first consulted with a veterinarian who specialized in canine ophthalmology, and she concurred that their eyes worked pretty much the same as humans. But of course, getting an eye tracking device on a human face and one on a dog are two very different processes. First we had to determine if a dog would allow a “doggle” to be placed on him, then we had to mount tiny cameras in front of the lenses so the computer could read the eye movement. So the dogs had to be comfortable with a doggle on, and a camera sticking right in front of their eyes. They all tolerated it beautifully. Their owners sat in front of them while the dogs eyes moved and the computer software picked up and measured that movement. The canine subjects were real troopers. Not only did they sit quietly for a few moments while the computer read the movements, but they all looked so cute in their doggles, hooked up to the laptops. Now that we have determined the equipment will work, and we determined that there does seem to be the left gaze bias, future studies need to help understand what that means. Are they really reading our emotions the way we think they are?

Read more in the Washington State University magazine.