Consent to Participate in Research
Study Title: Cognition, motivation, and emotion in domestic dog breeds
Researcher: Erin E. Hecht, Ph.D.
The following is a short summary of this study to help you decide whether or not to be a part of this study. More detailed information is listed later on in this form.
Why am I being invited to take part in a research study?
We invite you to take part in a research study because you are over age 18, the owner of a dog, and an English speaker.
What should I know about a research study?
• Someone will explain this research study to you.
• Whether or not you take part is up to you.
• Your participation is completely voluntary.
• You can choose not to take part.
• You can agree to take part and later change your mind.
• Your decision will not be held against you.
• Your refusal to participate will not result in any consequences or any loss of benefits that you are otherwise entitled to receive.
• You can ask all the questions you want before you decide.
• If you are a member of the laboratory conducting this research, you are welcome to participate, but you are not required to do so. Your standing in the laboratory will not be affected by your decision to participate or not to participate.
Why is this research being done?
The purpose of the study is to find out how and why different dogs behave differently.
How long will the research last and what will I need to do?
There are several possible ways you can participate. These can happen over 1 or more days, depending on your schedule, and can take up to 5.5 hours.
• You can fill out surveys about your dog, either online or on paper (about 1-1.25 hours).
• You can share saliva, cheek swab, and hair samples from your dog (about 15 minutes).
• You can participate in behavior testing with your dog (about 1 hour).
• You can let us perform an MRI scan to take an image of your dog’s brain (about 2-3 hours).
Is there any way being in this study could be bad for me?
We don’t believe there are any risks from participating in the following portions of the study: surveys, biological sample collection, and behavior testing. Dogs will be anesthetized for MRI scans. Anesthesia inherently carries some risks, but we have taken steps to minimize these risks.
Will being in this study help me in any way?
We cannot promise any benefits to you or others from your taking part in this research. However, possible benefits include the following. You and your dog might find this study to be fun. Overall, the results of this study could have potential benefits to society. For example, this research might help match dogs to specific tasks, like being a family pet, being a police dog, or helping with rescue work. This research could also have benefits to science, by helping us understand of the biology of behavior.
The following is more detailed information about this study in addition to the information listed above.
What is the purpose of this research?
The goal of this research is to characterize and quantify behavioral variation within and between dog breeds. Different breeds of dogs are commonly perceived to have different temperaments and abilities, but individuals also vary within a particular breed. Because all dog breeds are members of a single species, and most breeds have diverged from each other only within the past few hundred years, they are an excellent way to study what happens when animals become specialized for particular behaviors or temperaments. The study will measure dog behavior in two complementary ways: through owner reports collected via surveys, and through videotaped behavior testing. Behavior tests in the lab will allow direct measurement and videotape, but may be sensitive to the somewhat artificial and unfamiliar social situation of being tested in a lab. Owner surveys are inherently indirect measures of dog behavior, but provide an opportunity to gather data about the dog's typical history of behavior in its day-to-day life and home environment. We are also collecting biological samples from dogs in order to investigate how genetics and hormones are related to behavior. Furthermore, we are collecting MRI scans from dogs in order to investigate how brain organization is related to behavior.
How long will I take part in this research?
There are several possible ways you can participate, and each one takes a different amount of time. You can complete different portions of the study on different days, if you so choose.
• If you fill out surveys about your dog, this will take about 1-1.25 hours.
• If you share a saliva, cheek swab, and hair samples from your dog, this will take about 15 minutes.
• If you participate in behavior testing, this will take about 1 hour.
• If your dog participates in an MRI scan, this will take about 2-3 hours.
What can I expect if I take part in this research?
Surveys: If you decide to fill out surveys about your dog, you can expect to spend about 1-1.25 hours filling them out. You can fill out the surveys online. You can also do this in our lab if you are coming to visit for other procedures. Occasionally, members of our research team go to public places like city parks and dog parks in order to collect data. In the lab or in a park, study staff may provide you with an electronic device or paper surveys, or invite you to fill out the surveys using your own electronic device.
Biological samples: If you decide to provide biological samples from your dog, we will put a cotton swab in your dog’s mouth and gently brush the inside of his or her cheek. We might also take a small snip of hair from your dog. We will not force your dog to provide these samples and collecting these samples is not painful. This takes 15 minutes or less.
Behavior tests: If you decide to participate in behavior testing, you may be invited to visit our laboratory on the Harvard campus, located in room B435.80, Northwest Science Building, 52 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138. Behavior tests may also take place in a medium-sized room at dog owners’ homes or at purebred dog clubs. Two or more study staff members will be present, and the test lasts about 1 hour. We will record video and audio during the tests. The purpose of the test is to study normal things that occur in your dog's daily life. During the test, your dog will encounter situations like meeting a new person, being apart from the owner, seeing familiar and unfamiliar objects, and communicating with people. During some parts of the test, you and the dog will be together. During other parts, your dog will be with just an experimenter, or on its own. We will ask you to participate in some parts of the behavior tests. This may include sitting in a chair in the testing room and interacting normally with your dog and experimenter (i.e., casual conversation while the dog acclimates to the space); leaving the room when asked and waiting outside; returning to the room and greeting the dog after the dog has been alone or with the experimenter; issuing basic commands to the dog; and playing with the dog with objects. During portions where you are not with your dog, you will be able to watch your dog through a one-way mirror and/or a live video feed. During the behavior tests, psychological discomfort is not expected beyond the level that is encountered in most dogs' daily life (for example, being apart from the owner). If you want for any reason at any time, the test can be stopped. The experimenters will stop the test if your dog shows more than a normal level of anxiety, or if for any reason stopping the test seems to be in the dog’s best interest.
MRI scan: If you decide to have your dog participate in MRI scanning, this will occur in our laboratory on the Harvard campus, located in room B435.80, Northwest Science Building, 52 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138. Your dog’s veterinary records are required in order to make sure that your dog is healthy enough to qualify for the study. Two or more study staff members will be present, along with a licensed veterinarian. The MRI scan and veterinary examinations will take about 2-3 hours. During this time, you can wait in our reception area, where there is comfortable seating and free wifi. You can also visit the café in the building or explore campus and the surrounding area, and we will call you when your dog is ready to go home. During the MRI portion of the study, procedures will occur in the following order:
1. Complete physical and neurological examination.
2. Routine blood work (complete blood count and chemistry profile). Approximately 1 teaspoon of blood will be collected from the jugular vein for routine lab work.
3. General anesthesia and MRI. An appropriately sized catheter will be placed in a vein in either of my dog’s front legs for administration of sedation prior to placing my dog under general anesthesia. My dog will then be recovered completely from anesthesia under the supervision of the veterinarian.
Study staff will not complete the MRI portion of the study if your dog has any abnormal test results or is not in robust good health. Study staff will stop the procedure at any point if this is judged to be in the best interest of your dog’s health.
What happens if I say yes, but I change my mind later?
You can leave the research at any time it will not be held against you.
Is there any way being in this study could be bad for me? (Detailed Risks)
There are no physical risks to human participants in this study.
Dogs will be anesthetized for MRI scans. Anesthesia always carries some level of risk, including the risk of death, which could be psychologically distressing for the owner. This risk has been minimized by ensuring your dog is healthy as evidenced by results of a complete physical exam and routine blood work. Dogs are pre-screened by licensed veterinarians prior to study enrollment, re-examined immediately before the MRI, and monitored throughout the MRI. There may be slight bruising or swelling at the site of the needle puncture for blood collection and catheter placement. In the event of unforeseen risks, the attending veterinarians will use their judgment to guide patient management.
If I take part in this research, how will my privacy be protected? What happens to the information you collect?
Efforts will be made to limit the use and disclosure of your Personal Information, including research study records, to people who have a need to review this information. We cannot promise complete secrecy. Organizations that may inspect and copy your information include the IRB and other representatives of this organization.
If identifiers are removed from your identifiable private information or identifiable samples that are collected during this research, that information or those samples could be used for future research studies or distributed to another investigator for future research studies without your additional informed consent.
Can I be removed from the research without my OK?
The person in charge of the research study or the sponsor can remove you from the research study without your approval. This could happen if your dog shows more than a normal level of anxiety, or if for any reason stopping the test seems to be in the dog’s best interest. Experimenters will stop the test if the dog shows stress-related behaviors that appear to be outside the “normal” range expected for a dog. We do not want this research to be uncomfortable or stressful for dogs or owners.
Researcher financial interests in this study
None of the members on the study team have a financial interest in this study.
Who can I talk to?
If you have questions, concerns, or complaints, or think the research has hurt you, talk to the research team at:
Erin E. Hecht, Ph.D.
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology
11 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
This research has been reviewed and approved by the Harvard University Area Institutional Review Board (“IRB”). You may talk to them at (617) 496-2847 or
• Your questions, concerns, or complaints are not being answered by the research team.
• You cannot reach the research team.
• You want to talk to someone besides the research team.
• You have questions about your rights as a research subject.
• You want to get information or provide input about this research.
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