activity page will offer:
An introduction to animal training
opportunity to explore color perception
computer experience in creating specific color characteristics
- Pet dog
- Dog treats (for rewards)
- Opaque plastic bowls
- Heavy stock paper
- Access to a computer (with basic paint program)
If your classroom does not have access to a computer paint
program, you can create these colors using Adobe Photoshop.
- Color Printer
NOTE: Be sure students know that they must have adult
supervision throughout this training session. A form signed
by both the student's guardian and the dog owner must be submitted
and approved by you prior to any physical interactions with
1- Shades of Gray
- Open a palette from any color paint program.
- Observe how easily the colors are distinguished from each
- View your palette with a monochrome (shades of gray) display.
- What happens to the colors? Can you still tell most apart?
- In order to insure that the dog is distinguishing colors
(and not shades of gray), you'll need to create special
colors that have the same "gray value". It may take you
some time to get this critical mix, but don't give up. Work
with these three target colors: blue, red, and violet. Vary
the hue, saturation, and brightness to create this test
palette. When you finally have a selection of these colors
that appear as identical shades of gray, you are ready to
NOTE: You may want to assist students with this portion
of the activity. Here are the slider values for three different
colors (red, blue, and purple) that appear identical when
seen in grayscale. The values are for using either the RGB
sliders or the HSB sliders in the application Adobe Photoshop
Using RGB sliders:
2- Selecting A Difference
- Fill each of the plastic bowls with snacks, then empty.
This will distribute a food smell among the three bowls.
- Invert the three bowls and place them on the floor in
a side-by-side arrangement.
- Print out a small square of one of your colors (2" by
2"). Cut out two additional scraps of white paper that are
the same size. Turn the bowls over and use tape to attach
one scrap to the bottom of each bowl, white on two, and
the color on one.
- Place a small amount of food beneath the "color" target
- Have your dog examine the three inverted bowls. Let the
animal select one bowl to overturn. If no selection has
been made, expose the food treat in the color bowl. If the
dog overturns the wrong bowl, set it back up and try again.
Be sure to praise the dog if it overturns the correct bowl.
- Repeat this action several times in a ten-minute session.
Randomize the placement of the target bowl, but always keep
the treat beneath the colored square.
NOTE: To increase training efficiency, have multiple
sessions and limit the time of each session to ten minutes.
- Record your observations.
3- The Test
- Reassemble your test setup. This time replace the two
white squares with the two other colors you created.
- Choose a target color.
- Allow your dog to select once again from these three bowls.
Reward a correct selection, then repeat the exercise randomizing
the placement of the target bowl but using the same target
color. If necessary, display where the treat has been kept.
Remember to spread out these training sessions and limit
them to about ten minutes at a time.
- Record your observations.
your dog able to distinguish the colored target from the white
squares of paper? How could you tell? How many trials did
it take your dog to "connect" that food was beneath the colored
target? Was your dog able to distinguish between the three
different colors (that have the same gray appearance)? How
many trials did this type of training take? Do you think that
your pet was able to distinguish color, or simply shades of
you or a friend own another pet, like a cat or a bird? How
might you modify this experiment to test these animals for
color-blindness? Write up your ideas and test them out, with
the permission of your teacher and the pet owner.
a local zoo or aquarium. Speak with an animal trainer and
learn more about his or her skills, career and responsibilities.
Find out what types of animals are easiest to train. What
sort of structure and frequency do they have to their training
periods? Are there "special" strategies for training
zoo animals that can be applied to house pets?
color blindness in humans information page
article on color perception in dogs and cats
a huge FAQ list on dog training that is applicable to other
animals as well
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools,
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School,