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Meet the Puppy Kindergarten Class of 2021

These 'fearless' students are helping researchers learn more about dog intelligence

photo of puppies at the Duke Canine Cognition Center

Fearless and classmates Dunn, Ethel, Gilda, and Gloria in the Duke Puppy Kindergarten will try to sit still for a moment during a class photo shoot that will be streamed on Facebook live at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15.

These puppies are part of a long-term study at the Duke Canine Cognition Center funded by the National Institutes of Health on the cognitive development of future service dogs. 

Although the puppy kindergarten has reopened this fall, there are some changes to note. The center is not yet open for visitors, but please check its website for updates.

All five pups will be part of a dorm program, which was briefly piloted in the spring of 2020. Each pup is assigned to a team of three student volunteers who take care of the puppy for two nights a week. Dorm volunteers receive training on how to teach the puppies good behavior, such as sitting and waiting before they eat.

More than 50 general volunteers, 16 dorm volunteers, and 15 alternate volunteers have signed up to help raise the puppies on campus from 8-20 weeks of age. After graduating from Duke Puppy Kindergarten, the pups leave for their foster homes for additional training on their way to becoming service dogs with the non-profit Canine Companions.