My, How They've Grown

Spring 2022 class graduates Duke Puppy Kindergarten

The Duke Puppy Kindergarten's spring 2022 class
The Duke Puppy Kindergarten's spring 2022 class

Like all Duke students, Keaton, Laney, Odom and Nestle grew a lot during their time on campus. Except they were here for just 12 weeks.

The spring 2022 class at the Duke Puppy Kindergarten has graduated and headed off on the next phase of their journey to become assistance dogs.

The Duke Puppy Kindergarten is a longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Health to assess how different rearing strategies affect the behavior and cognitive development of assistance dogs.

Each semester, more than 100 Duke undergraduates help raise puppies from Canine Companions from 8-20 weeks of age, the most critical stage of brain development in dogs. The students run the puppies through a range of cognitive games that can help identify puppies most likely to graduate as assistance dogs.

The goal is to increase the supply of assistance dogs by improving their training and better matching them with assistance jobs suited to their abilities.