Dogs can read their owners’ minds, but can Callahan Creek?


A few years ago, researchers at the University of Florida set out to address the question of whether or not our dogs can truly read our minds. The results of their research, published in Springer’s scientific journal Learning & Behavior, led Huffington Post reporter Catherine Pearson to conclude that the answer is ‘a little bit yes and also, a little bit no … Fido does have some natural ability to sense when he’s got your attention, but he hones that sense through a lifetime of experience, too.’

One fascinating finding is that the researchers believe dogs possess the higher form of thinking psychologists refer to as theory of mind. In a 2011 article about the Florida study for Psychology Today, University of British Columbia psychology professor Stanley Coren, PhD, summarizes theory of mind as ‘a recognition that another individual can see the world differently from the way that we do, (and) also a recognition that an individual will base their behavior on what they perceive.’

At Callahan Creek, we’re fascinated by what makes people tick. The concept that each individual sees the world differently may be a known fact, but it presents a daily challenge for us. We’re seeking a better understanding of how someone forms an impression about the brands we represent – and what motivates that person to act. We do know, based on proprietary research we’ve conducted, that category enthusiasts are the key to specialty brand marketing. But knowing is not the same thing as understanding: I know, for example, that E=mc2 – but I definitely don’t understand it. So how do we go about understanding category enthusiasts? In particular, how can we read the minds of pet category enthusiasts (specifically, dog lovers) as well their dogs seem to be able to?

The answer is that we can’t do it in the ways typically used by the marketing world for uncovering insights. Not through focus groups, surveys or by studying secondary research. We’ve done all of those — and doing things that way means everyone has access to the exact same information and everyone arrives at the exact same conclusion. We don’t want to just do the same things. We want to go deeper, to do the hard work of understanding category enthusiasts in their world. The way they think. What really matters to them. The things they don’t think to tell us or don’t even know how to explain.

So we’ve decided to hang out with some dog enthusiasts and listen to them talk about whatever is important to them. To strike up conversations. To gather some serious (and not-so-serious) thoughts from canine experts about man’s best friend and about dog lovers themselves. We’ve decided to do this by creating a brand-new online community called Dog Commons. It’s a unique community in a number of ways. First, it’s exclusively for canine enthusiasts. And second, there is no commercial content or advertising of any kind. No selling. No promoting products or services. Just hanging out, sharing stories and knowledge, and carrying on conversations with like-minded dog lovers.

The late, great Mister Rogers shared his wisdom about listening and understanding when he famously said, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.” By ‘going deep’ with Dog Commons, we are actually trying to get at the simple, core truths about the love people have for their dogs. All the other stuff is shallow – asking people what they want or need and how they feel, gathering data points and facts, then stitching it all together to make sense of it somehow – and it also becomes very complex. I’m not saying it’s not important, but the deep side is where we get at what really matters. Then we’re able to see all the data, all the facts and figures, with much more clarity.

In the weeks and months ahead, Callahan Creek will start to share some of our learnings about what makes category enthusiasts tick, based on our time spent hanging out online with member of Dog Commons. Stay tuned.

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