Canada's Northern Dogs project uses GIS data to map community behaviour models

The Northern Dogs project team receives an enthusiastic greeting from on of its target community members.The Northern Dogs Project has returned north for the spring 2013 season! 

We are back from working in the communities carrying out surveys and collecting data, visiting the kids in the school and providing primary vet care to dogs (and cats), many of whom we have seen before!

The interactive lessons in the classes focused on how to feed and care for dogs, how to read a dog’s body language (= what the dog is telling you), and ultimately, how to live safely around and with them.

Bosum, one of my own dogs, accompanied me into the classroom and he was an amazing sidekick.  Born in one of the communities five years ago, Bosum proved to be an important part of the learning and he was definitely more popular than I was! 

While I was in the classroom, Northern Dog team members Heidi, Stef, Margaret, Michelle and Heather walked the streets looking for dogs.

When we started surveying a few years ago, I wanted to capture data on the overall number of dogs in each community, how they lived (e.g. tied, free roaming) and their body condition.

Each year we would collect data by walking all the streets in each community and each year we would find approximately the same number of dogs. 

The issue with this broad stroke approach is that it doesn’t tell you anything about the dogs other than number, body condition, and if you can get close enough, whether they have been spayed/neutered or not.

What you don’t know is if you are seeing the same dogs from the previous years or new ones. 

This year, I wanted to find out what individual dogs were in the community, where they lived, what they were doing, where they were going, etc. 

I wanted to know as much as possible about each dog so that I could cross reference this data with the data we gather from the clinics. 

Heidi works extensively with GIS (Global Information Systems) and she will take the two dimensional information that we collect and link it to community maps giving us a more 3D picture.

From this we’ll be able to get a deeper perspective on the dogs in each community.

In June, we’ll be attaching some GPS units to the collars of some of the dogs in the communities we visit so that we can see where they are going.

Are they congregating in a certain location – is it at the school or near a garbage source or by a female in heat? 

How does this correlate with the complaints received within the communities?

This data should help to inform everyone about what processes need to be in place to change how and where the human/dog conflicts are occurring and to clear up some misconceptions about dog habits and behaviours. 


For more information about efforts with our Northern Dogs project in Canada, visit our project page.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project