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Sled Dogs by Alexa, Jenaya, and Miriah

We live in Minnesota, and our whole family raises and races sled dogs. We race 4-dog, 6-dog, and 12-dog teams. Selecting the dogs to make up a team is a tricky process, because the dogs don't just have to run fast, they have to get along as a team. We're trying to put together a new team of four dogs, and we want to know: can we use dog respiration rate as a way to match dogs up in a team?

What did we do?
Our team of dogs from last year (Boots, Annie, Crook and Brandy) ran well, but we are interested in making up a new team that might run even better. We compared that team with a team of new dogs (Fox, Tiger, Boomer, and Dick). We ran both teams for a mile, then stopped and recorded each dog's respiration rate by putting our hands on their chests and counting their breaths. We also watched to see if the dogs were getting along, and whether they were distracted. We made our observations for several days, then tried to put together our new super team from all the information we had.

What did we find out?
In the old team, Brandy didn't run as well as the other dogs; her respiration rate was below the other dogs by quite a bit. We thought we might try to replace her with a dog from the other team. In the new team, there were two dogs with respiration rates near the target rate of the old team: Fox and Boomer. However, when we mixed and matched team members, the dogs' behavior became worse. We ended up keeping Brandy with her original team, and running the new team intact. Dog socialization is a stronger determining factor than respiration rate.

What can you do?
  • How does your pet's heart rate change after playing around? Use your hands to feel your dog's chest move in and out, and count the breaths in a minute. Then run around and play with your pet for a few minutes, and count breaths again. How much time goes by before your dog's respiration comes down to normal? How about yours?
  • A fish beats its gills faster or slower depending on temperature. Do an observation of a goldfish in a bowl. Observe and count the gill beats when the water temperature varies between 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C) and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 C). Give the fish time to adjust in each case. What do you notice?
  • Compare the resting respiration rates of your different family members. How does the respiration rate of a young child (under 5) compare to a teenager, or to an adult?
  • Use this life science investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on respiration.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
What is the largest litter ever born to a dog?

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