VirginiaLynne is an educator and mom of 5. Her Science Fair articles come from projects which competed successfully (local, state, national)
Want to do a science fair project with your dog? Try this quick and easy science experiment which tests what your dog likes to eat best. My daughter Sophie invented this idea in 1st Grade, but it would work for any lower elementary level student. Her father, a biologist, helped her design a good experiment using the proper scientific method. As her mom and a former teacher, I helped her to do the work and make her display board.
Full instructions for the experiment are below: You don't need to re-invent the wheel. Follow our step-by-step instructions. If this is your first time, you may also want to check out my parent's tips in How to do a Science Fair Project.
If you have a dog or another animal which likes to eat (cats or rats might be good test subjects too), this project can be a quick and easy one to do. We did the whole project in an afternoon, including the board layout. How to make it go fast?
- Keep track of the different questions you ask in a notebook.
- Make a chart of all the foods before you start.
- Have a parent or older sibling help write down the answers if the student isn't a fast writer.
- Label all the foods you use with numbers.
- Get all of your materials ready before you get the animal's attention.
- Have another sibling or friend help in holding the pet before letting it go eat.
- Make sure you don't feed your pet before the test.
- Keep the samples of food small so the animal doesn't get full too soon.
- Have numbered plates ready.
- Keep track of what the animal eats first, second, and third by calling out the numbers to the person writing down on a chart.
- Be sure that you don't give your dog anything which is dangerous for them to eat (see chart).
Pets and Science Projects
If your school has a science fair display board format to follow, then adapt our instructions to that design. Here is the format we followed, which closely resembles the way a scientist sets up their experiments:
- Purpose of my Science Fair Experiment
- How I Got Interested in My Project
- Hypothesis (What I think will happen)
- Materials Needed
- Procedure (How I did my experiment)
- Results (table or chart showing what happened)
- Conclusions (what I learned, whether my hypothesis was correct or not, and what I would do if I tried my experiment again)
Avoid These Foods
|Don't Feed Dogs||Reason it is Dangerous|
Alcohol and tobacco
Both can affect breathing.
Apple and peach seeds have arsenic which can be toxic.
Avocado or Guacamole
Avocados have persin which causes diarrhea, vomiting and can cause heart problems.
Xilotyl in gum can cause kidney failure.
Theobromine and theophylline in chocolate can be toxic to pets.
dogs are smaller than people and caffeine can affect their heart rates.
Grapes and raisins
Most fruits are all right for dogs but grapes and raisins have a toxin which can cause liver and kidney damage.
onions, garlic and chives
has disulfides and sulfoxides which can cause anemia.
These nuts have a toxin that results in weakness and panting.
Design Your Science Experiment: Talk about the project and write down on a sheet of paper, a computer or a science notebook (the nice part about doing this on the computer is that when you have finished, you have half of your science fair display board was done!):
- How you Got Interested in the Project
- Question you are asking
- Materials you will need
Set Up Your Science Experiment:
- Get your muffin tin (or muffin tin liners) and plates.
- Put the foods in the tin and label them with numbers on paper.
- Make your chart for recording your experiment results.
Do Your experiment:
- Get your dog or other animal and have someone hold it away from where you put the foods.
- Set out five foods at a time.
- Let your dog go and eat the foods.
- Record what order they eat the foods and whether they eat all or not.
- Do as many rounds as you have foods, or until your dog stops eating.
Write up Your Conclusions: Look at your results and compare them with your hypothesis. What happened? Were you right in your guesses? Were there any surprises? What did you learn about what your dog (or other pet) likes to eat? If you were to do the experiment again, what would you do differently?
Make your Display Board:
- Write by hand, or type on a computer all of your information.
- Place in order on the board.
- Use a computer or punched out letters for your title.
- Use pictures and/or a hand drawing of your dog to decorate your board.
- Colored paper can be nice for using to mat around the sections of your report or behind the pictures.
Here is my daughter Sophie's project for you to use as a sample of how to write up your own. Sophie drew a picture of her dog to decorate the board. Because she was in 1st grade, I did most of the writing and helped guide her by asking questions along the way and making sure we did things in the right order. However, all of the words are what she said.
To do an experiment to find out what my dog likes to eat best and if there is anything she won't eat.
How I Got Interested in My Topic
I like animals. I wanted to do a project with my dog. My dog likes food. She takes the dishes out of the dishwasher to lick them. I wondered what she liked to eat best. Was there anything she wouldn't eat?
What does my dog, Violet, like to eat best? Are there some foods she won't eat?
I think she will eat most of the food. I think she will like ham because she likes meat. I think she will not like sugar because too much sugar tastes bad. I don't think she will eat the dried fruit because it is all dried up. I think she won't like the soup because of the vegetables. Like us, she won't like vegetables. It won't taste good.
- My dog, Violet.
- Paper plates for Violet to eat off of.
- Muffin tin to hold foods.
- Small bits of food from around my house.
- Paper and pens to make labels.
- Notebook and pen to record results on a chart and take notes.
- I found 24 different kinds of food around my house.
- I put a small amount of each food in a muffin tin and put a label on each one. I also made a chart of all the foods.
- I took 6 paper plates and put one food on each plate.
- We put Violet on one side of the room and the plates on the other side of the room.
- When we finished putting down the plates, we let Violet go. We watched to see what she would eat. I wrote down which food she ate 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. I also wrote down what she did not eat or what she did as she ate.
- I did four rounds of six foods at a time until I'd done all 24 foods.
- Then I took her first choices from all four rounds and did a final round to see what Violet liked to eat best of all.
|Order Food Eaten||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Finals|
meat fat (small piece)
fresh apple (smelled but didn't eat)
celery (didn't even smell it) dried apple (tried to eat it but spit it out)
sugar (smelled but didn't eat)
I learned that Violet will eat almost everything! She likes meat and cat food best. She liked all spicy things which surprised me. She would not eat celery. She didn't even smell it! I guess she is like me. She smelled the fresh apple and the sugar but didn't eat them. She tried to eat the dried fruit but spit it out.
I was surprised that she would smell things to decide what she wanted to eat first. I was surprised at the results because I thought she would eat cat food first on the last round, but she ate the pepperoni instead. Those are really spicy so I didn't think she would like that. I was also surprised that she liked the vegetables in the soup but not fresh vegetables. She also liked the applesauce but not the fresh apple.
If I were to do the experiment again, I think that maybe I would try different brands of cat food and dog food and see if there was one she liked best.
Teaching Your Child Science
Whenever we do a science project, I love to use that time to teach my kids something about the subject they are interested in. So I usually try to look up some serious and funny YouTube videos on the subject and pick up a few books too. I've included a couple of videos we enjoyed.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 26, 2018:
Sure Jackie, but you might want to try this with more than just one dog.
Jackie Taylor on August 23, 2018:
will this work for a 6th grade project?
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 25, 2018:
Amy-Thanks for letting me know that this idea was fun for your family. You made my day! I'll have to tell that to my daughter who invented this experiment. She is now in High School and is hoping to go to the International Science Fair next year.
Amy on February 22, 2018:
My 1st grader just won Gold & Best of Fair using your idea on our two pups! Thanks so much for posting this - he really wanted an idea that used his furry friends.
We both had a lot of fun running the experiment and were actually surprised by what we learned. So cool!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on May 25, 2015:
Independent variable is what you are measuring, or your question. So that would be the different foods you are testing. The dependent variable is the dog's likes or dislikes.
dude on May 23, 2015:
what were the independent and dependent variables
1 science fair 1223 on February 27, 2015:
I loved your science fair project it could really help me win next and go to regoins again next year to that is a very good science fair project
Katie on November 03, 2014:
I have a 4 chickens three Rhode Island and one Plymouth rock.
Claudia Mitchell on December 16, 2012:
Your series on science fair projects is great. My daughter is enjoying them!
ScienceFairLady on December 13, 2012:
Sent this to Pinterest for you. Visit us at Super Science Fair Projects. Congrats on your scifair project. Thanks for shaing.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2012:
Your first three words said it all....cool science project!