I can't see the future, but I do have an inkling of what's to come, at least when it comes to dog behavior, cognition, and welfare science. Here's what I'm looking forward to in the new year.
"Dog in a box" is not a Saturday Night Live sketch knockoff or an animal welfare concern. It's not even Dog in a Box. It's actually DogBox.
Yes, DogBox is a safe, perfectly humane, and exciting idea coming out of the Asher Behaviour Lab at Newcastle University. DogBox is a mobile dog behavior lab that allows researchers to drive to dogs, rather than the dogs coming to them. It's a converted "horsebox"—for non-horse-people, that's the term to describe a van or trailer carrying horses. This traveling facility will help researchers bring a standardized setting to their dog studies. The Asher Lab is known for their use of new technology like touch screens and thermal cameras—last year I covered their work on vector maps of dog faces—and I'm interested to see what studies they have in store, in the box. As for participants, they plan to conduct research throughout the UK and possibly beyond. If you're interested in participating, you can register here.
Escape the bubble
Sure, science is made up of people; people off in their own little bubbles, chugging along in the confines of their soapy bubbles. While bubble breakouts happen (bubbles pop after all), conferences are a time of forced bubble-popping where people emerge to share and discuss the soapy soupy mess they’ve been working on back in their lair, I mean bubble. (I can't let this bubble analogy go. In this moment it feels perfect. We are all soap bubbles).
I'm excited about three conferences in 2018. First up: the 6th Annual Canine Science Symposium 2018 at the San Francisco SPCA, April 14-15, 2018. The two-day conference is the brainchild of Lisa Gunter of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University and features 15 speakers on canine cognition, shelter science, and welfare topics. This is my third year presenting, always on a new topic because there's nothing stagnant about dogs.
In 2008, the Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest held the first international meeting on the biology, ecology, and behavior of dogs, wolves, and related canids. The Canine Science Forum is held every two years at a different university, and in 2018, it returns home to Budapest, July 3-6, 2018. The scientific program is still being sorted, but invited speakers are listed.
July 2-5, 2018 welcomes the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) 27th annual conference, "Animals in Our Lives: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human–Animal Interactions" at the University of Sydney in Australia. Anthrozoology, the study of human-animal interactions, is a booming field of research, and ISAZ now has a student blog, Becoming an Anthrozoologist.
This is the tip of the conference iceberg. What dog science or training conferences are you looking forward to?
What do I do for fun, you ask? How about scroll through the 'Articles in Press' section of journals. Maybe it taps into my love of movie trailers. Who knows. Whatever it is, here are a few articles coming out in 2018 that I look forward to reading and reporting on:
Sundman et al. (2018). Understanding of human referential gestures is not correlated to human-directed social behaviour in Labrador retrievers and German shepherd dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Dogs are so social with humans, but maybe there are different ways to be social with us. Sundman and colleagues analyzed whether dogs who seek human contact are also good at understanding or gestures. There is a push to explore questions like this within breed, as opposed to using a wide variety of breeds and mixed-breeds, so I'm looking forward to this one.
Cognition and welfare
Cockburn et al. (2018). Evidence of negative affective state in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with syringomyelia. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Syringomyelia is a serious neurological disorder affecting Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This disorder is no joking matter. Dogs may display 'phantom scratching' and "vocalisations resembling 'screaming' after sudden head movements, when rising, and when the dog is lifted under the sternum." This study investigates whether dogs with this condition display negative affect, or feelings.
Reeve et al. (2018). Assessing individual performance and maintaining breath sample integrity in biomedical detection dogs. Behavioural Processes.
Who doesn't think detection dogs are the coolest? Unfortunately, the methods of training and testing detection dogs are not as understood or standardized as the general public probably believes. Increasingly, researchers are exploring how to train dogs to detect, or in other cases discriminate, different odors. Part of the process is understanding how to collect, store, and present the odor of interest. For example, detection dogs will often sniff human breath to detect the presence of a disease or condition, which means that exhaled breath samples are common in biomedical detection work. But it is unclear whether the way breath samples are collected affects dog performance. Reeve and colleagues explored whether storing breath samples in silicone-coated cotton balls versus uncoated cotton balls affects dog ability to detect the scent contained in the cotton ball. This type of basic science is critical to see across the detection-work field.
More in 2018!