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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


11 March 2013

Why I conference

Hi Mia!

Would you agree that you and I spend a lot of time researching and writing, two incredibly solitary activities?

And given that we both have the social butterfly gene (I just got our DNA tests back, I’ll send you yours), conferences are incredibly important for our health and well-being; a time where we can run amok with people exuberant about the field of dog behavior, cognition and welfare.

In some ways, conferences are akin to summer camp. Smores by the campfire become happy hour, and early morning polar bear club turns into getting up bright and early for the first conference session. Exactly the same (except in camp we did more sneaking around, and I’ve never done that at a conference. My favorite was “raiding the hearth,” aka sneaking into the camp kitchen late at night and eating many, many, many brownies. It was almost like the staff baked them to entice us to engage in illicit activities. Anyway, I miss those brownies).

Conference time!
This seems to be a conference time of year. Last week I attended IFAAB in San Diego, a small conference mostly for those working in the setting of Applied Animal Behavior, so Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Veterinary Behaviorists and applied researchers. I also recently attended ScienceOnline2013 in Raleigh, NC where I absorbed many different angles of science communication (which I mentioned in an earlier post)
. In two weeks I’ll be in San Francisco for the one-day Canine Science Symposium put on by Lisa Gunter and Pawsitive Tails, with Kathryn Lord, Sasha Protopopova, Lisa Gunter and Erica Feuerbacher. Looking back, here are my Conference takeaways... 

At IFAAB, I got to reconnect with Dr. Anneke Lisberg (also a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- Go Badgers!) who presented her research on one of my first loves, urine.

Yes. I am interested in your dog's urine, even on Twitter.
Dogs urinate because they have to go. That’s definitely part of it. But dogs also use urine as a form of chemical communication. So the question is, what does urine mean for dogs? 

Anneke’s PhD research with Dr. Charles Snowdon explored where dogs place their urine in relation to other dogs’ urine, how dogs investigate other dogs’ urine and who investigates whose urine. 

Dr. Patricia McConnell has summarized Anneke’s research in a number of blog posts:

Anneke’s research highlights just how intricate the role of chemical communication in dogs can be. We can’t just say males do X and females do Y with their urine. There are a lot of factors that might be associated with chemical communication, such as tail height and even whose urine a dog encounters first. 

Heart Warming
Another talk at IFAAB by Melissa Spooner,
LVT, BS, KPA-CTP who works with Dr. Theresa DePorter, warmed my heart. Melissa presented a behavior case concerning a senior dog and her senior lady friend. The case served as a reminder about the importance of handling our 4-legged friends gently. 

According to the case study, a dog started displaying aggressive behavior after receiving daily medical treatments from the owner. This reminds that even happy-go-lucky dogs can start showing “BACK OFF” displays due to harsh or forceful medicating procedures. 

The result of the case study: Dog conflict behaviors were reduced through classical counter-conditioning when administering medications and ADAPTIL (formerly DAP) while discontinuing restraint, verbal reprimands and “ambush” medical treatments.

Important message from our sponsors ;)
Conferences also increase my scope of caring for science in general and the natural world. At ScienceOnline2013, I got to spend copious time with my new friend, Dr. Eleanor (aka Eleanor Spicer Rice; aka Dr. Ant Lady, to me). She is often found working with Your Wild Life, a team of scientists exploring the biodiversity on surfaces from
Dr. Eleanor's ant displacement research in NYT. Not aunt displacement.
our skin to our backyards and homes. Eleanor is writing profiles of ants for a Book of Common Ants, and I never new ants were bestowed with such awesome names! Acrobat ant, little black ant (aww), big headed ant (weird), fire ant (scary) and thief ant (put that back!). 

Eleanor’s ant research was recently featured in the New York Times science section. Her research found that Asian Needle Ants were hanging around with Argentine ants, and that the Asian Needle Ant population was growing. 

Why is this interesting? As the New York Times explains, “Argentine ants are known for crowding out other small species of plants and lizards, but do not pose a direct threat to humans.” But, “Asian ants have venomous stings that can cause weeks of burning and itching. Victims who are allergic to the sting can suffer more severe reactions.” Now I have to get out my magnifying glass and get to know ants!

Here's Eleanor's research in her own words, in an interview with Dr. Holly Menninger of Your Wild Life.

So that’s why I conference! Do tell more about your RSPCA talk!



McConnell, P. The Other End of The Leash. Blog

Menninger, H. 2013. Dr. Eleanor is on a roll. Your Wild Life. Blog

Quenua, D. 2013. War of the Ants Intensifies in U.S. New York Times. 

Rice E.S., Silverman J. & Gordon D.M. (2013). Propagule Pressure and Climate Contribute to the Displacement of Linepithema humile by Pachycondyla chinensis, PLoS ONE, 8 (2) e56281. DOI:

Lisberg A.E. & Snowdon C.T. (2009). The effects of sex, gonadectomy and status on investigation patterns of unfamiliar conspecific urine in domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, Animal Behaviour, 77 (5) 1147-1154. DOI:

Lisberg A.E. & Snowdon C.T. (2011). Effects of sex, social status and gonadectomy on countermarking by domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, Animal Behaviour, 81 (4) 757-764. DOI:

© 2013 Julie Hecht
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  1. ISAZ, anyone? Yes, maybe?
    I am very excited to go this summer as a lowly first year Anthrozoology student.
    You and Mia have inspired me to pursue canine cognition research after I graduate (which is still a ways away!) Thanks!


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