Upcoming Canine Science Conferences

I’m off this week, officially celebrating the marriage of Jim and I that took place last November. Veritable packs of friends and family are coming from all over the country to laugh and play and celebrate over the weekend, ending in what we are calling a “Not Wedding Party” on Sunday evening. Because I thought it would be lovely to concentrate on family and friends, I asked the indomitable Julie Hecht, of the great blog, Dog Spies, to write a guest post for us. As always, you can count of her to have her ear attuned to everything interesting in the dog world. She’ll be telling us about this summer’s especially interesting events related to canine behavior and cognition. Thanks Julie!


Think dogs get the summer off from school? Think again! Summer is the time for conferences, conferences and more conferences. And while dogs might not be in physical attendance, they are in the titles of many presentations and on the tips of many tongues.

These summer conferences, all of which are open to the public, explore canine science from many often-overlapping angles such as behavior, cognition, welfare and the dog-human relationship. What follows is a cheat sheet of dog-oriented summer 2013 conferences. Check back next year as many of these conferences are held annually.


Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science (SPARCS)
June 28-30, 2013 Redmond, Washington, USA and Free Live Stream

SPARCS, the brainchild of Prescott Breeden of The Pawsitive Packleader, intends to be a yearly meeting of canine science minds. The goal is to promote canine science research and education, and provide a platform for leaders in the field to present, discuss and debate modern behavior science. This year’s experts include Marc Bekoff, Ray Coppinger, Michael W. Fox, Alexandra Horowitz, Kathryn Lord, Ádám Miklósi, Monique Udell and Clive Wynne (you can find their bios here). Over the three-day conference, the speakers will investigate dogs using three frameworks: “Origins in the Wild,” “Social Behavior and Emotions” and “Cognition and Development.”

The SPARCS Conference Free Live Stream is as good as it sounds. You can certainly attend SPARCS in person in Redmond, WA, but you can also watch the conference live, for free, from your couch.

For a comprehensive look at what’s in store at SPARCS, visit my recent post on Scientific American Blogs, You’re invited to a canine science conference.


The next three conferences take place back-to-back, with a bit of overlap, in Chicago. The Windy City is the place to be this summer for research into dog-human interactions.

International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ)
ISAZ 2013 Conference
July 18-19, 2013 Chicago, USA

Anthrozoology (pronounced like this) is the study of the interactions and relationships between human and non-human animals. The focus of ISAZ includes “supporting research, publishing and disseminating new insights and discoveries, and promoting the exchange of knowledge and expertise within the field.” Those goals come together at yearly ISAZ conferences, held around the world since 1992 (past conferences here). While dog-human interactions predominate, the conference also investigates pet policies, zoo interactions, human perceptions, as well as interactions and issues involving cats, horses, rabbits, cattle, goats, dolphins, parrots, fish and, hey, even rhinos.

The dog-oriented presentations and posters are too numerous to mention, but here’s a snippet of topics that will be covered: the relationship between owner personality, owner‐dog interaction style, and canine behavior in assistance-dog partnerships (conference organizer James Serpell & Deborah Duffy); the physiological processes underlying dog yawning in connection with human yawns (Buttner & Strasser); dog-breed stereotypes and the effects of handler appearance on the perception of Pit Bulls (Gunter, see Trisha’s coverage of this study here); the influence of oxytocin receptor genotype polymorphisms on canine affiliative behavior — one of Trisha’s major interests, see her earlier post here (Rosenlicht et al.); an empirical test of Black Dog Syndrome (Svoboda & Hoffman); the psychological and physiological effects of using a therapy dog in mindfulness training (Henry & Crowley); and clicking calm behaviors in shelter dogs (Strasser & Buttner). The detailed ISAZ conference program is available here.


Veterinary Behavior Symposium (AVSAB)
July 19, 2013 Chicago, USA

AVSAB is an annual symposium for practitioners in the field of veterinary behavior, and presentations are both research-oriented as well as practice-oriented. This year’s conference features such notable topics as, How much do working dogs watch their handlers’ faces? by Deborah Bryant. Previous research has found that dogs can detect different expressions in human faces, so a question might be, if dogs are attending to human faces, might facial expression changes be intentionally or unintentionally cueing dogs? Trisha reviewed possible cuing in dog/handler scent-detection teams here. Dogs from all walks of life, from companion dogs to military working dogs, can be exposed to incredibly stressful experiences during the course of their lives. Walter Burghardt, chief of behavioral medicine at Lackland Air Force Base, covers Canine Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Military Working Dogs. A better understanding of this area of behavioral medicine could benefit many. Sun-A Kim investigates Hair Cortisol Concentration as a Chronic Stress Indicator in Dogs. I’m looking forward to this talk as there’s been some interesting work recently on hair and cortisol suggesting that hair of different colors might hold onto cortisol differently; black dogs had lower cortisol in their hair than nonblack dogs. Sagi Denenberg discusses a topic of great relevance to many dogs and their human companions, the Prevalence of Fearful and Anxious Behaviors of Dogs in the United States. Find this year’s AVSAB program here.


International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO)
July 20-22, 2013 Chicago, USA

As their website explains, “IAHAIO is a global umbrella organization drawing together many associations doing exciting work in the human-animal interaction (HAI) field. We embrace those who are working in research, education, and practice of HAI.” This year’s IAHAIO conference covers a wide variety of HAI topics including evaluation of dog-assisted programs in prisons, the effect of pet therapy on language development in preschoolers, teaching children and adults dog body language (by members of The Blue Dog Project), cognitive predictors of assistance-dog success, and outcomes of owner visits to hospitalized dogs (by IAHAIO President Rebecca Johnson). The IAHAIO program is available here.


Animal Behavior Society (ABS)
50th Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society
July 28-August 1, 2013 Boulder, CO USA

This seminal conference kicks off with a free public event on Sunday, July 28 called Creating Quality Lives for Dogs and Cats Through the Science of Animal Behavior. The all-day event features a great lineup with talks by Trisha, yours truly, and luminaries in the field, including:

  • Patricia McConnell, Bring Out Your Inner Dr. Doolittle: Communication and Quality of Life
  • Suzanne Hetts and Dan Estep, Can We Still Be Friends?: Helping Dogs and Cats Get Along
  • Marc Bekoff, Animals at Play: What We’ve Learned From Dogs and Their Wild Relatives
  • Julie Hecht, Get Into the Head of The Dog in Your Bed, and You’ll Both Be Happier: Updates on Canine Cognition Research
  • Pamela Reid, When Dogs and Cats Have it Bad and It Ain’t Good: Behavior Rehabilitation of Abused Pets

The program for the rest of the conference is not yet publicly available, so check back here for updates. Past conferences have included dog behavior and cognition research, and this year should be no different.


Behaviour 2013
August 4-8, 2013 Newcastle Gateshead, England

Behaviour 2013 is a joint meeting of the International Ethological Conference (IEC) and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB). Behaviour 2013 aims to stimulate exchanges between researchers from different disciplines within behavior, and the research presented at this conference investigates the biological underpinnings of behavior. Topics include why adult dogs play (Bradshaw); the relationship between prenatal experiences and postnatal behavior, an awesomely interesting topic that I discussed on SciAmBlogs (Hepper); the relationship between self-control and fatigue in both humans and dogs (Miller, see Trisha’s coverage of this topic here); and a longitudinal look at personality development from puppyhood to adulthood (Riemer). I almost forgot! There’s a talk titled, Sheep, sheepdogs and the shepherding problem. Anybody want to videotape that for Trisha?


Sense(s) & Sensibility
Tickets here, early bird pricing through midnight, July 1, 2013

Patricia McConnell: Lost in Translation? How Dogs Use Sight, Sound, Smell and Touch to Communicate
August 10, 2013 Chicago, USA

This day-long conference on canine senses is about taking our relationship with dogs to the next level. Trisha explains, “No matter how much we love our dogs, we don’t inherently understand ‘reality’ as experienced by a dog. They see different things, smell different smells (and more of them!) and hear different sounds. Although we share much of our sensory world with dogs, we also differ in substantial ways. Understanding as much as we can about what we share and how we differ is vital to truly understanding our dogs, and taking our relationship to the next level.”

Steve White: What’s the Problem? Five Simple Steps to Fixing Any Behavior or Performance Problem
August 11, 2013 Chicago, USA

Steve offers a simple, fun, and effective model to avoid common problem-solving pitfalls with dogs and to leverage “failure” to build skills and reliability. Bolster your interspecific communication!


International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)
47th ISAE Congress
June 2-6, 2013 Brazil

One of ISAE’s main goals is to improve animal welfare by understanding animal behavior. ISAE, held yearly in different locations across the globe, investigates the behavior and welfare of domesticated or confined animals, such as companion, farm, zoo and managed wild species. This means that in addition to a Companion Animal session, ISAE features research into Zoo and Wild Animals, Dairy Calf Behavior, Pig Behavior and Welfare and Preferences and Motivation, to name a few.

Although this year’s conference is over, check out the full conference proceedings and abstracts for all scientific posters and presentations. Dog-related highlights include work by Carla Torres-Pereira & Donald Broom exploring whether working dog behavior and heart rate during retrieval tasks are affected by being reprimanded or making a mistake. Also, Gama Rocha et al. evaluated the selection process for therapy- and activity-assisted intervention dogs in Brazil. Some dogs that were approved by the current selection protocol exhibited dog-directed fear as well as aggression, and the researchers recommended improvements to the current selection methodology (see Trisha’s recent article in Bark Magazine on what makes a dog a good fit for therapy work).


Stay Tuned!

The Canine Science Forum stands as the main international meeting devoted to the biology, ecology and behaviour of dogs, wolves and related canids. The conference meets every other year, with Summer 2014 bringing the Canine Science Forum to the University of Lincoln, UK. Past conferences were held in Budapest (2008), Vienna  (2010) and Barcelona (2012; my coverage of the 3rd CSF is here).

Yes, summer should be filled with play for you and your dog, but it’s also a good time to bone up on developments in canine science, so get cracking!

Julie Hecht, MSc, is a canine behavioral researcher and science writer in New York City. She blogs for Scientific American at Dog Spies and at the pen pal blog, Do You Believe In Dog? For a complete bio, visit Scientific American. Twitter @DogSpies * Facebook * www.DogSpies.com


MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Trisha and Jim are celebrating, back in a few days.


  1. Rose C says

    Thanks for the info on these seminars. Wish I could attend most, if not all, of them.

    And Trisha, Happy “Not 1st Year Wedding Anniversary” to you and Jim. :)

  2. ABandMM says

    Thanks for the conference summary Julie. I’m hoping to tune in to some of the talks on 6/28. I also love your “Do you Believe in Dog” blog with Mia. You two have a nice back-and-forth banter.

    Trisha, I hope it was a nice weekend and party. All the best to you, Jim and all your 4-leggeds.

  3. Rose C says

    Having some information overload experience here (in a good way though) watching the Live Stream of the SPARCS 2013 conference. Day 2 today and it gets more interesting! Thank you for posting these seminar infos. Much appreciated!

    Oh, and Trisha, the study/hypothesis you mentioned of Dr. Kathryn Lord in your January blog, she presented it! Information over-overload! Grateful to the organizer/s of this conference for putting it together and for making it available for all to watch.

  4. says

    Having some information overload experience here (in a good way though) watching the Live Stream of the SPARCS 2013 conference. Day 2 today and it gets more interesting .

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