I’m in one of those work tunnels. You know the kind. You give up on cooking and forget about doing laundry, because you are enmeshed, entangled, and submerged by something you are working on. The good news is that the work is exciting, fun and engaging.
I’m giving two talks at SPARCS, or the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science, and it’s all I really want to be doing right now. And it’s all that I feel like I can be doing, because I want these talks not just to be interesting, but to be intellectually stimulating. Okay, and great. Or at least, really, really good. SPARCS’s mission statement says: “SPARCS was created as a platform where modern animal behavior science can be presented, discussed, and debated by the greatest minds in canine science.” You can live stream the entire conference for free or, if you want to be able to listen and watch at your leisure, sign up for a membership in SPARCS.
I’m not so sure that I fit into the “greatest minds” category, but the line up of speakers is more than impressive. It includes James Serpell (the king of anthrozoology, whose talks are always smart, funny and innovative) to Julie Hecht (who knows as much about what’s going on in canine research as anyone in the world; I’m going to call her the “smiling data base”), Monique Udell (brilliant PhD work on whether dogs follow points), Ray Coppinger (began the conversation about ‘village dogs,’ never miss a talk by Ray), Simon Gadbois (who knows more about canine neurobiology and olfaction than you knew there was to know), Sam Gosling, (who has studied personality in a variety of species, can’t wait to hear this one too), Kathryn Lord (thousands of hours observing and comparing the behavior of wolves and dogs), Clive Wynne, (who founded the Canine Cognition Lab). Not to mention the founder of SPARCS, Prescott Breeden, who will argue that asking “nature or nurture?” is asking the wrong question.
What’s more, Julie Hecht (writer of perhaps the country’s best blog on canine science, Dog Spies) and Australian canine science researcher and writer Mia Cobb (co-writers of the blog Do You Believe in Dog?) will be interviewing all the speakers and keeping up an international conversation about all things dog. You can read more about her, and all the speakers here.
My two talks are “I See What You’re Saying: Translating Conflict-Related Visual Signals” (Friday June 20th, 9 to 10 AM, EST) and “Koalas, Coyotes and Kangaroos: What the Behavior of Other Animals Can Teach You About Your Dog.” (Sunday, June 22nd, 9 to 10 AM EST. (In which I almost never mention koalas or kangaroos, but talk about territoriality (is “territorial aggression” in dogs a useful term?), dominance (yup, hold onto your hats) and what ethologists call “sign stimuli,” or why people are a lot like beetles, and how it relates to our relationship with our dogs.
Okay, time for me to get back to work. I hope you can join us. It could be awesome…
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Not much cooking this weekend, but I did get in some gardening and sheep dog work. Willie and I are working on my whistles–well, I’m working on whistling consistently and he’s working on trying to figure them out when I mess up. Maggie and I are working on her walking straight on to the sheep. She likes to flank best, and I’m encouraging her to find the fun in being “on the bubble,” or just at the point where she can feel the pressure between her and the sheep. We’re making progress. I’ll miss working the two of them when I’m gone, but the dogs and the sheep will be there when I get back.
Here are some photos from play time this morning: