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:
Pat Anderson says
It does not take the greatest mind, it takes the greatest hearts ( caring ones ) who will take the time needed to learn how animals communicate. Most of the people who understand horses the best do not even have college degrees. It is how you apply your knowledge and with animals how much patients you have to achieve the ability to understand what they are trying to tell you. The ability to observe is one of the most important needs.
Kathleen Bullard says
Well Trisha, I think you are one of the “greatest minds”. My husband and I are now 5 months into having our first dog after 30 years of cats. I gobbled up “The Other End of the Leash” and “Love Has No Age Limit” before adopting our 11-pound 2 yo terrier mix straight from the high-kill shelter. I have to confess being frightened of dogs but didn’t want a reactive, barky little dog and after reading your books, knew the behavior that I needed. We walk Blake twice a day, he interacts well with other dogs of all sizes, and my fear of dogs is gone. Now that I understand how to read dogs better I know how they greet, what is playful, and what is aggression. Thank you! Your work has made a huge difference in my life and I am most appreciative!
Keep up the good work and best of luck on your presentations!
I’d give anything to watch you work those dogs of yours for a week or six 🙂
Kathleen: Thanks so much for your kind words; I’m thrilled that Blake is in such a great home!
Vicky: Oh no, you really don’t! I’d be one of many good models for teaching family dog training or treating aggression, but I am an “early intermediate” I’d say at working with my sheep dogs. You absolutely would not want to use me as a model, but you could come and laugh with me at what a dufous I am!
I’m in love with Maggie and her ears!
SPARCS sounds like heaven to me and would love to be in the room listening to you speak again Trisha. Would be thrilled to listen to anything that Ray Coppinger has to say too. Sadly several thousand miles separate me from the conference so may just have to sign up….
Posted a paper below that may be relevant?
Very excited to see you in Rhode Island this weekend! It’s going to be an amazing event!
Dang. Can’t get a subscription unless you’re willing to create a paypal account. Thanks for the links, anyway. There’s still live streaming…
Heady company won’t make any difference. You’ll be GREAT!
Kerry M. says
Thanks for posting the times! I couldn’t find what’s happening when on the sparcs website so this will allow me to plan ahead.
I absolutely believe you are one of the greatest minds, perhaps not in research, but in interpreting and explaining the science in a way that the average person can understand. And you can do it with humor and empathy. A rare ability, and as important as research, for if people don’t understand the science (or why it’s so important), they won’t support it.
Good luck with the talks and have fun!
Oh my word, you have my dog’s twin sister! (or at least it looks like it) 🙂
Kathy Kawalec says
I totally ‘get’ the tunnel thing! lol. Thanks for your great work with inter-species communication…a lifelong passion of mine. Best of luck with your talks, I’m sure they’ll be amazing.
Can’t wait for SPARCS–last year’s was awesome… And a huge shout-out to the SPARCS folks and all the speakers for providing the free live stream so us poor small town dog trainers/shelter workers can be part of it, bless their hearts. To have the chance to hear the latest science from the sources is pure gold and all too rare in a world where so much is proprietary or about the money. Sometimes science and love collide, and this event is likely to be one of those times.
Ingrid Bock says
Thank you for a great presentation at SPARCS just now–loved it. I have a question, and this may not be the right place to ask it, but I’m afraid I’ll forget. When we work with RG, we show the dog other ways to ‘resolve the conflict’, as you said. Let’s say we have a dog, and we do good RG work, and our dog learns that when we approach his marrow bone, he gets chicken AND his marrow bone back. He lives with us for years, and always has this good experience. Then something happens and this poor dog is put out on the street, when he has to fend for himself. What would you expect to be his reaction on finding that the situation is no longer always, ‘It’s awesome when someone takes away my marrow bone’? Do you think the dog would have enough in his CER bank account for him to be OK with the possibly new rules? Or do you think he might have lost some valuable body language skills (valuable to a dog who needs to guard his marrow bone)? I would love to hear any thoughts you have on this, although I don’t even know exactly why I’m interested–I need more time to process.
Ingrid Bock says
Oh, geez, I should have waited to post, because I have more questions. Re. my post about RG: you talked about dominance being situational, which is so true and so helpful. Do you think that a dog in the position I wrote about would be able to easily adjust his attitude towards his marrow bone to his changed situation? Do you think that the helpful body language (raised base of tail, for instance) he might have had no need for when you were giving him chicken and returning his bone, might come right back into his repertoire when a new character in his world on the street (another dog, probably) wanted his bone and wanted it for good, with no chicken in exchange? Do you think dogs are making judgment calls like that all the time? I tend to think that they are.
Enjoyed SPARCS on line – I was only able to see your Sunday presentation, and it was great! Panel discussion: I thought you would answer Mr. Coppinger’s question with “It depends ……….. on how hungry I am!” Kidding aside, I really appreciate the opportunity to listen in to as many speakers as I could. So interesting, and so much to learn, and loved controversial discussion on “punishment”. (Not an advocate at all, but I confess to using it on occasion, mild as it might be.) I don’t see how you can raise a pup, or spend substantial time with any living being, without some negative intervention at times. But it is a difficult subject. When is it useful and helpful, or when is it out of proportion – subjective interpretation of useful application can be downright scary.
Missed it. So sad :/