Canine Science Forum Largest worldwide scientific conference on dogs

(01.06.2010) 25.-28. July 2010: Canine Science Forum taking place in Vienna

At the end of July up to 500 scientists will be participating at the Canine Science Forum – until now the biggest conference of its kind – at the University of Vienna, to discuss their main scientific results in dogs.

The topics range from; development of dogs during the last millennia up to recent pet dogs, behaviour research on Canids, learning behaviour and memory capacities, breed differences, socialisation, and communication to the human-dog-relationship and the role of the dog in modern society.

At the main conference – sponsored by "Royal Canin" – David R. Parson (USA) will give the first talk on Monday, 26th of July. Parson, from "The Rewilding Institute", will talk about the ecology and conservation of grey wolves in the United States, focusing on the recovery program of the critically endangered Mexican Grey Wolf. The Mexican wolf was completely extirpated from the wild and rescued from extinction by a captive breeding and release program. Parson will discuss the  importance of top carnivores, especially wolves, in maintaining the biodiversity and health of ecosystems.

Simon Gadbois (Canada) will take a look at the behaviour of dogs from the neuroscientists' point of view. Gadbois: "Two perspectives in the behavioural sciences and neurosciences can generate interesting questions and offer some insight into neurophysiology and behaviour in Canids: Observational methods with a strong neuroscientific theoretical backbone and non-invasive neuroscience. In the first case, we are going back in the past, dwelling into the foundation of ethology, and in the other, we push the limits of imagination and technology. Both require patience and collaboration. Three examples drawn from my research will be given: Field endocrinology with wolves, food caching sequences in red foxes, coyotes and wolves, and olfactory processing in dogs."

Peter Savolainen will talk about his research on the origin of dogs: Through comprehensive sampling of dogs across the world a detailed picture of the genetic variation among dog populations has been obtained globally.

The pattern of genetic diversity gives clues to the history of dogs: how the dog originated from the wolf, how dogs spread around the world, and possibly at some occasions hybridized with wolves. It was shown earlier that the domestic dog originated predominantly, and most probably exclusively, from a single event of wolf domestication that took place in South China or Southeast Asia. There will be some data presented on how dogs subsequently spread around the world.

Pauleen Bennett (Australia) will talk about the problematic situation of pet dogs: on the one hand dogs play an important role in modern society – especially companion dogs, which can be used in therapy or visitation programs;  on the other hand there are injuries to humans caused by dogs, leading to restrictive laws passed by politicians that are not based on scientific facts. Pauleen Bennett suggests that while many scientists avoid political involvement, science has a great deal to offer those working in policy development, companion dog industries and public education.

John W.S. Bradshaw (UK) will discuss at the "Canine Science Forum" if the conventional interpretation of dog behaviour is still up to date. He will consider the question whether dog behaviour can be compared with the social behaviour of wolves.

Daniel Mills (UK) deals with the topic "Canine behaviour problems and psychopharmacology". Mills: "Canine behaviour problems represent a collection of behavioural tendencies that are a cause for concern to the keeper or others who come into contact with the animal. Problem behaviour is therefore a subjective construct, since the concept of a "problem" depends on the perception of others, although the behaviour itself may be objectively defined." His presentation reviews different paradigms for the study of problem behaviour and the implications for the role of psychoactive chemical intervention.

Juliane Kaminski (Germany) will talk about communication: "In recent years evidence has accumulated to suggest that domestic dogs are outstandingly skilled at using human forms of communication (e.g., the pointing gesture). Dogs seem extremely focused on human communicative cues and certain cues of pedagogy. Sometimes dogs, like children, follow human instruction accompanied by such cues over their own visual experience. These findings are extremely important as they potentially challenge the hypothesis that human forms of communication are unique. However, the degree to which dog's understanding of human communication is comparable to that of humans' is of yet under debate."

On the day after the scientific conference, on the 29th of July 2010, there will be a satellite conference at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, entitled "News from science and practice". This event (including discussions) is mainly dedicated to practitioners; veterinarians, dog trainers and colleagues that work with dogs in the field of animal assisted therapy.

The aim of this symposium is to summarize the latest, practical orientated findings from dog-science that were presented at the main conference. Further topics will be the genetic and legal background of specific aspects of dog breeding and dogs as partners in different domains of therapy and health care. The event (entrance fee euro 25,-) will be moderated by Prof. Dr. Adam Miklosi (Eötvös University/Budapest).