How does your dog really feel about training? Well, a new research project aims to find out.

As we celebrate the first day of the Year of the Dog 2018 today, researchers at the Universities of Warwick, Cardiff and Scotland’s Rural College are launching a new website to introduce their research project. The project will study dog training and how different training cultures shape the animal-human relationship, from the animal’s point of view as well as the human’s.

Training can help form and maintain a bond between dog and owner but we’ve seen many different techniques over the last century. From traditional obedience-based methods, which take an authoritarian approach, to more recent positive methods, based an equal partnership.

Researchers plan to use research methods from both social and natural sciences to study a range of training environments including assistance, companion and working dogs. They will spend up to three months immersed in each training environment, and use an innovative natural science method of assessing a dog’s emotional state to understand how different training cultures are experienced by both the human and animal participants.

The team is led by Professor Nickie Charles of Warwick’s Department of Sociology and includes Professor Mara Miele and Dr Harriet Smith from Cardiff University, Prof Francoise Wemelsfelder from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), and Dr Rebekah Fox from Warwick.

Professor Charles says, “Our research brings together a range of approaches from the social and natural sciences in order to develop an inter-disciplinary way of approaching the study of human-animal connectedness.

“We will carry out multi-species ethnographies in different dog-training cultures. As well as exploring how humans and dogs engage with each other we will be able to combine social scientific analysis of dog-human interaction with an innovative natural science method of assessing a dog’s emotional state.

“One of the most important benefits of this is that, as far as is possible, it allows the relationship to be explored from the dog’s as well as the human’s perspective. We hope to be able to make a real contribution to how we understand different forms of human-animal connectedness, the cultural practices through which they are created, and whether they are changing in line with the broader changes in human-animal relations identified by social theorists.”

Find out more about the project on the website.

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