This past weekend was the first ever North American Canine Science Conference. It was open to people from all over the world studying any aspect of any canine species. A similar event called the Canine Science Forum has been happening every other year in Europe since 2008, and this gathering was modeled after it. The goal was to maintain the high scientific standards and keep the friendly atmosphere, and both goals were met. Although there were a number of talks about wolves, foxes and dingoes, the majority of the presentations were about our best friends, the domestic dog.
The range of topics was extraordinary with talks on evolution and domestication, behavioral genetics, play behavior, the social relationship between humans and dogs, stress, problem behavior in shelter dogs, detection dogs, food preferences, guide dogs, therapy dogs, hormones, clicker training, behavioral evaluations in shelters, helping extremely fearful dogs, attachment styles in dogs, hearing and vision impaired dogs, dogs’ problem solving abilities, and the social effects of synchronized behavior between people and dogs.
The biggest problem while attending the conference was deciding which talk to attend when there were concurrent sessions. The good news is that I never made a bad choice—perhaps it was not possible to do so. Like all 130 attendees, I spent the weekend reveling in the knowledge that was all around us, and in the knowledge that there are now so many people actively engaged in scientific research about canines that a conference such as this is possible. The word on the street is that many Europeans doubted that this conference would be possible much less a success because they were under the impression that there was not enough interest or research on this side of the pond for it to work.
The conference organizers hope to host another Canine Science Conference in two years. It’s a new and fantastic development that the amount of research in this area is substantial enough for an entire conference to focus on it.