Canine Science Symposium 2017

Canine Science Symposium 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017 - 9:00am to Sunday, March 12, 2017 - 4:30pm
The San Francisco SPCA
243 Alabama Street
94103 San Francisco, CA

The 5th Annual Canine Science Symposium brings the latest in cutting-edge canine behavior research to the Bay Area.  This is a must-attend event for dog training and behavior specialists, shelter and rescue professionals, and dog nerds of all stripes!

Join us for a weekend of presentations and discussion on the current research in applied canine science. 

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Speakers and Discussion Topics:


Clive Wynne, PhD, Arizona State University Canine Science Collaboratory

Opening Presentation: What Makes Dogs Special?

Many have claimed in recent decades that dogs possess unique forms of social cognition that are adaptations to domesticity. There is enough evidence now to refute those claims. However, there is something remarkable about dogs. Dogs show exceptional motivation to interact with members of other species. I will review evidence that during domestication dogs became exceptionally motivated and reinforced by social interaction. “Man’s best friend” may be a cliché, but like many stereotypes, it has some basis in fact.


Monique Udell, PhD, Oregon State University Human-Animal Interactions Lab

Presentation:  The Influence of Humans on Domestic Dog Behavior
Breakout Session: The Science Behind the Human-Dog Bond: Implications for Pet, Shelter and Foster Dog Populations

Domestic dogs are obligatory symbiotes, meaning that they rely on human presence for survival. While this is true of all dogs, including free-roaming scavengers, this reliance on humans is amplified for pet dog populations living in our homes or under our direct care.  In this talk we will look at some of the ways human presence and actions can influence the behavior and cognition of dogs, even when that may not be our intent. We will also discuss genetic and lifetime variables that contribute to these responses, as well as how we can use this information to improve our understanding of dogs and human-dog interactions.


Lindsay Mehrkam, PhD, MS, Monmouth University

Presentation: What Do We Really Know About Resource Guarding?
Breakout Session: Applying Functional Analysis & Behavior Modification to Resource Guarding: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Case Studies with Owned Dogs

Resource guarding (also commonly termed as “food aggression” or “possessive aggression”) is one of the most common reasons for relinquishment by owners and labeling the dog as unadoptable in a shelter. However, attitudes toward treating resource guarding – as well as the treatments themselves - are varied among shelters, trainers, and animal professionals. To what extent should treatments depend on the resource being guarded? Should our treatments depend on function and can we make them even more successful using behavior modification techniques? What are issues with generalizing shelter treatments to home settings? This talk will begin with an overview of the current research on resource guarding etiology and terminology, validated assessment and treatment practices, and raise questions and areas for information not yet known. Finally, we will discuss some of our case studies and findings thus far with owned dogs – a population that has not received much attention relative to dogs in shelters – and directions for future research on both shelter and owned dog populations.


Lisa Gunter, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, Arizona State University Canine Science Collaboratory

Presentation: Cortisol & Beyond: Cracking the Tough Nut of Shelter Dog Welfare 
Breakout Session: Investigating Behavioral, Cognitive, & Memory Differences in Owned & Shelter Dogs

Previous research has found significantly elevated levels of cortisol in dogs living in shelters compared to dogs living in homes; however the influence of length of stay on cortisol responses has proven more elusive. In a study carried out at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, we investigated the effects of an overnight sleepover program on shelter dogs' cortisol levels, and the results surprised us! In this presentation and accompanying breakout session, I'll discuss this study as well as a series of tasks we've carried out with shelter and owned dogs involving behavioral persistence, affective bias, short-term memory, and reversal learning. By utilizing diverse approaches that are sensitive to differences in living conditions, we hope to bring both physiological and psychological measures to bear in understanding the complexities of shelter dog welfare.


Charlotte Duranton, MS, University of Aix-Marseille, Association AVA

Presentation: Stronger together: The importance of synchronization in the dog-human relationship

Behavioral synchronization – behaving as one – is associated with the strength of the bond between two interacting partners. The more two individuals are affiliated, the more they behave in synchrony. Behaving synchronously can also foster the development of new relationships. Yet how do we measure synchronization, particularly between two different species? In this talk, I will review the available evidence of dog-human behavioral synchronization, and then compare pet and shelter dogs to investigate the effect of affiliation on the degree of behavioral synchronization. I will conclude by proposing direct applications and recommendations for shelter staff in order to improve shelter dogs’ welfare as well as adoption success.



Sheila D'Arpino, DVM, DACVB, Maddie's Fund

Presentation: From Wild to Mild: Understanding and Modifying Excitable Dog Behavior

Excitable behavior is a common reason for canine relinquishment to animal shelters, and can be very challenging behavior for shelters and pet parents to manage. In this talk, we will examine the different causes of excitable behavior, and I will share the results from a Center for Shelter Dogs study which evaluated a five-day behavior modification plan for highly excitable dogs in a shelter environment. While excitable behavior is easy to identify, understanding the underlying cause of the behavior is important when developing a plan to  manage and modify behavior.  


Erica Feuerbacher, PhD, CPDT-KA, Carroll College Department of Anthrozoology

Presentation: What Makes a Good Trainer: What Should We Be Measuring & How?
Breakout Session: Assessing What Makes a Good Trainer: Hands-on Data Collection  

Little is known about what qualities comprise effective animal trainers. Likely candidates are timing, ability to read dog body language, and rate of reinforcement. However, these haven't been expressly investigated and there might be more. In this presentation, we will talk about characteristics that might be involved in being an effective animal trainer, as well as review the literature on performance assessment and enhancement and how it can be applied to animal trainers.


Alexandra Protopopova, PhD, CPDT-KA, Texas Tech University Human-Animal Interaction Lab

Presentation: Effects of Temperament on Disease Susceptibility in Shelter Dogs
Breakout Session: Exploration of technology use at animal shelters: available tools, new ideas, and future directions

The highly infectious nature of respiratory disease, the most common illness in shelter dogs, has implications for animal shelters due to the need to isolate symptomatic animals, inability to neuter infected animals, and the reluctance of potential adopters to bring infectious animals into their homes. The outcome of these challenges is that many dogs are ultimately euthanized rather than placed for adoption. The interplay between behavior, immune function, and the endocrine system, termed psychoneuroimmunology, has received extensive attention from basic and clinical researchers studying rodent and human populations. However, the predictive value of temperament on immune function and susceptibility to disease under stress in dogs remains unexplored.  By establishing this predictive relationship, we will be able to implement strategies that will improve shelter management practices, and in turn, result in improved live-release outcomes. 


Julie Hecht, MSc., Scientific American and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Presentation: Dog-Human Play: More Than Just Fetch
Breakout Session: Investigating the Ethological Nuances of Dog-Human Play

“Play with a dog,” says common wisdom. “Go on. It’s good for you both.” Surely that is true, but dog-human play is also a complex exchange, and welfare practitioners would benefit from examining it more closely. Studies find dog-human play to be compositionally different from play between conspecifics, and human attempts at being playful are not always successful. Understanding dog individualized play styles can enhance interspecific interactions and improve shelter dog welfare and even adoption outcomes. Welcome to the seriously fun study of dog-human play. 


Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB, DACAW, CAWA, San Francisco SPCA 

Closing Presentation: More than Just Magic? Sniffing out the Scientific Literature on Pheromones

Pheromones are chemicals produced by specific regions of the body that produce behavioral and physiological effects when perceived by another animal. They are mainly species specific. Many events or states are modulated by pheromones such as copulation, aggression, fear and familiar recognition, to name just a few. It is understood that pheromones work by stimulating specialized receptor cells in the nasal cavity and then affect the brain. Pheromones for dogs and cats are commercially available and can have many positive effects. In this presentation we will review the science available and discuss practical applications of pheromone use with animals, specifically shelter animals. 


Continuing Education Units are available for professionals attending this event:

  • 13.25 CEUs: International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
  • 10.5 CEUs: Pet Professional Guild (PPG)
  • 6.5 CEUs: Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)
  • 6.75 CEUs: Certified Behavior Consultant- Canine (CBCC)


Click here to learn more about the 2017 Symposium speakers

Click here for Sponsorship Information

Click here for information on Travel and Lodging

Click here to view the detailed event agenda (subject to change)



Regular Rate Full Weekend Ticket: $230  - SOLD OUT

Regular Rate Single-Day Attendance, Saturday: $140  - SOLD OUT

Regular Rate Single-Day Attendance, Sunday: $140  - SOLD OUT


Sponsored by: 

Karen Pryor Academy   Sof-Touch Concepts     Dogwise   

Nutramax   Ceva   PawScout