The EVCBMAW 2019 invited speakers
Dr Claudia Fugazza
I am a researcher at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.
My major fields of study are social learning, imitation, memory and language learning and processing in dogs.
During my PhD I developed a training method called Do as I Do (named after Hayes & Hayes 1952 and Topál et al. 2006) which relies on dog’s social cognitive skills. This method is now used both as paradigm to study dogs’ cognitive abilities and for applied dog training purposes.
What do imitation paradigms tell us about canine cognition?
Among the social learning processes, the study of imitation has always posed challenges from a methodological point of view. Studies using the Do as I Do method, combined with the two-action procedure provided evidence of imitation in dogs. By including a delay between the demonstration and the request to imitate, we provided evidence of dogs’ ability to form a mental representation of the demonstrated action and to recall it, to use it as the basis for performing a matching action (deferred imitation).
In Do as I Do tasks, the observer’s behaviour depends on how it represents the model’s demonstration. Thus, this method can be also used to assess whether dogs represent the actions of others in a framework that includes their goals, as well as the means to reach those. Modified versions of the Do as I Do paradigm have also allowed to reveal episodic-like memory of others’ actions in dogs, a cognitive skill that was very elusive to test in non-human animals and was thought to be a uniquely human skill. In humans, episodic memory is thought to be linked to self-awareness.
The findings about episodic-like memory in dogs pave the way to future studies on dogs’ ability to represent ‘the self’ and modified versions of the Do as I Do method may allow testing dogs capacity to represent and remember their own actions, a skill that may constitute a building block of the ability to represent ‘the self’.
Social learning in dog puppies
Adult dogs are very well known to be skilful in learning socially from conspecifics and from humans and training methods relying on social learning are more efficient than methods relying on individual associative learning.
Social learning and social referencing are particularly advantageous for young individuals, as they reduce the risks and costs of learning by trial and errors. However, until very recently, dog research has mainly focused on adult dogs and little is known about the development of this abilities in young dogs.
Recently we found evidence of social learning and social referencing in dog puppies as young as 8-week-old. Importantly we also discovered that puppies retain in their memory the information acquired through these processes even after a delay.
The results of these recent studies will be discussed in the light of the opportunity to devise training methods for puppies’ upbringing that take into account the advantages of social learning and dogs’ natural predispositions to learn this way.
Prof Bas Rodenburg
The research of Bas Rodenburg aims at improving the methodology for assessment of animal welfare. Rodenburg mainly wants to focus on behavioural indicators and methods where the animals themselves are 'asked' how they experience their livening conditions.
A second important area is the study of behaviour and welfare of individual animals housed in social groups. Through automatic tracking of individual animals, Rodenburg aims to obtain a better understanding of social behaviour and use this information to improve health and welfare of group-housed animals.
Rodenburg's current research is mainly aimed towards the development of methods to measure behaviour and welfare of individual animals in groups.
The area of Precision Livestock Farming is developing rapidly. These developments also allow better monitoring tools for individual animals. Using those methods allows detailed study of social behaviour and of health and welfare of specific individuals.
His future research will also aim at the development of behavioural indicators that are indicative of animal welfare and the development of methods that allow to 'ask' the animals how they experience their living conditions. This will for instance be done by preference testing and cognitive bias testing. In a cognitive bias test, it can be assessed whether an animal is positive or negative about its living conditions.
Together with the Centre for Sustainable Animal Stewardship (CenSAS) Rodenburg also wants to enter the dialogue with Dutch society on animal welfare.