Shaping Inter-species Connectedness
Project Newsletter
The newsletter is an easy way to keep up with project progress, it is a quarterly publication co-produced by the project team at the University of Warwick.

Click subscribe to receive our project newsletter.
Editorial : Notes From the Field
Welcome to our first newsletter. We’re a year into the project and have spent 6 months in the field, spending time with potential guide dogs as they’re trained and matched to their partially sighted owners, and with the police as they train the dogs that will be used as general purpose dogs. These are the dogs that you see in football crowds or bringing down a suspect having tracked them, sometimes for miles. This newsletter will bring you news of how the project is developing as well as providing a space for an exchange of views on everything relating to dog training and how it shapes the relationship between people and dogs. We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll take the opportunity to become more involved in the project by contributing to the conversation about dog training and sharing your expertise and experiences.
Shaping Inter-species Connectedness : An Interview with Professor Nickie Charles
What are your aims and motivations for this project?
The project aims to explore how different dog training cultures and the practices they involve shape the relationship between dog and human handler. We’re looking at a range of different training cultures, including working dogs and companion dogs, in order to understand the differences between them, not only in the training methods they use but also in the way they understand dogs, the place dogs occupy in relation to their human handler, and how different training methods and programmes relate to the the end product of the training – a human-dog partnership that is fit for purpose. The motivation for undertaking this research arises from claims that human-animal relations are changing and that these changes are affecting the ways we interact with animals and how we train them.
There is an argument that as a society we are moving towards a different relationship with our companion animals. The scholar Donna Haraway speaks about ‘becoming with’. What does it mean when we speak of shifting forms of human-animal relations?

This question has several parts. Let me take the last part first. Scholars argue that human-animal relations in Western societies are undergoing shifts such that people are more respectful of animals and recognise their capacities and qualities. Animals are no longer regarded as inferior to and fundamentally different from humans. This is particularly evident in how we engage with companion animals who are increasingly regarded as full members of our families rather than as property with which we can do what we like, although legally of course that is still their status. The notion of ‘becoming with’ is an interesting way of thinking about our relationships with other animals which foregrounds the embodied nature of our relating. As I understand it, it refers to how we are affected by and in turn affect those with whom we engage, in other words how both parties to a relationship are changed through their relating; moreover the affecting and being affected by are embodied. An example from something that Vincianne Despret has written is the way Konrad Lorenz, in response to the newly-hatched goslings who followed him around as if he were their mother, in some ways became that mother and, as the goslings attuned themselves to him in a bodily way, by running after him wherever he went, he also attuned himself to their needs. In this way he and they together became something different from what they had been separately, and this something involved an affective attunement each to the other. In the same way we become with our companion animals; if we share our lives with a dog we will begin to apprehend the world differently, in ways which share something with the way a dog apprehends and engages with the world.

There is a wonderful book by Vincianne Despret which explores this becoming with and how we would understand animals differently if we thought from them and through them rather than from our own, human-centric perspectives.
The team have chosen to use an innovative methodology for this project, could you say something about how this enhances the ability of the project to capture the shifting forms of human/non-human relations ? 

You’re referring to our commitment to multi-species ethnography and the use of Qualitative Behaviour Assessment as part of that. In undertaking a series of multi-species ethnographies we’re committed to engaging with all participants in the research setting, human and animal, as actively shaping the relations and interactions that we observe. So as well as talking to the people involved we’re paying attention to the dogs, what they’re doing and how they’re engaging with each other and with their human trainers and handlers. In order to capture some of this we’re using video recordings and still photographs so that we can augment our observations with a visual record of what was happening. We’re also interviewing the people involved so as to explore their understandings of the relationship they have with their dog/s and how it’s shaped by training and other activities in which they engage together. The Qualitative Behaviour Assessment comes into play with an analysis of video clips by a panel. This analysis will enable us to understand how the dogs were experiencing the moments that were captured on video. This method was developed by Francoise Wemelsfelder, the project consultant, and has been used widely to assess the welfare of farmed animals. This is the first time it has been used systematically to assess the welfare of dogs in a training situation so we are very excited to have her on board. This methodology will allow us not only to understand the dog-human relationship from the point of view of the human but also to begin to appreciate what it looks like from the point of view of the dog. In this sense we are using a post-humanist methodology as we are not centring the experiences of the human.

Books and articles referred to:

Despret, V (2004) ‘The body we care for: Figures of anthropo-zoo-genesis’ in Body & Society, 10(2–3): 111–134

Despret, V (2016) What would animals say if we asked the right questions?, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

I nter-species relatings and the emergence of new forms of human-animal engagement : Dr Harriet Smith reports on a panel session organised by the project team
From 28th to 31st August 2018, Cardiff was positively buzzing with geographers! The reason for this was that it was the annual International Royal Geographic Society Conference, which this year, took place at Cardiff University. There were over 1,700 delegates from over 50 countries who took part in over 370 sessions during the three days! The weather was warm and sunny and there was a fabulous atmosphere in the sessions, cafes, and the corridors.

Having Fun With Your Dog by Dr Justyna Włodarczyk
Do More with Your Dog , the title of Kyra Sundance’s popular manual for teaching dogs tricks, has also become the motto for many humans who share their lives with companion dogs. And indeed, contemporary dog guardians are heeding this advice and engaging in scores of semi-formal activities that are viewed as contributing to the dog’s intellectual development and to mutual human-canine pleasure and enjoyment.

What We're Reading
We asked members of our project team to share any reading on animal scholarship that they have recently enjoyed.
Professor Nickie Charles
I’ve just started reading a book called Cassius: the true story of a courageous police dog , (published by John Blake) about a police dog and his handler. It’s written by Gordon Thorburn and is based on a real police dog-handler relationship; it describes the work they do together and how their relationship develops. Having recently spent some time with a dog handling section it’s very interesting to read a popular account of the sorts of things I’ve been witnessing: the difficulties of finding a suitable dog for police work, how training – for the dog and the handler – builds up their working relationship, the huge pride that handlers take in their dogs when they’re real ‘police dogs’, how some dogs are too nice to be police dogs and ‘want to be pets’, and how heartbreaking it is when you lose a dog, even in the tough world of policing when they’re sometimes referred to as a ‘piece of kit’. I’ve discovered that there are quite a lot of popular accounts of police dog work and will be reading them all in the next few months!
Professor Mara Miele
I am reading this book by Marc Bekoff, 2018, Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, University of Chicago Press. Rooted in the most up-to-date science on cognition and emotion—fields that have exploded in recent years— the main argument of  Canine Confidential is  that we must look at dogs as unique individuals and refrain from talking about “the dog.” In this book Bekoff also considers the practical importance of knowing details about dog behaviour. He advocates strongly for positive training—there’s no need to dominate or shame dogs or to make them live in fear—and the detailed information contained in  Canine Confidential  has a good deal of significance for dog trainers and teachers. He also suggests that trainers should watch and study dogs in various contexts outside of those in which they are dealing with clients, canine and human, with specific needs. 
Dr Rebekah Fox
Hamilton, L & Taylor, N (2017) Ethnography after humanism: Power, Politics and Method in Multi-Species research, Palgrave MacMillan. This book aims to examine the gap between the theoretical development of animal studies and the human bias in qualitative research methods. Taking this problem as a starting point the authors draw on a wide range of examples including visual, sensual and arts-based methods to consider the political, philosophical and practical consequences of post human methods. The book provides a useful starting point for thinking about our own practice and the methods we are using in the project. 
Dr Harriet Smith
Parkinson, C. (2018)  Animal Bodies and Embodied Visuality in Aloi, G. (ed) Matter Matters  Antennae  issue 46 pp.51-64. Claire Parkinson’s essay critiques the 2017 Netflix film  about a ‘super pig’ who, she tells us, is made to seem part ‘pig-hippo-dog’. Claire questions why it is easier for humans to identify with a dog character as an ethical subject over a pig character who is perhaps more likely to be considered as food and therefore emplaced in a different ethical register. Her discussion investigates how interspecies engagements are experienced in the film images through forms of visual touch, which in part shape the viewer experience of animal subjecthood.
A Project Funded by :
Shaping Inter-Species Connectedness | Volume 1
January 2019