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Annual Krost Symposium Will Welcome Canine Experts & Behavioral Specialists

February 4, 2019

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There’s no denying the special bond between humans and dogs. But just how did that special bond form and why do dogs continue to be such an important part of our lives? On February 21-22, the 2019 Krost Symposium: Chasing Canine Cognition, will explore the science behind it all and the complexity of a dog’s brain.

Psychology Professor and 2019 Krost Committee Chair Dr. Scott Bailey has always loved dogs and wanted to explore the more academic side of their development. With guest speakers, special events, an agility expo, and walk-a-thon, this year’s Krost will look at many areas of canine cognition, as well as species comparison, training, and animal welfare.

Check out this Q&A with Dr. Bailey to learn more about Krost 2019 and why you should attend.

Q: How long had you been thinking about proposing this theme and why was it important to you?

I have loved dogs since before I began forming declarative memories. As the first-born kid in our family my closest age mate was our Bassett hound, Roxanne. I studied animal learning and comparative (species) psychology in graduate school. As recently as the mid-1990s there was virtually no empirical science on dog cognitive capacities. Since then there has been exponential growth in research on canine cognition. As that literature began hitting my radar I became jealous of my colleagues who were doing that work. Hosting a symposium on canine cognition represented a good excuse to become steeped in it.

Q: Why do you think humans still have a fascination with dogs?

There are many ways to answer this question. Dogs have been selectively bred to provide myriad forms of support and service for humans. The fact that selective breeding develops desired behavioral traits is illuminating about heritability. When dogs perform the special functions for which they were bred it is akin to watching magic. This is true, of course, when that behavior emanates from mutt offspring the result from unplanned mating and the behavior is merely being a desirable companion. Most dogs are companions, and the bond between those who are lucky enough to enter the lives of good humans is indeed special. Data tell us that there are many benefits—reduced anxiety, improved mood state, etc.—to having, or at least being around dogs.

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most interesting aspects that will be discussed or presented?

Three themes will hold together the presentations: species comparisons, training strategies and challenges, and animal welfare. Each of these themes is enormously interesting, to me at least. Understanding how dogs and humans and other primates are similar and different is fascinating, and the remarkable work involving unrestrained dogs in MRI machines has made these comparisons possible at the level of brain activity. Whereas we now know a tremendous amount about how to effectively and efficiently train animals, most ‘trainers’ are ignorant of the tools that highly effective professionals use. Understanding the difference between learning- and pathology-based influences on behavior will be instructive to many. Finally, animal welfare considerations are of paramount importance, and this will be acknowledged in a few of the talks and will be the centerpiece of one of them.

Want to know just how smart your pooch is? Learn more about keynote speaker and author Dr. Brian Hare, founder of Dognition and the Canine Cognition Center at Duke University.

Q: What would you say to encourage people to attend?

In addition to having a half-dozen rock stars from the world of professionals who work with dogs delivering invited addresses, we will have a panel discussion and a day’s worth of festive activities centered on dogs. The panelists will have both heart-wrenching and heart-warming tales from the front lines of veterinary medicine, in contexts ranging from their clinics to sites of natural disasters. The expo will have professional dog-and-handler pairs doing demonstrations, a sanctioned Frisbee dog competition, opportunities for amateur attendees to have their dogs engage opportunities, food trucks, vendors, and a walk-a-thon with fun prizes. Money raised in conjunction with the symposium and expo will be used to help fund Friends of Paws in Prison.

Visit for a detailed schedule of events and speakers. 

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