Our research brings together analytical and methodological approaches from the social and natural sciences in order to develop a truly inter-disciplinary way of approaching the study of human-animal connectedness. In order to do this we shall carry out of 5 multi-species ethnographies. These will explore how humans and dogs engage with each other in different training cultures and will include include companion dog training and the training of different types of working-dogs.
Our methodology combines social scientific analysis of dog-human interaction with an innovative natural science method of assessing animal welfare - Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (QBA). QBA addresses the expressivity of animals (describing their demeanour as for example relaxed or anxious), and has been found to be both reliable and valid in a range of scientific animal welfare studies. Given its qualitative, relational conceptual basis this methodology is highly suited for integration with multi-species ethnographies. One of the benefits of this methodology is that, as far as is possible, it allows the experiences and welfare outcomes of human-animal relations to be explored from the animal’s as well as the human’s perspective.
As well as breaking new ground methodologically, the research will work across disciplinary boundaries to make a significant contribution to our understanding of different forms of human-animal connectedness, the cultural practices through which they are created, and whether they are changing in line with the broader changes in human-animal relations identified by social theorists.