RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

RGS-IBG Logo
Add to my calendar:    Outlook   Google   Hotmail/Outlook.com   iPhone/iPad   iCal (.ics)

Please note that some mobile devices may require third party apps to add appointments to your calendar


227 Interspecies relatings: the emergence of new forms of human-animal engagement: The workings of power: shaping human-animal relations through training
Convenor(s) Nickie Charles (University of Warwick, UK)
Mara Miele (Cardiff University, UK)
Rebekah Fox (The University of Warwick, UK)
Harriet Smith (Cardiff University, UK)
Chair(s) Mara Miele (Cardiff University, UK)
Timetable Thursday 30 August 2018, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sir Martin Evans Building - Anatomy Lecture Theatre
Session abstract This session explores the emergence of new understandings of human-animal engagements, how these understandings inform training practices, and the possibilities this presents for the emergence of different and less exploitative forms of inter-species relating.

We locate this discussion in the expanding landscape of less human-centred relations between human and nonhuman animals and a shift away from anthropocentric strategies of domination and exploitation in many practices involving animals. These changes have been associated with the emergence of a post-human sensibility, a de-centering of the human and a recognition that non-human animals actively shape their encounters with humans (Pearson, 2015; Skoglund & Redmalm, 2016). They are also associated with something of a revolution in both the need for animal training and the way it is carried out. This can be understood in Foucauldian terms as involving a shift from disciplinary to social power (Wlodarcyk, forthcoming) a move away from the human will to dominate (Tuan, 1984), or a process of ‘becoming with’ (Haraway, 2007) which involves empathetic, respectful and inter-agentic relationships between human and animal and the active participation of both animal and human in joint activities (Pregowski, 2015).

This session is funded by the shaping inter-species connectedness research team – Leverhulme funded.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Changing dimensions of power: an exploration of dog training cultures in the UK
Nickie Charles (University of Warwick, UK)
Rebekah Fox (The University of Warwick, UK)
Mara Miele (Cardiff University, UK)
Harriet Smith (Cardiff University, UK)
Pet-keeping has a long history, with evidence of dogs living alongside humans over 15,000 years ago (Gorman 2015). The widespread keeping of animals for pleasure became popular during Victorian times, with urbanization and the growth of the middle classes (Ritvo, 1987) and it was at this time that the formal discipline of dog training began to emerge. Dogs and humans have long worked together, herding, hunting and providing protection, however the 19th century saw the formalisation of such practices into training manuals and regulated sports such as shooting and pet showing. Dog training grew in popularity during the 20th century, particularly after World War II, which saw a growth in pet dog populations and the popularity of obedience training.

An intensification of pet-keeping relationships during the late 20th and early 21st century has seen an increasing desire to ‘regulate’ dogs’ behaviour (Instone and Sweeney, 2014, Fox and Gee, 2016, Fox and Gee, 2017). In the training world there has been a shift from ‘traditional’ methods relying on correction and ideas of human dominance to positive training methods associated with different, less authoritarian forms of power which have emerged from developments in behaviourism and, latterly, cognitive ethology (Orlowska, 2016:56; Pregowski, 2015). This can be understood in Foucauldian terms as involving a shift from disciplinary to social power (Wlodarcyk, forthcoming), or as a process of ‘becoming with’ (Haraway, 2007) based on the empathetic, respectful and inter-agentic relationship between human and animal; the way ‘training’ changes both human and animal participants; and the active participation and enjoyment of both animal and human in joint activities (Pregowski, 2015).

Based upon a review of popular companion and gun-dog training manuals over the past two centuries, this paper examines the changing practices of dog training in the UK, their relationship to the philosophies underpinning theories of animal learning, and the power dynamics shaping human-animal relationships.
What is best for the horse? Contested frameworks of training and human-horse relationships
Linda Birke (University of Chester, UK)
Horse training, like that of other animals, has come under increasing scrutiny, with calls to prioritise positive reinforcement and more
empathetic ways of being with horses. But at the same time, the horsey world is riven with disagreements about how it should be done; different
practitioners advocate 'their' method of training and handling horses as 'better for' horses than other methods. What they share is a belief
that equine behaviour can be modified through application of the 'correct' type of training, one that recognises 'what horses are' –
despite the divergence of approaches.

But who are horses here? In this paper, I will consider how some of the contested narratives of horse training position horses. For all the
talk of what is 'good for' horses, or how their behaviour can be shaped through the 'right' training, they themselves seem to be mere
recipients of this or that training regime. What (if any) power do they have to shape encounters with humans? And if we observe and recognise
that horses do affect human-equine interactions, then what are the implications?
Love and responsibility: changing understandings of the human companion animal relationship
Rebekah Fox (The University of Warwick, UK)
The late twentieth / twenty first century has seen a growth in the UK pet population and simultaneous change in attitudes towards companion animals, who have become re-imagined as individuals and sentient beings, worthy of study and attention (Fox, 2006, 2011; Nast, 2006a; Fudge, 2008; Charles & Davies, 2008). This period has seen a shift from viewing companions as “animals” to being seen as “kin” or members of the family (Bekoff, 2007; Mason & Tipper, 2008).

Pet-keeping practices have become increasingly central to everyday social and economic life and subject to formal and informal regulation and scrutiny. As companions move further ‘inside’ human homes and culture, there has been a simultaneous increase in the control of animal bodies in public space. Concern over public health risks from dog faeces and high-profile media cases concerning ‘dangerous’ and ‘status’ dogs (Harding 2012) have led to a culture of responsible dog ownership, where owners must be seen to be in control of their dogs at all times. Similarly, cats have seen increased control of their behaviour and movements due to concerns over safety and effects on wildlife.

Such demands for ‘responsible’ pet ownership have also seen a huge rise in the popularity of dog training and behaviour therapy and a move from ideas of dominance towards more ‘positive’ methods of reinforcement. This can be viewed as educating animals as responsible citizens of the humanized world and creating new forms of human-companion interaction and understanding (Haraway, 2008). However, it also comes with increased expectations, that humans and animals may be unable or unwilling to fulfil.

Based upon in depth interviews with companion animal owners and professionals involved in the pet industry, this paper examines the changing power dynamics involved in new forms of human-companion animal relatedness and the consequences of these for human and animal health, behaviour and relationships.
Making space for ‘bad’ dogs? A tale of co-negotiated and circumscribed spatial and temporal walking practices
Paul O'Hare (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
The paper explores the co-negotiation of space in the company of dogs with challenging behaviours, a neglected dimension of pet ownership and dog walking despite the burgeoning work in this field in recent years. Based on the experiences of the authors themselves through auto-ethnographic research techniques, and detailed empirical work on the spatiality of the practices of fellow dog-walkers and dog trainers, the paper articulates a troubling and often stressful dimension of pet ownership: namely the experience of caring for and managing a dog displaying unwanted aggression to people and other dogs. Walking a dog displaying aggressive behaviour, often manifest through barking and straining on the lead, have a deleterious effect on the virtues of dog ownership which becomes a source of anxiety or embarrassment. Consequently, public space becomes a place of encounters that are to be feared or avoided, or that in some instances become the stage-set for dissonance and even confrontation. Beyond this, the paper attends to how dog walkers have adapted their practices to these challenges, often after undergoing intensive dog training and socialisation programmes in an effort to accommodate the ‘bad’ behaviour of dogs. In such instances, dog-walking practices become more than merely ‘walking the dog’. This has great significance for the temporal and spatial dimensions of dog ownership and dog walking, and highlights how dog training programmes are critical to facilitating the mediation of co-habited public space.
The power of symbiosis in care-work: education boosts canine-human biomedical collaboration, stretching the boundaries of chronic illness
Fenella Eason (University of Exeter, UK)
The daily performing of complex life skills by a multispecies partnership - a chronically-ill human with Type 1 diabetes and a medical alert assistance dog - is the result of education conducted by professionals whose teaching competencies restructure biomedical work practices and expand human-nonhuman animal training methods. The dogs are not machines, nor victims of enforced obedience, they do not suffer harm from Ingold's 'tools of coercion', nor are they trained by dominance or caged in laboratories. They are educated in this instance by the UK charity, Medical Detection Dogs, with empathy and encouragement, example and reward, by exposure to recognition and respect, so that the dogs' exceptional olfactory sensitivity is carefully guided to detect, and alert to, changing chemical odours in an unwell human. Power is spread mutualistically among individuals whose learning shapes significant contributions to human welfare. Empathy, reciprocity and a symbiotic ethics of care craft interspecies co-operations, alter relationships and change spaces and situations. These dogs may be considered as biomedical resources, sentient instruments of care, willing assistants and full members of Franklin's hybridized families. Two participants with Type 1 diabetes, interviewed over a three-year period of qualitative interdisciplinary research based in anthrozoology, deemed their canine companions to be useful well-trained technological instruments for improving illness management; yet they also thought of them more warmly as 'pets' and family members, valuing their friendship and respecting both dogs and their trainers for sharing knowledges for innovative health benefit and reduced social isolation. Over time, the medical alert dogs become empowered to push the limits of domestic and social spaces: for example, an assistance dog and pregnant human partner may now share a hospital maternity ward so the dog can continue to alert to imminent hypoglycaemic episodes, prevent separation anxiety, and maintain accurate scent-work and interspecies companionship.
Discussant
Gail Davies (University of Exeter, UK)
Discussant