Today we are investigating human-canine coevolution, and specifically, the role pet dogs currently play in our families. I think for most of us long enough in the tooth, we have seen a dramatic shift in the roles dogs play in our families, and the expectations we place on them. While I live in NYC now, growing up in Nova Scotia I can rarely remember people walking their dogs on leash (and certainly not bringing them to restaurants or birthday parties), but I can clearly remember neighborhood dogs following us to the ball field or frozen pond to take part in our pick-up games of baseball or hockey. I can also remember certain dogs who would chase (and bite) us if we weren’t quick enough biking past their house. Dogs certainly had a lot more freedom and autonomy but also dealt with more risk and less attention to species-specific needs. So in western societies, how are pet owners now approaching pet parenting, and what effects (good or bad) does this have on pet dogs? And what are we seeing in counties like China and India where the opinions and cultural attitudes towards dogs as pets are changing? That’s what Dr. Shelly Volsche is here to help us with.
Dr. Shelly Volsche is an Anthrozoologist in the Department of Anthropology at Boise State University. Using a biocultural and evolutionary lens, she studies our ever-changing relationships with non-human animals, particularly dogs. Her current projects investigate the increasing importance of pets as family members, including the application of human parenting strategies to companion animals. This involves consideration of human-canine coevolution, cross-cultural comparisons of pet keeping, interspecific attachment, and the connection between reduced fertility and increased pet parenting. Relatedly, she is interested in how an appreciation of the emotional and cognitive abilities of other species shapes human perceptions of which species are food, foe, or family, and the welfare implications of our influence and uses of these animals.
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Episode References and Resources:
- Dr. Shelly Volsche on Twitter (@ShellyVPhD)
- Dr. Shelly Volsche's Research
- Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, Book "Our Dogs, Ourselves"
- Instinct's Canine Enrichment Course