Disaster survival: animals and their people

Dr Kirrilly Thompson, Research Fellow in Cultural Anthropology at CQ University in Adelaide, Australia, is a cultural anthropologist with varied research experience and interests.

In this episode of Human Animal Science, we get an overview of her ground breaking research into the effect of the human-animal bond in relation to natural disaster preparedness and survival.



Animals and Disasters Project Summary (PDF)

Thompson K. (2013) Save me, same my dog: Increasing natural disaster preparedness and survival by addressing human-animal relationships. Australian Journal of Communication. 40(1): 123-36.

Image credit: Flickr/Christaface

Koala and fire fighter from the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, Australia
(*language warning*)


Is a dingo a dog or wolf?

Dr Bradley Smith is a Research Fellow in Human and Animal Psychology at CQ University in Adelaide, Australia.

He has a fascinating research focus on the behaviour and cognition of dingoes.

Learn more about this amazing wild canid and how it fits into the dog-wolf-other landscape in this episode of Human Animal Science.

Is a dingo a dog or wolf? How does a dingo relate to a kelpie?

Let’s find out!



Dr Bradley Smith’s website:
Dingo Discovery & Research Centre

Sterling the dingo demonstrating tool use:


Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2013). Looking back at ‘looking back’: Operationalizing referential gaze for dingoes in an unsolvable task. Animal Cognition, 16, 961-971.

Smith, B., Appleby, R. & Litchfield, C. (2012). Spontaneous tool-use: an observation of a dingo (Canis dingo) using a table to access an out-of-reach food reward. Behavioural Processes, 89, 219-224.

Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2010). How well do dingoes (Canis dingo) perform on the detour task. Animal Behaviour, 80, 155-162.

Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2010). Dingoes (Canis dingo) can use human social cues to locate hidden food. Animal Cognition, 13, 367-3

Dingo - dog or wolf? Or somewhere in-between?
Dingo – Is a dingo a dog or wolf? Or somewhere in-between?

Photos courtesy of Dr Bradley Smith

Behaviour Pets

A duty of care: shelter dog rehoming assessments + science

In this episode, Kate Mornement, PhD candidate from the Anthrozoology Research Group and Monash University, talks to Mia and Tim about her research exploring the science of shelter dog assessments for rehoming suitability.

Shelter dog rehoming is a topic with significant outcomes for everyone: our communities, shelter staff, and of course – the dogs.


How many dogs are in shelters in Australia?

In Australia we do not have a national system for tracking the number of dogs in animal shelters or municipal council pounds.

An estimated 200,000 or more dogs enter a pound or shelter annually in Australia, and many of these dogs (approximately one in three) are euthanised.


What Do Current and Potential Australian Dog Owners Believe about Shelter Practices and Shelter Dogs? (2012) Anthrozoos 25 (4): 457-473

A Review of Behavioral Assessment Protocols Used by Australian Animal Shelters to Determine the Adoption Suitability of Dogs (2010) Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 13(4): 314-329

Development of the Behavioural Assessment for Re-homing K9′s (B.A.R.K.) Protocol (2014) Applied Animal Behaviour Science 151: 75-83. 

Image credit: Flickr/DustinQuasar

Cognition Research

Sit, Stay, Scan: How do dogs think?

Greg Berns, MD, PhD from Emory University in Atlanta USA, specialises in the use of brain imaging technologies to understand human – and now, canine – motivation and decision-making.

Greg works as a neuroscientist working in the field of canine science. This allows him to use neuroscience techniques to assess how the brain of a dog makes decisions or reacts to stimulus.

In this episode, he speaks to Tim and Mia about his team’s research, named “The Dog Project”, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain activity in dogs.

Or to you and me, how dogs think.


Book: How Dogs Love Us

How Dogs Love Us: A neuroscientist and his adopted dog decode the canine brain

How Dogs Love Us by Gregory Berns - an insight into how dogs think
How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns (Hardcover)

For the last 2 years, Greg has pursued his dream of using MRI to decode what dogs really think.

Partnering with a dog trainer, Berns’ group has trained a team of volunteer dogs to hold still in an MRI machine.

Greg explains the sound of an MRI machine to be like a jackhammer, and how the dogs had to be trained to wear ear muffs to protect them from the noise.

How dogs love us - how dogs think
How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Burns (Paperback)

The data the team are collecting is revealing startling insights about how a dogs brains work and how they think. They are finding proof dogs really do love us!

In the process, they have broken new ground in elevating the rights of dogs to human-equivalents.

Available on Amazon (Australia) as Hardcover or Paperback.

Available on Amazon (US) as Hardcover or Paperback.


The Dog Project

Profile – Greg Berns, Emory University

PloS research article – Functional MRI in Awake Unrestrained Dogs

Opinion (NY Times) – Dogs are People too


IAHAIO, ISAZ and all that jazz

Maggie O’Haire, from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, speaks with Tim and Mia about the recent Chicago conferences hosted by the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations and the International Society of Anthrozoology.



International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) website:

International Society of Anthrozoology  (ISAZ) website:

image credit: Flickr/RalphHockens