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STOP. PUPPY TIME: Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht on Man’s Best Friend – Real Scientists

STOP. PUPPY TIME: Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht on Man’s Best Friend

From New York to Melbourne, two canine scientists will, this week, talk to us about Man’s best friend. Oh yes. This week on Real Scientists, it’s PUPPY TIME.

July, 2012.  Two canine scientists, Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht meet at the interdisciplinary Canine Science Forum in sunny Barcelona [Ed: IKR]. Recognising that they share a passion for canine science, good communication, social media and fun, they decide to collaborate. One works in the field of canine cognition and understanding why and how we humanise our canine companions. The other researches the welfare and performance science of working dogs. Different perspectives, mutual enthusiasm resulted in the creation of Do You Believe in Dog?, a unique blog devoted to canine science. In nine months of blogging, they’ve covered topics as diverse as : the science of cute; why dogs are good in times of disaster; how dog poo can be used as an energy source and why people should play with their dogs (for science). They have attracted a Facebook following of over 5,500 people who do indeed, it seems, believe in dog.

So who are our scientists? Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht join us this week to tweet for Real Scientists, possibly at the same time.

Mia Cobb is a freelance animal welfare science consultant, researcher and communicator living just outside Melbourne, Australia. Following an undergraduate science degree majoring in animal behaviour from Monash University, Mia worked at a large animal protection and shelter charity, where she gained experience in a wide range of human-animal interactions and animal welfare issues. She then enjoyed the role of Training Kennels & Veterinary Clinic Manager at Australia’s leading guide dog organisation for the best part of a decade.


In addition to her current blogging and freelance work, she is presently at the sticky end of a part-time PhD, researching the effects of management practices like environmental enrichment on the welfare and performance of kennelled working dogs. Her research has elements of human psychology  – investigating perceptions and attitudes toward animal welfare, ethology (the science of animal behaviour) and animal physiology. Mia’s research was awarded the RSPCA Australia Alan White Scholarship for Animal Welfare Research in 2009. She also leads the working dog group within the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, a federal government initiative to improve the welfare of all Australian animals, and has managed several national projects over the past five years as part of this role.

Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher and manages Alexandra Horowitz’s Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College in New York. As a science writer, Julie’s column for The Bark covers everything from humping and crotch sniffing to dog daycare and word learning in dogs.

In 2010, she founded Dog Spies with the motto, “What good is all this dog behavior research if it remains holed up in academic journals?” She blogs, lectures and holds programs for the general public, student groups and dog enthusiasts on the science behind dogs and the dog-human relationship. She also crafts courses and curricula on, yes, dog behavior and cognition and teaches Applied Animal Behavior to Anthrozoology Masters students at Canisius College.

Julie Hecht

Julie Hecht

Julie entered the world of dog under the tutelage of Dr. Patricia McConnell at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Masters from the University of Edinburgh in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare and conducted research on the “guilty look” in dogs with the Family Dog Project in Budapest.  In March 2013, her blog, Dog Spies, joined the Scientific American Blog Network. Her work has been featured in various print, television and digital media.

So pat your faithful pooch and ask ye questions of Mia and Julie.  With Mia in Australia and Julie in New York, they’ll be a 24 hour tweeting sensation, something we haven’t yet seen on Real Scientists. Can’t wait! [Ed.: You missed a pun there].

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