In July 2018, Tallinn Summer School launched a new interdisciplinary course aimed at students interested in canine behaviour and human-animal interactions.
The summer course brings together highly-qualified international academics, specialists, and practitioners who study canine behaviour and well-being in order to create a unique environment where students with different backgrounds can get a scientific overview of this multifaceted, interdisciplinary field.
Numerous scientific studies about the origin, cognition, and behaviour of dogs give us the opportunity to understand dogs better and provide information that allows us to re-examine human-dog relationships and the methods used to train dogs. The need for educated specialist that work with animals as well as well-informed dog owners should be a priority, as it ensures safer and more efficient human-animal interactions.
The Tallinn University School of Natural Sciences and Health has partnered with the Estonian Association of Assistance and Therapy Dogs, which itself is a full member of the International Association of Human-Animal Interactions Organizations, and is the umbrella organisation for dog-assisted interventions in Estonia. The collaboration brings complementary know-how as well as the practitioner’s view to the academic environment. The Estonian Association of Assistance and Therapy Dogs assesses, trains, and examines therapy dog teams, develops standards, and coordinates the work of teams in the social, health, and rehabilitation spheres. There is currently rapid growth in demand for assistance as well as therapy dogs, but a lack of knowledge concerning the mental, emotional, and physical welfare of dogs used in dog-assisted interventions is a recurrent concern.
The summer course programme is designed to equip students with knowledge to understand what and how dogs communicate to each other, and how to interpret their behaviour whilst interacting with humans. What are the internal mechanisms for learning? How can the interspecies communication benefit both? How can we measure and enhance the well-being of animals? These and other questions will be discussed by local and foreign interdisciplinary speakers.