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“An Extension of Me”

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Handlers Describe Their Experiences of Working with Bird Dogs

image of Society & Animals

Studies describe the human-canine relationship as a long and complex one in which both parties have developed complementary physical skills and communication techniques. Current extensive exploration of the human-canine bond commonly examines the objective value of dogs to people, whether as service or therapy dogs, or valued companions. Dogs have been found to enhance our mental and physical health, learning aptitude, and social confidence. Few studies have investigated the collaborative relationship between handler and working dog, an intersubjective relationship contingent upon mutual trust, communication, learning, and cooperative action between individual subjects. Interviewing bird-dog handlers provides an opportunity to understand how people experience this complex interspecies relationship. Study findings illustrate that the human-canine bond, with its rich history of coevolution stemming from a past of shared hunting efforts, contributes to human experience of the natural world, learning, behavior, and communication.

Affiliations: 1: Minnesota State University


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