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Job offered for Dr Dolittle in Austria

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Job offered for Dr Dolittle in Austria
Monty watching TV. Photo: Anjuli Barber
13:21 CEST+02:00
Can you talk to the animals? Would you like to help scientists in Austria who are working on animal communication? The University of Veterinary Medicine (UVM) in Vienna may have a job for you.

The Clever Dog Lab, part of the Messerli Research Institute of the UVM, is looking for an experienced dog trainer, who can help them in studies intended to explore human-animal communication.

The Lab was established to find out more about the problem-solving and learning abilities of dogs, their perception of their environment and their relationship to humans.  

To use the famous words of Rex Harrison as Dr Dolittle: "If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages. Think of all the things we could discuss."

During the Clever Dog Lab study dogs will be trained to stand still with their heads gently supported in a chin rest, and watch images and video on a screen. Their eyes will then be tracked to see what particularly interests them.

Clever Dog Lab head Dr Zsófia Virányi told The Local "Eye-tracking can help us understand how dogs communicate with us: when precisely they look into our eyes, at our mouth and hand-signals."

Similar techniques are currently used in human and simian studies to measure attention.

The project has the catchy title 'The semantics of talking with the eyes and gestures: the hormonal and cognitive underpinnings of comprehending cooperative intentional communication in domestic dogs and wolves.'

Even more exciting for the potential Dr Dolittle who will join the team is the prospect in the future of working with wolves, in conjunction with the Wolf Science Centre in Ernstbrunn, Austria.

"What a neat achievement that would be." 

Interviews start in July, and will be conducted in English, rather than any particular animal language.

And if people asked us, can you speak rhinoceros, we'd say, "Of courserous, can't you?"

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