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£500k to research the ‘history of dogs’

Academics at Manchester University have been given £500k to study the relationship between man and his best friend

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Academics have been given £500,000 to study the ‘history of dogs’.

Researchers at the University of Manchester have launched a study of the relationship between man and his “best friend”.

Historians and scientists are collaborating to explore how humans have influenced domestic dogs over the last century, said project leader Michael Worboys, from the centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

 “No animal species has been more altered in size, shape, colour or temperament by human selection, no species has a closer relationship with humans,” he said.

“No species is fed a more processed, industrialised diet, and no species has their health treated in a manner so close to what humans enjoy.

“We will study how changing ideas and practices with breeding, feeding, training and treating have essentially remade the modern dog, whether as pet, show dog or working animal.”

The study, entitled ‘Pedigree Chums: Science, Medicine and the Remaking of the Dog in the Twentieth Century’, will also cover modern issues and controversy surrounding dogs.

Research will look at human relationships with stray and dangerous dogs, the rise of pure breeding and the use of dogs in medical research. Concerns over the health of pedigree dogs resulted in the RSPCA and BBC pulling out of dog show Crufts three years ago.

Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology in the Faculty of Life Sciences and a co-researcher on the project, said, “Veterinary medicine and animal health has been poorly served by researchers despite the subject being given priority funding for many years.

“We will also explore how aspects of human-dog relations have been increasingly medicalised, to the point where dogs are called ‘patients’ and vets’ records list them by their names, not those of their owners.”

The three-year study, funded by a Wellcome Trust grant, will be accompanied by an exhibition at the Manchester Museum.