Caroline Haas

October 2015 - February 2016
University Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Project at the WSC Do different hand-raising methods influence the intraspecific agonistic behaviour of dogs during pack feeding?
Favourite wolf song The Cat Empire – Wolves
Favourite wolf book White Fang – Jack London
Favourite animal at the WSC Kenai

As a child I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparents place in Grünau im Almtal. On the seemingly endless walks we had, my grandpa always told me about Konrad Lorenz and the Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle as he had the pleasure to work together with him. All those stories about Lorenz, his geese and their imprinting on him really fascinated me. Soon I got the idea stuck in my head that one day I would like to have some grey geese following me around as well. Over the years I kind of forgot about this plan and studying Biology became my plan B as I rather wanted to study Psychology after my final exams at school. I’ve been really interested in psychological subjects, like understanding what’s going on in peoples’ minds, how they come to conclusions and what influences their behaviour. But luck wasn’t on my side and I didn’t get into Psychology at the University I wanted to go to, bringing me back to Biology again. Without a doubt, I chose to specialize in behavioural Biology as this is the most related field to Psychology.

Not only my interest in Biology originated from my times spent in Grünau im Almtal. The Wolf Science Center was founded at that particular place as well, thus, it is not really surprising that the path I followed brought me here. My interest in dogs and wolves might be based on my general preference for social animals. For me it’s really exciting to see how these animals organise themselves in packs and how their hierarchy influences their everyday life. The different personalities that you could observe in every animal among the pack is actually what fascinates me the most about wolves and dogs. One might even suggest that behavioural biology is actually some kind of animal psychology. We want to understand what behavioural patterns are based on, how the animals make decisions, to what extent they are willing to cooperate with each other and how this might be influenced by their relationship to one another. Of course these topics are not everything that comprises behavioural biology, but they are the most interesting ones to me.

During my internship at the Wolf Science Center I’m planning on writing my bachelor thesis. Therefore I will work on the question whether different raising methods of dogs have an influence on their agonistic behaviour towards conspecifics. To find out more about this I’m observing the animals during pack feedings, while I analyse their behaviours afterwards.  My goal is to compare hand raised dogs with dogs that were mainly raised by their mother and partly by humans. At the same time I’m doing this feeding test with a wolf pack as well. It is really interesting to see the differences between them and the dogs during the tests.  I enjoy collecting the data and I’m already looking forward to analyse and interpret the results.

Being part of the research team at the Wolf Science Center makes me really happy. I always knew that I would never want to work in a laboratory but would rather enjoy working outside. The close contact you happen to have with the animals here is a really special experience and the longer I’m here, the more happy I am about the fact that I had to go for my Plan B, which meant starting to study Biology a couple of years ago.