Dennis Vink

Beginn of march - September
University Utrecht University, Niederlanden
Project at the WSC Copperation of wolves and Dogs
Favourite wolf tale Balto
Favourite animal at the WSC I don’t know that much about the personality of the animals yet, but I really like Bora. She is gorgeous and cheerful (and loud...)
Favourite wolf film Without a doubt

I grew up in IJsselstein, a small city near Utrecht, the Netherlands. I’ve always had a huge passion for animals, and their cognitive capacities intrigue me immensely. When I started studying biology at Utrecht University, I was already sure that I wanted to focus on behavioural biology. Within behavioural biology, I’ve been specialising in the fields of welfare studies and behavioural modification (animal training), which are two strongly intertwined topics.

After studying and working with dolphins for a couple years, I wanted to focus more on canine behaviour for the remainder of my studies. I’ve always been fascinated by the communicative and cooperative capacities of social animals, and I wanted to learn more about how to recognise and interpret these in dogs. 

When I started looking for a research institute that studies canine behavior, for my last research project, for my behavioural ecology master’s, I came across the WSC website and applied by submitting a research proposal based on their previous studies. It turned out that they had actually just started a project very similar to what I proposed (only much, much more elaborate), and I was accepted to contribute to this project!

My research project is on how well dogs and wolves can cooperate with human partners in a puzzle that requires cooperation. We’re also hoping to study whether they are able to differentiate between a ‘good cooperator’ and a ‘poor cooperator’, and will choose for the better one when given the choice. I am very excited about my project, as it focuses on the interaction between humans and animals. I’ve studied human-dolphin relationships too, and human-animal interaction remains my favourite topic.

Not only am I interested in the research at the WSC, but I am also very excited to learn about how the trainers at the WSC work with the animals. Since I have a background in animal training too, it will be interesting to learn what the differences are between training dolphins that give shows and training wolves that participate in scientific cognitive experiments. I have only been here for a week, and I’ve already learned so much about canine behaviour, the challenges in training (sometimes shy) animals for these experiments, and canine husbandry. I’m sure I will learn so much these six months, and that I’m going to have the best time doing it!