Nicholas Rutter

Nick’s research revolves around conservation detection dogs, which are dogs trained to use their incredible sense of smell to detect plant and animal material of interest to conservation efforts. His PhD looks at developing and evaluating a community volunteer model of conservation detection dog training and deployment on projects such as freshwater turtle nests, Greater Gliders, and Alpine stonefly detection.

Jessica Dawson

Jess joined the ARG as an Honours student in 2015 and commenced her PhD in 2017. Whilst her interests broadly encompass all things anthrozoology, Jess’ current research area concerns companion dog breeding practices. In particular, she is interested in the role that early experiences have on adult dog behaviour and the subsequent dog-owner relationship outcomes.

Deanna Tepper

Deanna is interested in the benefits of interacting with dogs, with her PhD focusing on young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Her research explores whether interacting with dogs, can improve daily living skills. In particular, Deanna is interested in skills associated with working memory, attentional control, inhibition, and problem solving ability.

Dac Loc Mai (Jimmy)

Jimmy is an international PhD student who joined the ARG in 2018. He is interested in assistance dog puppy raising programs and aims to investigate and evaluate an optimal model for this practice. Jimmy believes that beside puppies’ behavioural outcomes, successful puppy raising programs should also ensure positive program experiences and competency of their volunteer raisers. Jimmy’s PhD focuses on the experiences, commitment, and practices of puppy raisers during their year-long participation in a puppy raising program.

Maike Foraita

Maike joined the ARG in February 2019 as an international PhD student from Germany. She is interested in animal cognition and behaviour. Maike’s PhD project looks at executive functions in dogs, especially inhibition, working memory and cognitive flexibility. Maike’s project is investigating what influences shape executive function in dogs, how we can assess executive functions in dogs, and what role executive functions play in dogs’ success in working as well as pet roles.


La Trobe University is a public research university based in Victoria, Australia. Established in 1964, La Trobe University now accommodates over 36,000 students and operates across regional and rural campuses.