Director

PROFILE-PauleenBennett200

Pauleen Bennett

Director of Regional Operations, School of Psychological Science
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
La Trobe University



Background

Many people who know me find this difficult to believe, but when I first left high school my ambition was to get married, have lots of babies and live happily ever after. While I waited for Prince Charming to come along I turned my previous hobby of horse riding into a job and starting riding racehorses for a living. A few years later, whizzing around the track at 5 AM and still no closer to finding Mr Wonderful, it suddenly occurred to me that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I consulted a psychologist/careers advisor and enrolled in a behavioural science degree at La Trobe University.

Unlike some students who see study as a chore, I totally loved learning – just about anything. I don’t think I missed a single lecture or tutorial in my undergraduate career and I overloaded every year so that I could fit more in. I tried out computer science, philosophy, sociology, interdisciplinary studies, biology, zoology and, of course, heaps of psychology. Ten years later I had two Bachelor’s degrees, a Master’s degree, a PhD and an academic job in the psychology department at Monash University.

To begin with I focused my teaching and research activities on behavioural neuroscience and clinical neuropsychology. This was exciting and such terrific fun that I found myself working way too hard, with no time to enjoy myself. I decided I needed a hobby that would force me to go home from work so I bought a couple of dogs. Before long I found myself immersed in the world of dog showing and breeding. Again terrific fun but it got me interested in animal welfare and, more specifically, anthrozoology – the study of human-animal relationships. Hardly anybody was working in this area then but, as a psychologist, I was totally fascinated by the intimate relationships that form between companion animals and their owners. I was also amazed by the apparent lack of rationality in the way that humans understand and treat animals. Here we are, thinking we are so very smart and so very much in control, when in fact nearly all of us go totally gaga over a cute little piglet, even at the same time as we chow down on a pork chop. This seems to make no sense at all.

Nearly ten years later I’ve established myself as one of Australia’s leaders in the field of Anthrozoology. I’m friends with anthrozoologists from around the world and supervise a great bunch of students who are working in this general area. I’ve developed courses about animal welfare and animals in society issues for a number of universities and speak regularly at international conferences. And I still breed dogs and go home every night to Mr Wonderful and a very big team of canine companions, who totally take the place of all those kids I thought I would have but never could fit into my schedule.

In 2010 I decided I needed a break from my frenetic academic lifestyle so I left my position at Monash University, travelled for a while and then enjoyed spending time at home. In early 2011 I took up a new position as Director of Regional Operations for the School of Psychological Science at La Trobe University. This is a really exciting opportunity for me. I’m based at a gorgeous rural campus in Bendigo so get to live in an idyllic rural setting with heaps of animals, and I’m again surrounded by a great bunch of students. Hopefully I can redevelop my research group and keep juggling all those things I love to do.


Current research interest
At the moment I’m trying to get settled into a very busy and very demanding job so time for research is extremely limited. Mostly I’m just looking after my students at both Monash and La Trobe Universities. They are doing really exciting stuff so I figure I can relax for a while. Hopefully once I get settled I’ll pick up speed and re-engage with the research process. What I’m really interested in is figuring out exactly how companion animals improve the quality of life of ordinary people. What is it about our furry friends that keeps us coming back for more – even though pet ownership is becoming increasingly difficult? And how can we use animals more effectively to help people disadvantaged either physically, psychologically and/or socially? And how can we convince people to take better care of animals? And then there is the issue of how rural and regional Australians view their pets. Really it just never ends: there are always so many exciting new questions to ask and so many new adventures to be had.

Relevant publications
  • Mornement, K.M., Coleman, G.J., Toukhsati, S.R., & Bennett, P.C. (in press). What do current and potential Australian dog owners believe about shelter practices and shelter dogs? Anthrozoös, accepted November 2011.
  • Testa, R., Bennett, P.C., & Ponsford, J. (2012). Factor analysis of nineteen executive function tests in a health adult population. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 27, 213-224.
  • Howell, T., Conduit, R., Toukhsati, S., and Bennett, P. (2012) Auditory stimulus discrimination recorded in dogs, as indicated by mismatch negativity (MMN). Behavioural Processes, 89(1), 8-13.
  • Rohlf, V.I., Bennett, P.C., Toukhsati, S., Coleman, G.J. (2012). Beliefs underlying dog owners’ health care behaviours: results from a large, self-selected internet sample. Anthrozoös, 25(2), 171-186.
  • Toukhsati, S.R., Young, E., Bennett, P.C., Coleman, G.J. (2012) Wandering cats: attitudes and behaviours toward cat containment in Australia. Anthrozoös, 25(1), 61-74. .
  • King, T., Marston, L.C., and Bennett, P.C. (2012). Breeding dogs for beauty and behaviour: why scientists need to do more to develop valid and reliable behaviour assessments for dogs kept as companions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 137, 1-12.
  • Grant, M., Ponsford, J., & Bennett, P.C. (2012). The application of Goal Management Training to aspects of financial management in individuals with traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation: An International Journal. DOI:10.1080/09602011.2012.693455
  • Bennett, P.C. (2011). Animals in our lives: human-animal interaction in family, community and therapeutic settings . Anthrozoös, 24(4), 432-435.
  • Howell, T., Conduit, R., Toukhsati, S., & Bennett, P.C. (2011). Development of a minimally-invasive protocol for recording mismatch negativity (MMN) in the dog (Canis familiaris) using electroencephalography (EEG). Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 201(2), 377-380.
  • Howell, T. & Bennett, P.C. (2011). Can dogs (Canis familiaris) use a mirror to solve a problem? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 6(6), 306-312.
  • Howell, T. & Bennett, P.C. (2011). Puppy Power! Using social cognition research tasks to improve socialization practices for domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 6(3), 195-204.
  • Toukhsati, S.R., Young, E., Bennett, P.C., Coleman, G.J. (Under review) Wandering cats: attitudes and behaviours toward cat containment. Submitted to Anthrozoös, November, 2010.
  • Hanlon, C., Rand, J., Bennett, P.C., Symons, M., & Lawrie, M. (Under review). Cat admissions to RSPCA animal shelters in Queensland, Australia: description of cats and risk factors for euthanasia after entry. Submitted to Australian Veterinary Journal.
  • Kerswell, K.J., Bennett, P.C., Butler, K.L., Storey, T.H. & Hemsworth, P.H. (Under review). Social signals related to the playful outcome of dyadic interactions of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Submitted to Behavioural Processes.
  • Howell, T. & Bennett, P.C. (in press). Puppy Power! Using social cognition research tasks to improve socialization practices for domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, accepted 26th January, 2011.
  • Mornement, K.M., Coleman, G.J., Toukhsati, S.R., & Bennett, P.C. (2010). A review of behavioural assessment protocols used by Australian animal shelters to determine the adoption suitability of dogs. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13, 314-329.
  • Kerswell, K.J., Butler, K.L., Bennett, P.C., & Hemsworth, P.H. (2010). The relationships between morphological features and social signalling behaviours in juvenile dogs: the effect of early experience with dogs of different morphotypes. Behavioural Processes, 85(1), 1-7.
  • Rohlf, V.I., Bennett, P.C., Toukhsati, S.R., Coleman, G.J. (2010). Why do even committed dog owners fail to comply with some responsible ownership practices? Anthrozoös, 23(2) 143-155.
  • Rohlf, V.I., Toukhsati, S.R., Coleman, G.J., & Bennett, P.C. (2010). Dog obesity: can dog caregivers’ (owners’) feeding and exercise intentions and behaviours be predicted from attitudes? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13(3), 213-236.
  • McGreevy, P.M., & Bennett, P.C. (2010). Challenges and paradoxes in the companion-animal niche. Animal Welfare, 19, 11-16.
  • Marston, L.C., & Bennett, P.C. (2009). Admissions of Cats to Animal Welfare Shelters in Melbourne, Australia, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 12, 189-213.
  • King, T., Marston, L.C., & Bennett, P.C. (2009). Describing the ideal Australian companion dog. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 120 (1-2), 84-93.
  • Kerswell, K.J., Bennett, P.C., Butler, K.L. & Hemsworth, P.H. (2009). The relationship of adult morphology and early social signalling of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 81, 376-382.
  • Kerswell, K.J., Bennett, P.C., Butler, K.L. & Hemsworth, P.H. (2009). Self-reported comprehension ratings of dog behavior by puppy owners. Anthrozoös, 22(2), 183-193.
  • Ley, J., Bennett, P.C., & Coleman, G.J. (2009). A refinement and validation of the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire (MCPQ). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 116, 220-227.
  • Ley, J.M., McGreevy, P., & Bennett, P.C. (2009). Inter-rater and test-retest reliability of the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire-Revised (MCPQ-R). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 119, 85-90.
  • Ley, J., Bennett, P.C., & Coleman, G. (2008). Personality dimensions that emerge in companion canines. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 100, 305-317.
  • Bennett, P.C., Cooper, N., Rohlf, V.I., & Mornement, K. (2007). Factors influencing owner satisfaction with companion dog training services. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 10(3), 217-241.
  • Bennett, P.C., & Rohlf, V.I. (2007). Owner-companion dog interactions: relationships between demographic variables, potentially problematic behaviours, training engagement and shared activities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 102, 65-84.
  • Ley, J., & Bennett, P.C. (2007). Understanding personality by understanding companion dogs. Anthrozoös, 20(2), 113-124.
  • Toukhsati, S.R., Bennett, P.C., & Coleman, G.J. (2007). Behaviours and attitudes towards semi-owned cats. Anthrozoös, 20(2), 131-142.
  • Dwyer, F., Bennett, P.C., & Coleman, G.C. (2006). Development of the Monash Dog Owners Relationship Scale (M-DORS). Anthrozoös, 19(3), 243-256.
  • Marston L.C., Bennett P.C., & Coleman G.J. (2005). Adopting shelter dogs – the first month post-adoption. Anthrozoös, 18(4), 358-378.
  • Marston L.C., Bennett P.C., & Coleman G.J. (2005). What happens to shelter dogs? Part 2. Comparing three Melbourne welfare shelters for nonhuman animals. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 8(1), 25-45.
  • Rohlf, V., & Bennett, P.C. (2005). Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS) in persons who euthanize nonhuman animals in veterinary surgeries, animal shelters and animal laboratories. Society and Animals, 13(3), 200-219.
  • Marston, L. C., Bennett, P.C., & Coleman, G. J. (2004). What happens to shelter dogs? An analysis of data for one year from three Australian Shelters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 7(1), 27-47.
  • Bennett, P.C., & Perini, E. (2003). Tail docking in dogs: can attitude change be achieved? Australian Veterinary Journal, 81(5), 277-282.
  • Bennett, P.C., & Perini, E. (2003), Tail docking in dogs: a review of the issues. Australian Veterinary Journal, 81(4), 208-218.
  • Marston, L. C., & Bennett, P.C. (2003). Reforging the bond -towards successful canine adoption. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 83, 227-245.
  • Wilson, F., Dwyer, F., & Bennett, P.C. (2003). Prevention of dog bites: Evaluation of a brief educational intervention program for preschool children. Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1), 75-86.

Commissioned reports & other publications
  • Marston, L.C., Bennett, P.C. (2009). Characteristics of pets who visit veterinarians. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
  • Marston, L. C., Bennett, P.C. (2009). Owner experiences of adopting a shelter cat. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2008). Alpaca owners’ breeding and cria care practices. Alpacas Australia, 56, 30-33.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2008). Alpaca owners’ feeding and management practices. Alpacas Australia, 55, 30-33.
  • Bennett, P.C. & Marston, L. C. (2008). Mandatory desexing as a potential solution to perceived pet overpopulation in Victoria. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
  • Marston, L. C., Bennett, P.C., Rohlf, V. I., and Mornement, K. (2008). Review of strategies for effectively managing unwanted dogs and cats in Queensland. Report to the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland, Australia.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2007). Alpaca owners’ beliefs about alpacas. Alpacas Australia, 54, 25-27.
  • Marston, L. C. & Bennett, P.C. (2007). An evaluation of the efficacy of drama and animal-assisted therapy groups with adolescents. Report to MonashLink Community Mental Health Services, Victoria, Australia.
  • Marston, L. C. & Bennett, P.C. (2007). Volunteer visitation programs for institutionalized persons with aged dementia: are benefits increased by the inclusion of companion dogs and reminiscence techniques? Report to the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. New South Wales, Australia.
  • Bennett, P.C., Mornement, K., Toukhsati, S., & Coleman, G.J. (2006). Caring for Australian alpacas: Responses to the Monash university alpaca husbandry survey. Report to the Australian Alpaca Association, Victoria, Australia.
  • Marston, L. C. & Bennett, P.C. (2006). A comparison of dog and cat admissions to shelters in Melbourne, Victoria. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
  • Marston, L. C., Bennett, P.C., & Toukhsati, S. (2006). Cat admissions to Melbourne shelters. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.
  • Toukhsati, S., Coleman, G. J., & Bennett, P.C. (2005). Community attitudes and behaviours towards cats. Report to the Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.

Invited plenary addresses
  • Bennett, P.C. (2010, July). Putting the pieces together: using science to improve relationships between people and their canine companions. Canine Science Forum, Vienna, Austria.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2010, February). People, pets and positive psychology. Second Australian Positive Psychology and Well-Being Conference, Victoria, Australia.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2009, October). What makes a good test of canine behaviour: lessons from the behavioural sciences. Australian Institute of Animal Management Annual Conference, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
  • Bennett, P.C. (2009, July). The modern work of dogs: what is it and how does it influence dog behaviour and welfare. 43rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, Cairns, Australia.


Contact: [email protected]

Pauleen’s presentation from the ISAZ 2012 Conference can be viewed on YouTube: click here to view.