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Farmer-Dougan to speak on empathy and shelter dogs, December 7

Valeri Farmer-Dougan headshot with puppy

Valeri Farmer-Dougan, Ph.D. will present a talk titled, “Helping Shelter Dogs and Students: A University-Pet Shelter Collaboration,” as part of the Extending Empathy Project sponsored by the Department of Psychology.

The Department of Psychology will present a talk titled, “Helping Shelter Dogs and Students: A University-Pet Shelter Collaboration,” with Professor Valeri Farmer-Dougan, Ph.D. from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, December 7, in 208 DeGarmo Hall.

The talk is part of the Extending Empathy Project.

Most dog owners report a special bond between themselves and their dogs. This special bond is supported by recent research with the Canis lupus familiaris. Indeed, dogs appear able to detect and respond to basic human emotions such as sadness, happiness, and anger. Dogs can follow a point or eye movement, exhibit guilty behavior, understand when to steal forbidden objects, and imitate simple human responses.

Dogs provide not only physical assistance to humans, but also provide emotional support and relieve some symptoms of psychiatric illness. Further, dogs elicit empathetic and altruistic behavior from humans. Why the domestic dog can form such a unique bond with humans will be explored. In addition, the Applied Canine Behavior Project, a collaboration between the ISU Canine Laboratory and Pet Central Helps Animal Rescue, will be described.

This collaboration has three major goals:

  1. Development of a teaching laboratory where students apply learning theory and behavior analysis;
  2. Provide an opportunity for students to engage in consultation, training, and behavior intervention for shelter dogs; and
  3. Provide support for applied research with the domestic canine. Students involved in the project will discuss the impact that working with shelter dogs has had on their empathetic and altruistic behavior.

Finally, students will discuss how working with the dogs prepares them for work with human populations. The presentation will end with an opportunity to interact with some of our dogs.

This event is part of a series of talks, workshops, panels, and round-table discussions that the department will host as a part of the Extending Empathy Project. The events are open to faculty, students, and staff.

This speaker series is sponsored by the Department of Psychology. To support the Department of Psychology and help enhance its educational mission with advanced teaching methods, guest speakers, and more opportunities for students to learn through research experiences, please consider making a gift to the department through the Illinois State University Foundation.

If you need special accommodations to participate in this program, call the Department of Psychology at (309) 439-8651. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.

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