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Main Street College to explore canine behavior, behavioral psychology

Psychology Professor Valeri Farmer-Dougan trains one of the dogs at the Canine Behavior and Cognition Laboratory (CBCL).

“Going to the Dogs: How our furry friends help us better understand human behavior” is the title of the spring Main Street College event scheduled for Wednesday, March 27.

This free event, designed specifically for the general public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Illinois State University Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main St., Normal. Professor of Psychology Valeri Farmer-Dougan will be the presenter. For nine years, Professor Farmer-Dougan has used dogs in her teaching. “Dr. Farmer-Dougan’s work with dogs is exciting and beneficial both to her students and to the dogs with which they work,” said Interim Dean Diane Zosky. “I hope everyone will join us as we enjoy this opportunity to learn more about behavioral psychology.”

In her presentation, Professor Farmer-Dougan will describe the collaboration that exists between the Illinois State University Canine Behavior and Cognition Laboratory and the Pet Central Helps Animal Rescue and Shelter. As she will explain, the collaboration has three major goals. The first is to provide an interactive teaching laboratory for students to practice and apply theories of learning, particularly operant and classical conditioning.

A second goal is to provide consultation, training, and development of behavior intervention programs for dogs in foster care or recently adopted from a local shelter. A third major goal of the collaboration is to provide students with a unique environment for applied research in canine behavior in shelter environments.

A unique adaptation of an advanced operant conditioning laboratory will be described, the impact on the shelter dogs will be highlighted, and several student-driven research projects examining the effectiveness of reward and training will be presented.

Finally, the talk will describe the pitfalls, as well as important advantages, of developing programs such as this through town-gown collaboration. “I find great fulfillment in working with these dogs,” said Professor Farmer-Dougan. “The loyalty and affection they give us is truly remarkable.”

Please join the College of Arts and Sciences for what promises to be a thoroughly entertaining evening!