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Foundations in Behavior & Training

An 8-week seminar series on why our pets do what they do.


Returning in Fall 2014 - dates & schedule TBA!

This program is primarily a lecture series that explores animal behavior from a different perspective each week. Each class will be 2 1/2—3 hours long, allowing time for breaks and question & answer sessions. The course is for people with a serious interest in the behavior of companion animals.

If you—

  • Have ever thought about becoming a dog trainer
  • Work or volunteer in sheltering, rescue or animal control services
  • Work in related fields like grooming, pet sitting or veterinary care and have an interest in behavior
  • Have been bitten by the “training bug” and want to learn more about what makes your dog tick
  • Or if you are just plain fascinated by what your companion animals do

Foundations in Behavior & Training offers a far-reaching and engaging exploration of what we know—and don’t know—about the behavior of animals. Grounded deeply in science but designed for non-scientists, the course combines lecture, exercises and demonstrations to explore many different aspects of animal behavior, including:

  • Ethology
  • Learning Theory
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Genetics
  • Body Language & Signaling

The course will focus on teaching you how to effectively use the principles and knowledge from these disciplines to answer the three core questions that all behavior professionals ask:


1. What behavior is the animal doing?

2. Why is the animal doing it?

3. How can we change or modify our behavior to be more successful as teachers or trainers?

The Curriculum

Week One: Whys & Wherefores What do we mean by behavior? How is it defined and how can it be classified? What different approaches are used by behavior experts and scientists? And just what is the (evolutionary) difference between cats and dogs?

Week Two: Learn—All About It Scientists from Pavlov to Skinner made fabulous discoveries about exactly how animals learn—and used a lot of big words trying to explain it to the rest of us. But under the big words is a simple and elegant system that all animals utilize to make core decisions—and that we can use to understand how they learn.

Week Three: The Becoming Once upon a time, there was an African Wild Cat and a Gray Wolf… Just how did they and their species transform into the pets sharing our homes? What changed, and how, and what does it all mean for the behavior of our companion animals?

Week Four: Big Burning Questions Is it Nature? Is it Nurture? Is it learned or genetic? Why do some puppies go so right—or so wrong? Socialization and early development is often misunderstood. In this class, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of what really happens when puppies and worlds collide.

Week Five: Bodies in Motion Can you see it now? Recognizing and understanding canine body language and social communication is the challenge of the class as we bring in real live dogs to test and sharpen our observational skills.

Week Six: Five Needed Pieces Dog training takes more than animal mojo— it takes practical operational skills. To be an effective animal trainer, there are five core skills that every trainer must have. What are they, and how can we get better at them?

Week Seven: Tipping Points Behavior problems like shyness, fear and reactivity are all too common in our companion animals. How can we recognize them, when should we intervene and what kinds of training plans can help pets and their owners achieve improved quality of life?

Week Eight: The Big “A” Nothing is more distressing to pet owners than aggression in their companion animals—and no other behavior is so misunderstood. What is aggression and what makes it a problem? How can we help take the bite out of our dogs?

Full Course Tuition: $200.00*

Single-Session Attendance: $35

Space is limited, so please register early to guarantee your spot. Auditors are welcome to attend single sessions; please let us know a week in advance so that we can arrange seating. We request that auditors refrain from questions during the class, since many of the questions will have been addressed in prior sessions and it will disturb the flow for attendees of the full course. If time allows, we will take auditor questions at the end of the session.

Foundations in Behavior & Training Full Course - 8 Sessions
$200.00
FBT Single Session 1 Session Auditing
$35.00

* If you work for a 501(c)3 animal welfare organization or government animal control agency, limited scholarships are available; please call or e-mail for more information.


Foundations in Behavior & Training features wonderful photography of the shelter animals by Deborah Rees. I'd like to thank her and Deb F. for their unwavering support of this project!

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