Canine Learning and Behavior: A Community Partnership
Community engagement is defined as a collaboration between institutions of higher-education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity (Carnegie Foundation). Finding
successful and long term community partnerships is never a simple task, but Saint Francis University has certainly overcome the challenges and found a community partner in the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society.
The partnership with the Central PA Humane Society was sparked by Dr. Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg, Assistant Professor of Psychology, when she began teaching a Psychology course, “Canine Learning and Behavior.” The idea for the class was initiated by Dr. Steve Gilmour, Flaisher-Grinberg’s predecessor,
whose work was essential to her ability to teach the class.
In this class, students work with dogs from the humane society and learn how to reinforce positive behaviors and modify negative behaviors using a hands-on approach to conditioning, reinforcement, and behavioral analysis.
“Sometimes when you house animals for extended amounts of time, you have to think outside the box,” said Megan Sanchez, Volunteer Coordinator at the Central PA Humane Society. She comes to Loretto once a week to teach a lab for students in the course. “This partnership is a win-win.
We have a great peace of mind in partnership with the University.”
The Central PA Humane Society serves Blair and surrounding counties. It is staffed by 15-20 full and part-time professionals and volunteers including Animal Care Attendants, Adoption Counselors, Humane Police Officers, and Administrative staff. Sanchez agrees that partnering on
the canine training projects would not only enrich the students’ learning experience but also the lives of the animals. The dogs in the program work towards getting their American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (AKC CGC) certification which gives them the
opportunity for future training.
As of the “Puppy Graduation” ceremony that is planned for April 22 at 4:30 p.m. in the Boiler House on campus, the partnership will have trained and graduated eight dogs all of which have successfully been adopted.
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