SU lets the pet dogs out for innovative psychology class | Winchester Star

SU lets the pet dogs out for innovative psychology class | Winchester Star

Table of Contents

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah College has introduced an intriguing new system that pairs psychology pupils with shelter puppies for classes in behavior modification approaches.

Thanks to Gucci, Spud, Penelope, Brutus and Mogul, 19 students are at present learning first-hand how endurance, optimistic reinforcement and praise can prevail over bad behaviors.

“It really is definitely the very same rules irrespective of whether you use them to animals or humans,” reported Rodney Bragdon, an affiliate professor at Shenandoah College who is overseeing the Psychology 330: Conduct Modification system with aid from expert pet dog trainer Lisa Marino. “What we are genuinely carrying out is hunting for the effects of conduct and striving to manipulate people effects to get the preferred conduct that we want.”

Bragdon discussed that canines and individuals alike reply greater to praise than punishment. Even though a dog’s good habits should really be rewarded with treats and a scratch guiding the ears, a kid’s good habits need to be bolstered with hugs and compliments.

“When a kid’s taking part in great, make positive you give them consideration and praise,” Bragdon mentioned. “When they are acting out, never give them that notice. You can expect to come across that they’re heading to start off acting the way you want them to if you give them the reinforcement that they’re soon after.”


At 8 a.m. Thursday early morning, Mogul, Brutus, Gucci, Spud and Penelope — all sporting exclusive harnesses labeled “Hornet In Teaching,” a reference to the university’s mascot — were led into SU’s Halpin-Harrison Hall for the commence of class.

The Psychology 330 learners split into five teams and led each pup into a private classroom to decrease distractions even though training the canines capabilities like sit, shake and heel.

Marino, a previous middle faculty trainer who has operated her individual Frederick County company, Head of the Class Puppy Education, considering the fact that 2012, watched the learners as they issued commands and handed out treats.

“For the 1st thirty day period, I came to most classes,” Marino reported about teaching the students to instruct the canines. “They have had more time to get the job done on their individual, so this is the first time I have been in this article in two or 3 months.”

She was impressed by what she observed on Thursday early morning.

Spud, a wiry and relatively skittish 1-calendar year-old terrier combine, was studying how to shake fingers with his workforce of trainers — senior Abbey Esparza, juniors Lila Shipley and Ashlee Myers, and to start with-12 months college student Rachael Blumenschine.

“Spud has taught us a whole lot of endurance because he is seriously stubborn,” Esparza stated. “He wouldn’t sit for us for three or 4 weeks, so we considered he couldn’t physically sit. Then a single working day he started out sitting. He just did not want to before.”

In yet another place, Mogul, a mutt who is the youngest in the group at about 5 months outdated, was finding out to return and sit with sophomore Savannah Lee and 1st-yr pupils Mikaela Fairbanks and Peter Van Eck.

“It can be great obtaining a diverse knowledge than what I was told school would be,” Van Eck explained, “and it’s pretty fascinating to be element of the to start with group at this faculty to ever do this.”

Brutus was up coming doorway discovering to heel with junior Kara Gilpin, sophomore Louis Mejia and to start with-calendar year university student Hunter Locke.

“Once he begun opening up and stress-free, he started off finding out real speedy,” Locke stated about the 7-12 months-previous hound mix.

Brutus is getting fostered by Bragdon — “I could not uncover a fourth placement,” he claimed with a laugh — so immediately after Thursday morning’s session ended, the puppy expended the relaxation of the day hanging out with the professor on campus.

“He stays with me for the duration of my conferences,” Bragdon stated. “My colleagues get mad when I clearly show up with no Brutus.”


Bragdon has been training Psychology 330 for 16 many years and, in the past, has sometimes utilised animal education as a teaching resource.

“I’ve even sent students out to the SPCAs [in Winchester and Frederick County] to perform with canine, but it did not do the job terrific because the canines received adopted [during the course] and there was no regularity,” he reported.

Creating canine a comprehensive-time component of the application is a new progress this semester that grew to become probable many thanks to SU’s determination in August to let pupils to keep animals in two of its dormitories, South Campus Commons and Edwards Residential Village.

“They don’t have to be company animals, they will not have to be psychological assistance animals,” Bragdon reported. “Students can just have a pet dog if they want a dog.”

That plan modify opened the doorway for some of the recent Psychology 330 college students to come to be roommates with four shelter dogs from the SPCA of Winchester, Frederick and Clarke Counties at 111 Featherbed Lane in Winchester. Gucci, Spud and Penelope are getting fostered on campus by pupils, when Brutus is living with Bragdon.

A fifth doggy, Mogul, was a late entry to the application. She is a rescue a short while ago adopted by SU President Tracy Fitzsimmons, who agreed to enable her new pup take part in the psychology program since it can help both the pupils and the pet.

“The beauty behind this provider finding out project is that pupils are having to utilize training course concepts — hands-on practice, which most pupils love simply because it truly is far better than just sitting down in a classroom — and we also get to present a significant company to the group,” Bragdon mentioned. “There is certainly really clear study that exhibits if a shelter doggy can learn even just one obedience command, their chances of adoption go way up. It’s kind of a get-earn.”

At the conclusion of the program in May perhaps, Brutus, Gucci, Spud and Penelope will be returned to the SPCA and offered for adoption.


“The pupils who are fostering get initially proper of adoption at the close of this,” Bragdon claimed.

If the foster college students pick out not to continue to keep their dogs, adoption rights will then go to the other college students enrolled in the class. If there are still no takers, the pet dogs will be returned to the shelter on Featherbed Lane to await a person to consider them household.

“I will not consider any pet is likely to make it that far,” Bragdon stated. “I am very guaranteed the three who are fostering are heading to hold the pet dogs.”

As for Brutus, Bragdon said he probably will never retain him because he currently has a pet and, because it truly is most likely he’ll be fostering a lot more canine for long run programs, he and his spouse really don’t want their house to come to be overrun by canines. Not to stress, nevertheless, mainly because Gilpin, one of the learners instruction Brutus, has now known as dibs.

“I will not be with out him,” Gilpin stated with a smile. “I have been in adore with him considering the fact that the initial working day of class.”

She may possibly need earmuffs, although. According to Bragdon, Brutus snores like a freight coach.


This semester is the initial time SU has incorporated foster dogs in its Psychology 330 class, but it won’t be the previous. Bragdon mentioned word is out and college students are presently lining up to sign up for the subsequent class this slide.

“They are excited about the puppies,” he claimed.

Learners who want to foster a canine in their dorm area will have to point out that in their residency programs for the up coming university 12 months. Those people who are picked will be assigned to either South Campus Commons or Edwards Household Village and be necessary to spend a protection deposit to restore any damages triggered by their 4-legged roommates.

In time, Bragdon claimed, the exclusive software could help SU stand out to much more aspiring psychology students who are selecting which faculty to attend.

“I hope so,” he mentioned. “There are a whole lot of undergraduate psychology courses across the nation, but the psychology application in this article genuinely values hands-on finding out. We are continually seeking for prospects for pupils to basically apply the concepts and the strategies and the skills in its place of just sitting in a classroom and speaking about it. You can not interact in a task like this and occur out the other stop not having figured out everything.”