Dogs and Students Learn Together


The Canine Learning and Behavior Psychology course offered at SFU gives students the opportunity to learn about psychology with dogs.

The course, which is taught by Assistant Professor of Psychology Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg, is not for someone who wants an easy class playing with dogs.

According to Flaisher-Grinberg, who teaches the course with a professional dog trainer, you must plan well in advance because of the significant time commitment.

Course responsibilities include two lectures a week, lab training once a week and practice on your own time.

“That’s the most difficult part – just finding time to work,” said Katie Augustine, a student in the course.

“Plus, they’re dogs and they’re unpredictable.”

According to Flaisher-Grinberg, the goal of the program is to train the dogs in hopes that they can become adoptable.

The dogs are trained to sit, stay, wait, and lay down and they are taught leash skills, as well as how to interact socially. Often the focus will be that particular dog’s weakness.

The whole point of the training is to give them a household environment 24/7, whether it’s SFU-owned housing or living with a commuter student.

Many of the dogs in the program come from difficult backgrounds, such as Katie’s beagle Charlie.

“The most difficult part with him is we don’t know what he’s been through,” said Augustine. “All we know is his owner was arrested and it sounds like no one could take him, so he ended up at the Humane Society.”

At the end of the course is puppy graduation, where each dog is given to a new family and class participants say goodbye.

“It’s always bittersweet,” said Flaisher-Grinberg. “My favorite and least favorite thing at the same time.

“We say goodbye, but we get to see all the progress.”