VS 479 - Biology and Behavior of Dogs

  • 3 credits

This course enables students to develop a comprehensive understanding of how aspects of physiology, neurobiology, development and genetics influence the behavior of domestic dogs. Evolution and domestication will be explored as contextual reference for some behavior problems, and differentiated from true abnormal behavior. Emphasis will be on interpreting scientific experiments in canine biology.

Students who complete this course will have a working knowledge of learning theory and how the biology of dogs affects behavior. Course topics include:

  • Behavior and ecology of domestic and wild dogs
  • Theories of domestication
  • Sensory perception and its relationship to behavior
  • Body language and communication
  • The brain and behavior
  • Morphological and behavioral genetics
  • Genetic disorders of domestic dogs
  • Social, biological, and behavioral development of dogs
  • Applied behavior and training methods
  • Understanding abnormal and problem behaviors

This course requires the use of electronic proctoring through ProctorU, please see http://www.online.colostate.edu/current-students/proctoring.dot for detailed instructions.  For students requiring accommodations, please contact Resources for Disabled Students; for consideration of exceptions outside the scope of RDS, please contact the University Testing Center


LIFE 103 (Biology of Organisms - Animals and Plants) or BZ 110 (Principles of Animal Biology). Credit not allowed for both BZ 479 and VS 479.

Textbooks and Materials

Textbooks and materials can be purchased at the CSU Bookstore unless otherwise indicated.


  • Dog Behaviour, Evolution and Cognition, 2nd Ed.
    Miklosi, Adam
    ISBN: 978-0199646661


Jennie Willis
Jennie Willis

(970) 491-2993 | jennie.willis@colostate.edu

Dr. Jennie Willis grew up in Colorado as a child and then returned for graduate school later in her life. She graduated from Colorado State University in 2005 with a Ph.D. in zoology, with an emphasis in animal behavior.

Dr. Willis teaches undergraduate courses in dog behavior and instructs veterinary students in applied companion animal behavior. She coordinates the new master's degree program in Zoo, Aquarium and Animal Shelter Management.

Dr. Willis writes for the Coloradoan and has given numerous scientific and invited presentations, and is an active speaker for professional groups and organizations. She co-advises the veterinary student behavior club, which won the 2010 AVSAB Student Chapter Award.

Dr. Willis is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Animal Behavior Management Alliance, and Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In her spare time, Dr. Willis enjoys spending time with her family hiking, swimming and adventuring in the Colorado mountains.

Learn more at: http://www.AnimalBehaviorInsights.com