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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


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


Jennie Willis MarKo
Jennie Willis MarKo

9704912993 |

Dr. Jennie Willis graduated from Colorado State University in 2005 with a Ph.D in Zoology, with an emphasis in Animal Behavior. Her dissertation research was related to dog cognition and problem solving.

Dr. Willis teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in animal behavior and oversees the Professional Science Master’s program in Zoo, Aquarium and Animal Shelter Management at CSU. She and her graduate students conduct applied research to benefit the lives of animals in captive settings. Her special research interest is in improvement of adoption rates of cats through enrichment, evaluation and training.

As an applied animal behaviorist, Dr. Willis helps companion, zoo and farm animals learn new behaviors and improve problem behaviors. She has given numerous scientific and invited presentations, and is an active speaker for professional groups and organizations.

Dr. Willis is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare Agencies, the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and Animal Behavior Management Alliance. In her spare time, Dr. Willis enjoys spending time with her family hiking, swimming and adventuring in the Colorado mountains.

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