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Valeri Farmer-Dougan
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 The mission of the ISU Canine Behavior laboratory is to provide a means of behavioral rehabilitation for foster and rescue dogs housed in our local community.

The Canine Behavior and Cognition laboratory  focuses on both basic research investigating differences 
in dogs with congenital deafness, blindness, or deaf/blindness AND an applied focus in 
teaching applied behavior analysis techniques using dog training. ​

 You can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals.
-Mahatma Gandhi
 ​   

Link for Lisa​

          
                                                         

Eeny and Meeny, two of four deaf/low vision Aussie Pups       




 Harry, one of three service pups in training for 2013-2014




  Our Objectives:

  • Congenitally deaf, blind or deaf/blind dogs are an increasing population in American animal shelters, foster programs, and rescue organizations.  The number of blind dogs is estimated at approximately 300,000, but there are very little reliable data (Deaf Dogs Forever, 2010). Estimates of the number of deaf dogs in the US in 2010 suggest about 35,000 bilaterally deaf dogs, and approximately 120,000 dogs with unilateral loss. This represents approximately 5 to 10% of canine pets (Deaf Dogs forever, 2010).  
  • Traditionally, breeders have euthanized so called lethal whites, typically by drowning, suffocating or cervical dislocation during the first two to three months after birth. Reasons given for euthanasia include tendencies for aggression, startling responses when awakened, excessive barking, and poor quality of life (Strain, 2011). Some AKC breed groups, such as the Dalmatian Club of America advocate that deaf dogs should be euthanized rather than placed in homes, while admitting that there are no data regarding the incidence of aggression or other behavior problems in deaf, blind or deaf/blind dogs (Strain, 2011, pg. 118, 120). 
  • We hope to show that these dogs are loving, trainable, nonaggressive and make wonderful family pets. Further, our laboratory argues it is unethical to euthanize these dogs in the absence of actual data.

  Our Hypotheses:

  • Deaf, blind or deaf/blind dogs are no more prone to aggression or other severe behavioral issues than any other dog; rather it is breed and rearing/living environmental that are correlated with aggression and/or other severe behavior issues.
  • Deaf, blind and deaf/blind dogs bond easily with their owners, and owners are as satisfied with these dogs as owners of typical same-breed dogs
  • Deaf, blind and deaf/blind dogs are easily trainable, or at minimum, train as easily as same-breed hearing/seeing cohorts.
 Animal Advocacy:

  Nathan Winograd, an animal rights advocate focusing on animal shelters, suggests that no-kill shelters are not only possible, but should be the standard in the United States. This   objective is achieved in several ways:

1) free and low cost spay/neuter clinics;

2) the use of rescue and foster groups;

3) development of comprehensive adoption programs;

4) medical and behavioral programs for rehabilitation;

5) development of a strong volunteer program; and

 6) systematic and comprehensive publicity programs.

 We at the ISU Canine Behavior and Cognition laboratory embrace Mr. Winograd's approach and work to assist local rescue organizations to improve adoption placement rates by providing assistance and research in behavior analysis, R+ training approaches, and procedures which quickly and effectively promote positive behavior and eliminate inappropriate behavior in shelter animals.


Olivia, deaf Australian Shepherd, waiting for her "furever" home.....adopted July 2013.

Available Courses:

Advanced Laboratory in Operant Behavior:  PSY 331.03

       Requirements: Psychology major, prefer students have taken P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification

          ​In this laboratory course students encounter firsthand the basic theories and some basic procedures for training, managing, and conducting research on canines. Students are introduced to the physiological, cognitive and developmental aspects of canine behavior that are critical to understand when working with dogs.
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop an understanding and beginning fluency in the roles of consequences and the scheduling of consequences on acquisition, maintenance and structure of behavior in human and nonhuman organisms. The course emphasizes both the mechanisms and theories surrounding how consequences select and shape behavior, with an emphasis on methodology, measurement and quantification of behavior as a means of explaining underlying mechanisms.   A positive reinforcement (R+) approach, using clicker training, is used when working with the dogs.
 
            This course is structured so that students move from a basic introduction to the biology of canine behavior, canine development and finally canine cognition. At the same time students are introduced to theories and methods of operant and classical conditioning, functional analysis and behavior assessment. We will also discuss ethical issues surrounding animal research, canine behavior and shelter/rescue programs.
 
           As an upper division class, the emphasis is on original sources- that is, students read the actual research articles, rather than a text. However, to ensure that all students have a good basic grounding in operant conditioning, requirements include the book Don’t Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor, as a wonderful resource.

Independent Research in Operant Behavior:  PSY 290

       Requirements: Psy 331.03; prefer students have taken P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification

          ​Students have an opportunity to assist with ongoing research in the laboratory as an extension of their work in Psy 331.03. Students are assigned to a basic or applied research project group and work with the dogs on that project. Projects include assessing and training shelter dogs to increase successful adoption, examining cognitive abilities such as choice, concept formation or counting in deaf and hearing dogs, or examining human-canine interactions and how each species may benefit from such interactions.
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop an understanding of basic and/or applied research, learn to implement research protocols, develop basic data analysis skills and assist with the writing and development of manuscripts and/or posters for presentation at region, national and international organizations dedicated to canine research. 
      

Independent Research in Operant Behavior:  PSY 390

       Requirements: Psy 290, Psy 331.03; prefer students have taken P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification

          ​Students have an opportunity to develop a more independent research project in the laboratory as an extension of their work in Psy 290 and Psy 331.03. Students, in consultation with the graduate students and Dr. Farmer-Dougan, develop a basic or applied research project and work with the dogs on that project. Previous projects have included assessing attitude change in students enrolled in Psy 331.03 versus other advanced psychology laboratories, developing a resesarch protocol for cage/kennel aggression, and examining behavioral differences in deaf vs. hearing dogs. 
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop a more thorough understanding of basic and/or applied research, take responsiblity for implementation of research protocols, further develop basic data analysis skills and take more leadership with the writing and development of manuscripts and/or posters for presentation at region, national and international organizations dedicated to canine research.     

Undergraduate Teaching in Operant Behavior:  PSY 291

          Requirements:  Psy 331.03; prefer students have taken P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification​​

  ​Students have an opportunity to serve as a peer mentor in the Psy 331.03 course. Students serve as undergraduate teaching assistants (UTA) in the Psy 331.03 labs, helping students implement techniques and procedures with their assigned dogs. Students help prep for labs, serve as a model and provide hands-on assistance to Dr. Farmer-Dougan during laboratory sessions. This is an excellent means of further developing applied behavior analysis skills and to learn TAG teaching techniques. 
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop a more thorough understanding of applied behavior analysis, further master their basic shaping, chaining and clicker-training skills, and begin to learn the TAG teach approach to shaping human behavior.  

Advanced Undergraduate Teaching in Operant Behavior:  PSY 391

       Requirements:  Psy 291, Psy 331.03; prefer students have taken P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification

          ​Students have a further an opportunity to serve as a peer mentor in the Psy 331.03 course. Students serve as lead UTAs in the Psy 331.03 labs, and also develop an assessment project to evaluate the effectiveness of the human teaching. A strong focus is on developing independent TAG teaching techniques. Students help prep for labs, serve as a model and provide hands-on assistance to Dr. Farmer-Dougan during laboratory sessions. This is an excellent means of gaining fluency in applied behavior analysis skills and TAG teaching techniques. 
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop a more thorough understanding of applied behavior analysis, further master their basic shaping, chaining and clicker-training skills, and begin to learn the TAG teach approach to shaping human behavior.   

Graduate Independent Research in Operant Behavior:  PSY 400

       Requirements: status as a graduate student-at-large or admittance into a graduate program in Psychology ; prefer students have taken the equivalent of P360 Learning or P334 Behavior Modification

          ​Students have an opportunity to develop an independent research project in the laboratory as a precursor to their master's thesis or project. Students, in consultation with, Dr. Farmer-Dougan, develop a basic or applied research project and work with a companion animal on that project. Previous projects have included assessing owners' views on the behavior of deaf versus typical dogs', examining cat play behavior, and examining differences in play between deaf and hearing dogs.
 
          As a result of this class students  should develop a  thorough understanding of basic and/or applied research, take responsibility for implementation of research protocols, further develop basic data analysis skills and take a leadership role in the writing and development of manuscripts and/or posters for presentation at region, national and international organizations dedicated to canine research.     This course serves as a good preparation for the masters' thesis.

Graduate Masters' Thesis in Operant Behavior:  PSY 499

Requirements: Psy 400, Psy 462, Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Psy 434 Advanced Behavior Modification. 
          ​Students develop a substantial independent research project in the laboratory as an extension of their work in Psy 400. Students, in consultation with, Dr. Farmer-Dougan, develop a basic or applied research masters' project and work with a companion animal on that project. Previous projects have included assessing owners' views on the behavior of deaf versus typical dogs', examining cat play behavior, and examining differences in play between deaf and hearing dogs. Students should complete a final masters' level thesis.​  

      

Miss Olivia watching and waiting for her cue!​

Current Research in the Canine Behavior Laboratory

     Differences in initiation, continuation and cessation of play bouts between deaf and hearing dogs.  (Modified replication of Horowitz, 2009)
      This study investigates the behavioral signals used to initiate, cease and control play interactions between hearing dogs, deaf dogs and hearing to deaf dogs. We expect that deaf dogs will show more inappropriate play signals and attention getting behavior than hearing dogs; further, we expect that hearing dogs will be less responsive to the inappropriate play signals/attention
behavior than deaf dogs.

 
     Reputation like inference in congenitally deaf and hearing dogs (Canis familiaris) (modified replication of Kundey, et al 2011)
     This study investigates whether deaf dogs are more easily influenced by a human versus a dog demonstrating how to detour around a barrier to retrieve a toy. Deaf dogs are known to be highly attentive to humans, but it is unknown how attentive they are to other dogs. This study will attempt to assess this question.

 
 Deaf vs. hearing: does hearing status affect individual and social learning performance in dog. (Modification of Pongracz, Vida, Banhegyi, Miklosl, 2008).
     This study investigates whether deaf versus hearing dogs can selectively determine which human is the better predictor of treats. Typical dogs show this ability. We know that deaf dogs are highly attentive to humans, and that they appear to be highly attentive to emotional gestures displayed by humans.We hypothesize that, because of the lack of auditory input, deaf dogs will be more attentive to facial and body gestures by humans than typical dogs.

 
 Acquiring food preferences from interaction with recently fed conspecifics (replication of Lupfer-Johnson & Ross, 2007).
      This study examines whether olfactory information is an important factor in food choice between deaf dogs, as it has been shown to be at least one means of transmitting information in typical dogs. Deaf dogs should show few differences from hearing dogs, as olfactory cues, and thus they should similarly attend to the olfactory information.

 
Is your choice my choice? Owners effect on pet dogs performance on food choice task: Deaf vs. hearing dogs (Prato-Previde, et al, 2008)
       This investigation is a second attempt in determining how well deaf versus typical dogs attend to human behavior. In this case, dogs are allowed to choose between a larger or smaller treat.  Their owners will then attempt to sway their choice towards the smaller treat (assuming that they chose the larger treat to begin with). We hypothesize that deaf dogs may be more easily swayed than typical dogs, given deaf dogs’ higher degree of attachment to their owners (See Farmer-Dougan, et al, submitted manuscript).​

 Differences in reward sensitivity in deaf and hearing dogs. 
       This investigation examines differences in reward sensitivity when deaf and hearing dogs choose between two humans delivering rewards at different schedule ratios versus a machine delivering food reward. Both food and social rewards are used. This project utilizes Baum's (1974) matching law. It is hypothesized that deaf dogs may be better at detecting the more optimal reward when delivered by humans because of their greater focus on humans as a source of information regarding the environment than hearing dogs.
 
Keller, deaf/blind Australian Shepherd. Rescued from backyard breeder. Significant psychological and physical abuse.

 
Publications and Presentations

Recent Publications:

 Farmer-Dougan, V. A. (2014. Functional Analysis of Aggression in a Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata variegata). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare.

 
        Alferink, L.A., & Farmer-Dougan, V.A. (2010). Brain-(not) Based Education: Dangers of Misunderstanding and Misapplication of Neuroscience Research. Exceptionality. 18, 42-52.
 
        Farmer-Dougan, V.A., Majewski, J., & Wolfe, D. (under review). Use of a companion dog as a motivating prompt for journaling in a fourth grade classroom.
This paper, co-authored with two students, is currently under review at the Journal of Research and Writing.

 
         Farmer-Dougan, V.A., Quick, A., Harper, K., & Schmidt, K. (under review).  Congenitally deaf, blind or deaf/blind dogs (canis familiaris) show behavioral traits that parallel hearing and seeing cohorts. This paper, co-authored with three students, is currently under review at the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

 

Recent Presentations:

              Farmer-Dougan, V.A., Majewski, J., Wolfe, D., & Schumacher, A. (2011). The use of a dog as a motivating prompt for journaling.  Poster presentation at the MidAmerican Association for Behavior Analysis, Chicago, IL, October, 14, 2011.

 

Undergraduate Research Symposium, ISU, Spring 2012 Presentations:           

Deaf, Blind, or Deaf/Blind Dogs: Disabled and Worthless or Disabled and Wonderful? Part III: Training
Lead Author: Daniel Campbell,
Secondary authors: Paige Cardenaz, Zachery Fiduccia, Brandon Gordon, Kirsten Schmidt, Hannah Slaga-Schwarz, Christopher Wagenknecht, Amanda Quick, Lauren Isaacson and Diane Jess.
 
Deaf, Blind, or Deaf/Blind Dogs: Disabled and Worthless or Disabled and Wonderful? Part II: Behavioral Assessment
Authors: Daniel Campbell and Amanda Quick Faculty mentor: Valeri Farmer-Dougan
 
Deaf, Blind, or Deaf/Blind Dogs: Disabled and Worthless or Disabled and Wonderful?
Author: Amanda Quick, Psychology​

Media Coverage:

 

Gone to the Dogs: ISU students help get impaired canines ready for adoption

 

NORMAL — You might say Valeri Farmer-Dougan’s rat lab has gone to the dogs.

But that’s good for her psychology students, not to mention the dogs themselves.

Now, instead of learning how to train a rat to run through a maze, Illinois State University students are learning how to use behavior modification techniques to train dogs from animal rescue organizations.

“What’s great about working with the dogs is you can make them more adoptable. They help us out and we can help them, too,” said Kellie Swoboda, a senior from Cary.

And these aren’t just regular strays from a shelter. Several have hearing or vision impairments that give students additional challenges.

Farmer-Dougan used to teach a traditional “rat lab.”

But the rat lab was “getting prohibitively expensive” at $40 per rat plus $5 a week to care for them, she said. So in late 2010, as she started working with foster dogs that had hearing and vision disabilities, Farmer-Dougan got an idea: “I don’t have enough time to work with my dogs and my students need something to do.”

So it was that the Canine Behavior Lab was born.

The dogs come from Wish Bone Canine Rescue and Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest.

The lab is a hit with her students, all of whom are psychology majors. Many of the students miss pets they left at home and “they get their dog fix” at the lab, Farmer-Dougan said.

But it’s more than that.

“I’ve learned a lot about how to apply what I’ve learned in other classes,” said Jade Kestian, a junior from Normal.

Adds Swoboda, “In a lot of our classes, we learn about behavioral theories, but here you get to use it.”

The students learn to use functional analysis and various methods for training and communication — “skills they can use as clinicians,” Farmer-Dougan said. “The students really have to stretch themselves.”

The training starts with basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay” and “down,” said Farmer-Dougan, a professor in the Psychology Department and the School of Biological Sciences.

Then they train the dogs to walk through crowds or around other dogs without misbehaving.

“We also work on tricks — cute things that can help make the dog more adoptable,” she said.

Caiti Hernrott, Wish Bone’s foster coordinator, said the program has been very helpful, especially in socializing the dogs and getting them used to being around other people and dogs.

With deaf dogs, the students use hand signals. For example, showing the back of the hand to mean stay.

Jordan Jolly, a senior from Normal, explained that the hand signals or motions are paired with action until the dog makes the connection. He was so successful in teaching Moe to sit that the hand signal is no longer needed.

“You just sit and he sits,” Jolly said.

Now he is working on having Moe spin in circles.

This mimicry can serve another purpose.

“Imitation is really critical to learning,” said Farmer-Dougan, but some youngsters with autism do not like to imitate others.

She is hoping to take Moe to The Autism Place at ISU this summer to work with young children with autism — who often relate better to animals such as dogs than to people. If she can get the children to use imitation to have to dog react in a certain way, the children may become more comfortable learning their own skills through imitation, Farmer-Dougan theorizes.

 

On the Web

- Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest:  www.aussierescueil.com

- Wish Bone Canine Rescue: www.wishbonecaninerescue.org

 

Family fosters impaired dogs

NORMAL — When Valeri Farmer-Dougan’s youngest daughter came home urging her mother to adopt a dog in need of a home, it was a scene played out in homes across the country — except for one thing.

“She’s deaf like me,” her daughter, Lyssa Dougan, said.

Farmer-Dougan couldn’t say no and Miss Zoomba became part of the family.

Since then, Farmer-Dougan has adopted or been a foster “parent” to numerous dogs, many of which have been deaf and sometimes vision impaired.

Australian shepherds are at higher risk of inheriting hearing and vision problems when two “merle” dogs are bred, leading to excessive white coloration around the head, according to the Australian Shepherd Club of America.

But “we want to show that the dogs are salvageable,” Farmer-Dougan said.

David Thurman, president of Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest, which is based in Washington, said before Farmer-Dougan started her program, the organization was hesitant to take in many of the dogs with hearing or vision impairments because there weren’t enough people who understood how to train and socialize them.

In many cases, they were mistreated by people who did not recognize the problem or know how to handle it, Thurman said.

One example is Keller, a deaf and blind Australian shepherd who now lives with Farmer-Dougan. The first 10 months of his life, Keller was boarded with little human contact, Farmer-Dougan said.

“It took us two hours to get him in the house that first night,” she said. “Now he lives in a house with five other dogs.”

Because 17-month-old Keller can’t hear or see, he is trained by touch, Farmer-Dougan explained. Plus, “his nose works,” so, “we use peanut butter (as a training reward) because he can smell it.”

Kellie Swoboda, a senior from Cary, used the smell of the peanut butter on a spoon to get Keller to follow the scent and lie down at the same time she used touch to get him to understand what behavior was wanted.

“These dogs are ambassadors … showing the capabilities of these dogs,” Farmer-Dougan said.

 

 

AdTech Ad 
  Man's Best Friend Digging up Psychological Discoveries at ISU

By Kim Behrens

NORMAL- Blind and deaf dogs with nowhere to turn are now showing up in class at Illinois State University.

While the session gives pooches playtime, it's also teaching dogs who are blind and deaf some valuable lessons.

"I think this class clearly shows that all dogs deserve a chance to live and they deserve a chance to live fully and they can do that with training," said Sasha Kaplan. Kaplan is a psych major. She and other students are shaping canine habits, to exhibit positive behaviors.

"You must make the response in order to earn the treat," explained Psychology Professor Valeri Farmer-Dougan. Instead of reading behavioral theories in textbooks, students are able to try them out.

Prior to last year, they used to train rats, but it left one big question..."What to do with a rat at the end of the semester?  Because once the students trained it, what are you going to do with it?" explained Farmer-Dougan. So the class chose to use rescue dogs instead.

But they're quickly learning just like people, all pups are not the same."Since each of these dogs is so individualized, they have to take those theories that they've learned and apply the techniques in a little bit different way for each animal," said Farmer-Dougan.

The point of the exercises is pretty simple.  Teach the dog to do a command like, "Stand Up," and they get a treat. 

But the benefit isn't just for the pooch."Hopefully they'll get adopted," said Kaplan.

"When you adopt a dog that we've worked with the dog comes to you knowing how to sit down and stay," added Farmer-Dougan.

A psychological lesson that's giving these pets a new lease on life.


Extra Credit:

The dogs also work with autistic children who have trouble mimicking behaviors.

Research shows if the child can teach a dog to obey commands, often times they'll do the same.

IF you're interested in adopting one of these pets, call 309-438-4554.​​​Updated: February 6, 2013




 

From the ISU Report, 1/14/2013

Communicating with special needs dogs

photo of dogA quiet whine emanated from a room in the Felmley Hall Annex. It wasn’t a student struggling with finals, but the sound of one of the stars of the Department of Psychology’s Canine Behavior Laboratory.

 

“That’s a good girl,” said Professor of Psychology Valeri Farmer-Dougan as she fed a quick treat to an impatient Australian Shepherd named Olivia. Scratching gingerly under the dog’s chin, she pointed out the red around her azure-colored eyes. “She can see a little bit out of her left eye, but the right one never developed,” she added, giving the dog an extra, loving pat.

Olivia is one of several dogs helping students implement psychology theories that Farmer-Dougan teaches during lectures. “It’s one thing to learn ideas in class, and quite another to put them into practice,” she said.

Farmer-Dougan brings in five or six dogs twice a week for the lab. All of the dogs are rescue dogs, either from Wish Bone Rescue, which takes dogs from high-kill shelters in Illinois, or the Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest, which saves endangered members of the breed. Students work to train the dogs, who all need some extra guidance before they are adopted.



photo of special needs dogsMost of the dogs have disabilities, such as Keller who is blind and deaf. Keller is known as a “lethal white,” meaning he has a double dose of a gene that drained the  color in his coat, and also left him without hearing or sight.


     “The American Kennel Club recommends euthanizing all ‘lethal whites,’ because they think they cannot be trained,” said Farmer-Dougan, her voice tinged in disgust. “Dogs with disabilities learn just as easily as other dogs, but people have no idea how to train them.” She tapped Keller lightly on his back, and he sat obediently.

Farmer-Dougan has been incorporating animals into her labs for years. Her work has been honored with a University Outstanding Teaching Award in 2001, a College of Arts and Science Teaching Award in 1999 and several Psychology Faculty of the Year awards. This semester, however, is the first foray for rescue dogs. The goal is for   the students to learn how to communicate with the dogs while teaching them basic skills. Their work is making the dogs more adoptable. So far this semester, the class has helped place 28 dogs in permanent homes.

“What we learn here is not just about dogs. We learn patience and persistence,” said Jakkie Johnson, a senior psychology major working with LaHoya, a deaf boxer. 

photo of dog roxie

Johnson has trained LaHoya basic commands by way of hand signals. “Bang!” Johnson said to the massive dog, pointing her fingers in the shape of a gun. Slowly, LaHoya rolled to the ground to play dead. “This is one of his favorite tricks,” said Johnson, smiling as she fed the prone dog a treat. “I think it is because he gets to lie 

down.” 


Rescue dogs came into Farmer-Dougan’s life several years ago when she fostered and then adopted Zoomba. She now has two Australian rescues, Zoomba, who is 

deaf, and Moe, who is deaf and has low vision. She also fosters Olivia and Keller. All are part of the lab team.

 

Keller meandered closer to Roxie, a brown pit bull who barked a warning. “Guide her out of that, Terry,” Farmer-Dougan instructed to senior Terry Coughlin, who distracted Roxie from Keller’s approach. “Look at me, Roxie. Look at me,” he said calmly, rewarding the dog with a pat when she turned her head his way.

Farmer-Dougan believes lessons from the lab translate easily to psychology. “One of the best lessons the students learn is not to judge,” said Farmer-Dougan, whose own daughter suffers from hearing loss. Students are heeding the lesson. “One of my students made the connection, saying the prejudices these dogs face are similar to those of people with a mental illness. Society assumes that someone with schizophrenia will act a certain way, or that people are the way they are because of ‘insert-mental-illness here.’ Breaking down those barriers is what we do here.”

Olivia trotted up to Farmer-Dougan, looking for a treat. “High-five, Olivia,” she said, holding out her hand. Dutifully, the dog touched paw to hand. “The shelter where she was had her scheduled for destruction because she was supposed to be ferocious and aggressive,” she said. “I’ve yet to see either.”


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