UWSP  Psychology Dept.  Dr. P's Place 

Canine Behavior - PSY275 (Sec. 1)
Dr. M. Plonsky - Spring, 2018
(Last update 1/10/18).
Class meets Wednesdays from 4:00-6:30 p.m. in Sci-D224.

Please bookmark this page, print it, & use it as a reference throughout the semester.
While it may be modified, you will be notified if it is through announcements in class and/or email.

Course Description - goals, readings, attendance (& notes), grading, expectations, additional issues, contact info.
Tentative Class Schedule
Grade Postings (Grading Code Collection Form - please fill out during the first week of class).

Course Description
From the catalog course description, the course will deal with the "evolution, history, sensory abilities, social behavior, learning and methods of dog training. Behavior problems and ways dogs work with and help people." Thus, the goal of the course will be to gain an understanding of canine behavior with the primary emphasis on dogs. The scientific perspective will be stressed, since it is how I was trained. However, I also have a great deal of respect for folks working in the field, that is, trainers who most often have little knowledge of science. We will employ multimedia lectures, discussion, videos, & demonstrations.

These days, educational institutions talk about Learning Outcomes which are descriptions of what students should be able to know and do following a particular course or program. Thus, some specific learning outcomes for this course will be for you to be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast different perspectives employed in studying and understanding canine behavior.
  2. Explain how evolution is relevant to understanding dogs.  Or, in other words, differentiate between theories regarding how the dog was transformed from a predatory wolf to our “best friend”.
  3. Identify and describe different ways in which canines can be trained.

There are two required books that are available in the college bookstore listed below. In addition, I have provided some articles that I have written that are pointed to in the tentative schedule below. Finally, I may also provide a few relevant articles over the semester via email.

  1. Lindsay, S. R. (2000). Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training. Volume 1: Adaptation and Learning. IA: Iowa State University Press.
  2. McConnell, P. B. (2003). The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs (Paperback). NY: Ballintine Books.

According to the university Attendance Policy, you are to "Attend all your classes regularly". While I do not formally take attendance, it is unlikely that you will do well in the course if your attendance is poor. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is due to the fact that the exams include some material only presented during class sessions. Second, I believe that in class discussion of the material is necessary to gain the level of understanding of the material required.

If you miss a class, it will be to your benefit to find out what occurred during that class from a classmate. Most of the text for multimedia slides used in lecture are available below in a format that can be read by most word processors. I recommend printing these (in whatever manner you find most useful) and bringing them to class prior to the coverage of the material.

1-st Quarter 2-nd Quarter 3-rd Quarter 4-th Quarter

History & Biology
Basic Training Concepts (web)

Dog "Work"

Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
More Learning Theory
An outline of the contents of the Lindsay text,which includes a more detailed description
of what to place emphasis on when reading, is available. An outline of the McConnell text,
which includes a listing of the topics in each chapter, is also available. These outlines along
with the text of the lectures provided above comprises the study guide for the class.


What I expect from you:

  1. To agree to study this syllabus carefully (ASAP) & refer to it when questions arise about the class.
  2. To acknowledge that effort, by itself, is not enough to justify a worthy grade. In other words, you are graded primarily on the merit of your performance in the class rather than the amount of effort you put into the class.
  3. To acknowledge that previous academic preparation (e.g., biology, math, etc.) matters. Those who are better prepared are likely to do better in the class.
  4. To attend class & give your full attention to the material, as well as conduct yourself in an appropriate manner (e.g., not having personal conversations during lectures or performing other activities that disrupt the class). As noted earlier, I believe class discussion to be a necessary ingredient for the class to accomplish its goals. Thus, if class participation is not forthcoming, I will call on people at random.
  5. To meet the obligations of the course (e.g., reading, assignments, etc.) and not make excuses for your failure to do so.
  6. To treat everyone in class, including the professor, with respect.
  7. To check your university email account several times each week. I will make announcements via this medium.
  8. To not plagiarize or otherwise steal the work of others.
  9. To understand & adhere to your Rights & Responsibilities as a UWSP student.
  10. To turn off or silence cell phones when in class.

What you can expect from me:

  1. To manage the class in a professional manner. This may include educating you in appropriate classroom behavior. While I am quite tolerant of inattentiveness, I am not at all tolerant of disruptive behaviors.
  2. To prepare carefully for each class & begin & end it on time.
  3. To try to learn your name (if class size permits) & to recognize your individuality & treat you with respect, as well as to be honest with you. I apologize in advance for being bad with remembering names.
  4. To treat all students equally. Thus, I will not discriminate on the basis of your identity, appearance, gender, race, creed, color, viewpoints, disability, whether I like you or not, or anything else.
  5. To have 3 office hours each week during which you are welcome to stop by (no appointment necessary). See contact info for more detail.
  6. To give grades primarily based on the quality of your work.
  7. To check your university email account several times each week. I will make announcements via this medium.
  8. To be honest about what I know. If I do not know something, I will say so (and then I will probably look it up).
  9. To treat any plagiarism, cheating, or other violations of academic integrity harshly.
  10. To silence my cell phone when in class.


My office is located in Science B-341. I will have office hours Tuesdays from 12:15-1:15 p.m., Wednesdays from 3-4:00 p.m., and Thursdays from 1-2:00 p.m. (or you can arrange to see me by appointment at some other mutually convenient time). Note that my office hours do NOT require an appointment. If my door is closed, please knock. You can see a visual of my schedule here. You can reach me at 346-3961 (and please leave a message if I am not available) or through electronic mail at mplonsky@uwsp.edu. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

When sending me an email, please following the directions below carefully. It will ensure a more timely and relevant response from me. I typically reply within 1-2 business days.

  1. Use the “Subject:” line. It should summarize the point of the email in a couple of words.
  2. Tell me which class is involved. I typically teach 3 classes & have about 100-250 students each semester.
  3. Write professionally. In other words, use whole words and sentences, unlike texting where you might use the minimal amount of letters you can get away with. A worthy website regarding this issue is Netiquette by C. Pirillo.

Tentative Class Schedule

Barring illness on my part or other such unforeseen emergencies, we will stick with this schedule. If changes are necessary they will be announced in class and via email.

Lindsay McConnell Articles
1 1/24 Orientation Foreword & Introduction Intro Basic Training Concepts,
The Training Log
2 1/31 Science c. 1 c.1 Science & Dog Training
3 2/7 History p. 167-177, 190-193, 364-367. c.2  
4 2/14 Biology c. 3 (at least p. 74-76). c.3  
  EXAM 1
5 2/21 Perception c. 4 c.4 Canine Vision
6 2/28 Communication p. 156-160, 331, 367, 374-381. c.5 Common Commands
7 3/7 Dog "Work"    " c.6 Sch Summary
AKC Obed:
Novice, Open, & Utility
8 3/14 Breeds p. 23-30, 187-188, 193-195.    
  EXAM 2
9 3/21 Development
c .2, p. 186, 188-190, 222, 269-272. c.7  
-- Spring Break --
10 4/4 Aggression    " c.8  
11 4/11 Equipment p. 308-309, 315-316. c.9 Review of Ecollar
Pager Feature
  EXAM 3
12 4/18 Classical Cond. c. 6, p. 256. c.10  
13 4/25    "      
14 5/2 Operant Cond. c. 7 & 8   Confusing Consequences &
15 5/9    " p. 178-183, 342-344, 347-348.   OC Paradigms
5/18-Fr EXAM 4 (12:30-1:30 p.m.).
NOTE: The exam is only 1 hour, rather than from 12:30-2:30 p.m. as indicated in the timetable.

UWSP Psychology Dept. Dr. P's Place Comments? mplonsky@uwsp.edu.