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NMSU students to host dog and cat behavior symposium Dec. 1

Students in the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences will host a symposium to assist owners with dog and cat behavior issues from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, in the O?Donnell Hall main entrance foyer.


The students are hosting the event as part of their companion animal behavior and training class in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. They will present posters with information regarding methods to positively modify certain behaviors in dogs and cats.

Gaylene Fasenko, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences and instructor for the class, said many dogs and cats are relinquished to animal shelters due to behavior issues.

?The numerous health and wellness benefits that companion animals bring to our lives are tremendous, but with the ownership of a dog or cat comes great responsibility,? Fasenko said. ?Most people do not understand that many of the dog and cat behaviors they find annoying are natural behaviors. Behaviors such as cats scratching are necessary as a normal part of a cat?s health and wellness, but we do not appreciate it when our feline friends use our Italian leather sofa as their personal scratching post!?

Fasenko, who holds a doctorate in physiology, also said that certain methods used to change an animal?s behavior often damage the bond between the owner and the animal and that such methods may not provide lasting results.

?In our quick-fix society, well-meaning pet parents often turn to training tools or training methods that promise fast results,? she said. ?One of the main things students in this class learn is that there is science behind dog and cat behavior and training, and we should look to scientific research for answers.?

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has refuted outdated methods such as the ?dominance theory.? On the contrary, the AVSAB advocates positive training methods.

For the past three years, student teams in the class have helped people positively modify their dog?s or cat?s behavior problems. The students get hands-on experience working with ?clients? to solve a real life issue, while the companion animal owners receive the help they need to improve the bond with their dog or cat.

Some of the case studies by students in the class include dogs that are aggressive toward other dogs or people, cats eliminating outside of their litter box and separation anxiety behaviors in dogs and cats.

Statistics from the American Pet Products Association show that 54.4 million households in the United States own a dog, and 42.9 million households own a cat. While the U.S. expenditures on pets have increased from $17 billion in 1994 to $58 billion in 2014, people still struggle with training their companion animals.

Fasenko said an important objective of the class is showing students that sharing the knowledge they gain can help others in the community.

?Education is a privilege, and with privilege comes the responsibility to help others,? she said. ?NMSU is a land-grant university, and public service is part of our mandate. It is important for students at NMSU to see that what they learn has real-life application and that they, too, can make a positive difference.?

The family-friendly symposium is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. A few friendly dogs will be available for children to pet. Positive companion animal training tools and resources will be displayed, and student teams will present their animal behavior case study posters.

For more information, please contact Fasenko at 575-646-3402.