Pups serve with ‘Golden Heart’
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 08:10
Hidden away on West Virginia University’s Animal Science Campus in a small, nondescript barn is a class that brings students closer to man’s best friend.
The Hearts of Gold program, in conjunction with the University’s service dog training course, provides a valuable service to the community, as well as hands on behavior training, for students by allowing students to train service dogs for the community.
"The draw for the class is that the students get to spend a lot of time with the dogs, but they also learn the basic principles of behavior," said Dr. Anne Foreman, a professor in the program. "So, in the proses of teaching dogs, they also learn about the properties of learning in all animals."
Foreman was drawn to this course because of her work toward her Ph.D.
"I got my Ph.D. in the behavior analysis program at WVU, and so I have always been interested in learning and behavior," she said.
She also feels the dynamics of the course allow for personal learning.
"I enjoy the opportunity to teach lots of students with a small teacher to student ratio as opposed to teaching a giant survey class."
Emily Chapman, a teacher’s assistant for the course, spoke about her experience with the class.
"I love dogs. I’ve never had any formal training pertaining to dog training, so that was one of the most interesting aspects of it," she said. "It’s a very relaxed class , there isn’t a whole lot of pressure, and it’s more interesting than some other electives."
Hearts of Gold raises, trains and places dogs to assist people with disabilities.
The certified mobility assistant dogs can perform a number of different commands after the two year program.
Andrew Greenbaum, a senior psychology major, is partnered with a dog named dog Dalik, or "Dally." Dally demonstrated a few commands, including sit, turn and speak.
Dally also picked up a set of keys from the floor – a common skill required of service dogs.
"I think it started out as a class that you get to play with dogs, and then I started finding out the parallels between this and other psychology courses I’m taking right now with learning and behavior," Greenbaum said.
"You see real, tangible results as a result of the training, with the ultimate goal that hopefully these dogs will get place with somebody they can help."
He said he believes students should apply early for the course.
"I would recommend anybody to take it. It’s hard to get into because there is a big rush to get into it," he said.
To learn more about Hearts of Gold, visit http://www.humananimalbond.org/heartsofgold.
To learn more about service dog training at WVU, visit http://davis.wvu.edu.