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University of Wisconsin is now offering a class called Animal Behavior

University of Wisconsin is now offering a class called Animal Behavior
University of Wisconsin is now offering a class called Animal Behavior 02:33

WISCONSIN -- Students at one University of Wisconsin campus can now take a class that's for the dogs. 

It's called Animal Behavior, and it's all about figuring out how smart man's best friend actually is. More than 20 University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire students are getting the chance to work with dogs. 

One of the goals of the class is to see how dogs process information. That's something students like Tia Ravara are hoping to use with their own pet. 

"My family is trying to get my dog to become a service dog, so using these tests would be really helpful in knowing how to train my dog and putting my knowledge and experiments in science into training my own little dog at home," said Ravara.

As part of these tests, 35 to 40 dogs try to find treats under certain conditions. 

Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Smith is the professor behind the class, and she said, "We look at four different levels of cognition. The first is pretty simple. We put a treat in a bucket, and we ask whether a dog can see us doing that and go to the correct bucket. Each of them is set up as a choice test, so they have three buckets and they have to choose the right one."

She also said that each test is a bit different, and they look at aspects of how dogs understand the world around them. Her favorite one is where a person points to the bucket with the treat. 

"A lot of dogs that have a high pack drive or prey drive or are working dogs often look at an owner and then go directly to solve that task. It turns out that those dogs are better than chimpanzees at recognizing how well humans communicate to each other," said Smith. 

When all the tests are completed, Smith's students will take the data they collect and try to answer questions. They come up with questions like the impact that age has on how well a dog performs. 

For those who train dogs, like Heather Mishefske, the owner of Embark, they're excited for what these kinds of insight into our 4-legged friends can mean for working with them. 

Mishefske said, "I think it's so good to be able to kind of have some information on how dogs learn so we can look at training in a different light so we understand our learner a little better."

By doing that, we might just be able to answer the question "how smart is your dog?"

This is the first year the class has been offered. According to Smith, she wants to include more dogs next year. 

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