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Fundamentals of Animal Behavior and Learning

"That there could be a science of behavior, of what we do, of who we are?
How could you resist that?"

– Donald M. Baer

Course Information Register

Course begins: July 25th, 2021
Duration: 4 weeks
Instructor: JoAnna Platzer, B.Sc.
Video Lectures by Dr. Erica Feuerbacher

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Registration Information

Auditor Full Student
Member Cost $139* $219*
Non-Member Cost $159** $259

*IAABC Members - log into your member account for the discount code

**Non-Member Auditor Coupon Code P1748083977

About the Course

This course will help you:

  • Think scientifically about animal training and behavior consulting for all species.
  • Understand and break training into component principles.
  • Understand environmental events that maintain behavior.
  • Increase your ability to be humane and effective.
  • Understand how labels such as "aggressive" or "submissive" cloud our thinking and our work.
  • Consider what we are describing when we say an animal is "confident," "creative," "a problem solver," and how we should approach those learners.
  • See the common principles at play in different animals & species.
  • Become a more effective and humane trainer by cutting through the jargon and directly assessing behavior.

Course Activities, Objectives, & Assessment

Online Lectures: Each week there will be several short videos (10-20 minutes each; typically 60-90 minutes total per week) that will discuss the topics for that week.

Online Readings with Reading Guides: Each week you will have a scientific reading with a guide to help you navigate the reading. The paper will exemplify the principles being discussed that week.

Online Assignments: During Weeks 1-3, you will have 1-2 short online assignments each week. Some of these will entail you giving an example and then giving feedback on examples provided by a few of your fellow students.

Online posts: During Weeks 2-4 you will post two questions, comments or reflections relevant to the material from the previous week to the discussion forum. You will also respond to at least two of your fellow students' posts from that week (= total of four posts per week). Your questions and responses will be graded based on their thoughtfulness and completeness.

Final Project: During Week 4, you will complete a final project/paper in which you will synthesize the topics covered to cohesively analyze and scientifically critique publicly available training videos and handouts.


This course is a beginner class, but a basic understanding of the operant quadrants is recommended/helpful. This information is taught in Week 1 so the pre-requisite is not mandatory, it will simply make Week 1 less intense for new learners.

Class Schedule

This four-week course will begin on the specified start date. The first three weeks will explore the scope of the course. There will be no new content in the fourth week which is reserved for completing final projects, discussion and synthesizing the course content. Students will have access to the course material for 60 days after the course ends.

Course Completion/CEU Requirements

Auditors must review all course material. This will be verified in the Learning Management System.

Full Students must carry out the reading assignments listed in the syllabus before class (first class not included), complete all assignments, check email and visit the learning site regularly (at least once a day) to check in on the discussion group. Students should expect to spend an average of 4-5 hours per week on course material and viewing, depending on individual speed of learning and the week's materials.

Online Course Cancellation Policy

  • Full refunds available more than 30 days before program start.
  • 50% refund available 16 - 30 days before program start.
  • No refunds available 15 or fewer days before program start.

About the Instructors

JoAnna Platzer, B.Sc., CPDT-KAJoAnna Platzer, B.Sc., CPDT-KA, is a Doctoral Candidate in the Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare lab at Virginia Tech under Dr. Erica Feuerbacher. She attended the University of Florida where she majored in Zoology with an emphasis on animal behavior. After graduation, she participated in research on site fidelity of Mockingbirds with the University of Florida, social behavior of Fairy-wrens with Cornell University, and comparative cognition of canines with Yale University. She has worked as a professional dog trainer and has experience in zoos and conservancies, where she was involved in training exotic animal species for enrichment and low-stress husbandry. Her current research focuses on the impact of fostering programs on shelter dog welfare, reinforcer efficacy of different types of grain for horses, and behavioral synchronization between dogs and their owners.


Erica Feuerbacher, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CPDT-KAErica Feuerbacher, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CPDT-KA is an Assistant Professor of Anthrozoology at Carroll College in Helena, MT, where she leads the canine program in which students train foster dogs during the academic year. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Florida under the advisorship of Dr. Clive Wynne in the UF Canine Cognition and Behavior Lab (now part of the Canine Science Collaboratory) and her Masters in Behavior Analysis in the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies under the advisorship of Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz.

She has published a variety of scientific articles of her research on learning theory and the dog-human relationship. She has taught Principles of Behavior Analysis, Behaviorism in Contemporary Society, Learning and Cognition, Basic and Advanced Canine Training, Research Methods, and General Psychology at the college level. She has earned several awards for her behavior analytic research and her dedication to the theoretical foundations of behavior analysis. Her research interests center on dog-human social interactions, canine welfare, and enhancing humane, effective training techniques.


If you have questions, email us at courses@iaabcfoundation.org.

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