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NMSU students to present animal behavior, training postersNew Mexico State University Companion Animal Behavior and Training Class will host a poster display event Dec. 1.

  • By Kristie Garcia
Group of five people and one dog
Does your dog jump on people? Does your cat dart out the front door as soon as it’s opened? If so, you may want to attend the New Mexico State University Companion Animal Behavior and Training Class poster display from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. The event is free to the public and will be held in the Tejada Building, located at 3005 Knox Street, southwest of Gerald Thomas Hall. Students have been working all semester on helping community members correct their dogs’ and cats’ behavioral problems. Gaylene Fasenko, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences and instructor for the class, said the end goal is to engage the students with the community. “I want students to know they can apply what they learned to the real world and can help someone by paying it forward with their knowledge,” Fasenko said. “The goal is to show students that what they do in class means something, and that it’s not just memorizing and regurgitating information.” At the beginning of the semester, Fasenko advertised to the NMSU community and beyond that the class was seeking participants to serve as clients for the students. Specifically, the students were required to work with owners of companion animals with behavioral problems. The students formed six teams, and each team was assigned to a client. Five groups worked with a dog, and one group worked with a cat. This was the first year clients outside of NMSU were selected. “We tried to get both dogs and cats with different behaviors,” Fasenko said. “All semester long the students have been researching and working on the particular behavior issue, making suggestions to the clients. All of this culminates now in a poster presentation.” The poster display format will be that of a scienctific presentation but will be public-friendly. The students will stand near their poster displays and will be ready to answer questions from attendees. Members of Aggie P.A.W. (Partners for Assistance through Work), an NMSU student club interested in service and working dogs, will be in attendance. Representatives from local rescues and other companion animal organizations, such as Therapaws, will also attend. Therapaw dogs visit the university to de-stress students during exam time. Many types of dog and cat training tools, toys and treats will be on hand so Fasenko and others may show pet owners how to use them. Students agree this class is a confidence builder and will help prepare them for their future. Animal science major Cheyenne Eldridge said the class will help with her plan to become a veterinarian. “This class has helped me to understand major visual cues for companion animals, as well as proper training techniques,” Eldridge said. “I feel that this class will be very beneficial in that field to help me understand how to be a better veterinarian and be able help my future clients to know how to handle their pets in different situations.” Aside from building confidence, student Sean Robinson said the class and project help educate people about companion animals’ capabilities. Robinson, a disabled veteran who has a service dog for mobility and sensory tasks, said education about how companion animals can assist in the recovery and quality of life for humans is a need that has been neglected for a long time. “These classes are enlightening and encouraging to me to see that the university is finally taking this seriously,” Robinson said. “The more we educate people on how animals can not only interact with us but become a vital support and contributor to society, the better I think we all will be.” Robinson is an individual studies major focusing on counseling and educational psychology. Like Robinson, animal science major and human-animal interaction minor Aliah Clever said she values educating the general public about companion animals through this class and project. “My hope is that we can educate people about the things that we have learned in this class,” Clever said. “I think our project will help people in the community to learn more about positive training methods and that training your dog or cat doesn't have to be a chore, it can actually be fun for both of you.” Jacqueline Estrada, a psychology major and an HAI minor like Clever, said she’s gained more confidence from the hands-on experience. “This class and project have allowed me to use my own training skills and be hands-on with the client that we are helping,” Estrada said. “It is helping me prepare to use my training skills in the real world.” The HAI minor that Clever and Estrada have chosen is new to the university. Students who select HAI as their minor field of study focus on canine and feline species. The minor is intended to augment the academic path for students who plan to pursue a career in animal science, as well as human health and wellness fields, such as criminal justice, early childhood education, special education, occupational therapy, psychology, social work or family and consumer sciences. Fasenko hopes that this is the first of many companion animal events at the Tejada Building, which is a new location for the poster displays. The companion animal program has been temporarily granted the use of a large space inside the building. “We are in the process of cleaning out the space, and we hope to use it to start some research and outreach programs,” Fasenko said. “We also hope to develop relationships with donors to help fund the companion animal space and program through an NMSU Foundation account.” For more information about the student poster display, please contact Fasenko at 575-646-3402 or Anyone interested in donating to the companion animal program should make checks payable to NMSU Foundation and indicate the Companion Animal Fund in the memo line. Checks may be mailed to P.O. Box 3590, Las Cruces, NM 88003. For more information, contact the NMSU Foundation office at 575-646-1613.