What Is a Dog? The Ethology of Our Best Friend

  • Overview

  • Required

  • Schedule

  • Prerequisites

  • CEUs & Pricing

  • About Your Instructor

Course Begins: July 8, 2024

Duration: 4 weeks

Instructor: Kristina Spaulding, PhD, CAAB

Course type: Instructed Course


  • Auditors do not attend online meetings
  • Meetings are not recorded
  • Meetings take place on Mondays at 1:00 pm Eastern (first meeting July 15th)
  • Meetings are 1 hour in duration
  • There are 4 meetings for this course


Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behavior under natural conditions. In short, it’s the study of how animals behave in the real world. 


This course takes a deep dive into our understanding of dogs as a species, and therefore how we live with them and train them, how they learn, and how we can best solve behavioral issues if they arise. 


To address these questions we will consider:

  • The interplay between canine domestication, evolution, and behavior
  • Development in dogs: birth through adulthood
  • The perceptual world of the dog and how it impacts behavior
  • How dogs approach and solve problems in their environment
  • The role of genetics in behavior
  • The behavior of free-ranging dogs 


You will come away from this course with an even deeper appreciation and wonder for these amazing animals we live with. You’ll never look at dogs—or dog training—quite the same way again.

Recommended Textbook: Dog Behaviour, Evolution and Cognition Revised 2nd Edition.


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


Full Students must review all course materials, attend the four weekly class meetings, and complete quizzes and discussion questions. Students who miss more than one meeting or homework assignment will not receive credit for the course.

Full Students should expect to spend an average of 2 hours per week on course material and viewing, depending on individual speed of learning and the week’s materials.

This is a 4-week instructor-led course. Each week includes a recorded lecture and a scheduled live discussion (Full Students only).

Students will have access to the course material for 1 year from the date of their most recent IAABC Foundation purchase.

Week 1 -

▪What is ethology? ▪What is the natural environment of the domestic dog? ▪Free-ranging dog behavior ▪Domestication and its impact on behavior ▪Summary of wild canid behavior and why it is important for understanding domestic dog behavior

Week 2 -

▪Social organization of canids ▪Establishment and maintenance of group stability ▪Dominance hierarchies in dogs ▪Perception and how it influences behavior ▪Integration of multiple modes of perception ▪Perceptual capability of dogs

Week 3 -

▪Sleep ▪Sensitive periods ▪Developmental timeline ▪Socialization ▪Cognitive development

Week 4 -

▪Problem-solving skills and their function ▪Navigation in dogs ▪Genetics and behavior ▪Heritability ▪Breeding ▪Genetic studies

There are no prerequisites for this course. However, the Fundamentals of Ethology course provides a broad general background in ethology which would be helpful for understanding the material in this course on a deeper level.

Full Student:


Cost: $300



Cost: $180

Cancellation Policy: We will refund 90% up to 30 days pre-event. A 50% refund will be available up to 15 days pre-event. After these deadlines, no refunds will be issued.

Instructor: Kristina Spaulding, PhD, CAAB

Dr. Kristina Spaulding has been in the dog training and behavior profession since 1999. She earned her undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in college, she worked for the Dane County Humane Society and volunteered as an assistant trainer at Dog’s Best Friend, then owned by Dr. Patricia McConnell. She runs Science Matters Academy of Animal Behavior LLC. She completed her PhD in biopsychology—the study of the biological basis of behavior—in 2016. In 2017, Dr. Spaulding became a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. She is particularly interested in stress, neurobiology, cognition, emotion, and wellbeing and how to apply these concepts to the prevention and early intervention of behavior problems in dogs.


Dr. Spaulding has a passion for teaching and offers a variety of online courses and webinars on the science of behavior. During graduate school she taught undergraduate courses for several years. She was trained in innovative and effective teaching skills through the Institute for Teaching, Learning, and Academic Leadership and the University at Albany. In 2012, Dr. Spaulding received the Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student Award through the local chapter of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. In 2019, Dr. Spaulding received the Association of Professional Dog Trainer’s (APDT’s) Member of the Year Award. 


In addition to teaching other professionals, she regularly presents on canine behavior science at conferences and other events. She also continues to work with private training clients where she specializes in fear, reactivity, and hyperactivity/impulsivity. She currently serves on the IAABC Foundation Board and the Fear Free Advisory group.