Sit, Heel, Stay…and Study: SUNY College Goes to the Dogs

The nation’s first four-year program in canine training and management has arrived

By Matt. A.V. Chaban
March 20, 2019 2:26 p.m. ET

Far from the rebuilt towers of lower Manhattan, on the bucolic 900-acre campus of SUNY Cobleskill, the state’s agricultural and technical college, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are still playing out.

There, Dobermans, Labradors, German shepherds and mutts of all stripes and spots are learning and fussing alongside their student handlers, hoping to meet the needs of a dog-training industry that is growing like a litter of rambunctious puppies. The students’ work is certainly in demand in pampered homes, but also on the front lines.

“The number of pets kept in households, I wouldn’t say it’s skyrocketing, but it’s been increasing,” said Dr. Stephen A. Mackenzie, a Cobleskill professor, director of the canine-training program and a certified master trainer. “And even more so, since 9/11, the dog industry has been overwhelmed by the need for working animals and people who can handle them.”

Whether to meet the growing demands of bomb squads, airport security or persnickety owners who treat their rescues like royalty, SUNY Cobleskill—short for State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill—announced earlier this month that it will expand its existing canine curriculum into a dedicated bachelor’s degree in Canine Training and Management. Administrators believe it is the first such bachelor’s program within an accredited college or university.

“I searched the nation for another that we could borrow from, and I never found any,” Dr. Mackenzie said.

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