Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Poster Session #82
AAB Poster Session 1
Saturday, May 26, 2012
5:00 PM–7:00 PM
Exhibit Hall 4AB (Convention Center)

Maintaining Oral Syringe Training With Captive Animals

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
EMILIE J. ANDERSON (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Husbandry procedures with captive animals are important for their daily management, health, and welfare. While most husbandry training involves positive reinforcement, some husbandry procedures occasionally result in aversive consequences. For example, oral syringe acceptance must commonly be retrained after dosing with medication. However, it is unclear whether such dosing is punishing due to flavor novelty or the animals flavor preferences. The present study assessed the effect of novel and non-preferred flavors on oral syringe acceptance in four captive animals: two ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and two capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). A free operant (capybara) or paired-choice (ring-tailed lemurs) preference assessment was conducted to identify approached (preferred) and avoided (non-preferred) liquids for each animal. An ABACD multiple baseline across participants design was used. Following a stable baseline of syringe acceptance with one preferred liquid (A) a preferred but untrained liquid was substituted to test for the effect of novelty (B). Baseline conditions were reinstated (A) and then a non-preferred untrained liquid was substituted to test for the effect of an aversive consequence (C). Procedures to address either novelty or aversion were implemented (D). This research may improve oral syringe training with captive animals by suggesting procedures for enhancing response maintenance. Results pending.


Effects of Indirectly Increasing Rates of Reinforcement on the Acquisition, Extinction, and Reacquisition of Behavior in Dogs

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
LAURA COULTER (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

It is well known that high rates of reinforcement are important for learning new behaviors. One way to achieve this is to use a direct method of increasing reinforcement; shaping. However, at some point the behavior has been divided into so many approximations that it cannot be divided any further. Are there other methods of achieving higher rates of reinforcement? In what ways do indirect reinforcers improve learning and the strength of the response? In the first phase of this experiment, two equally difficult novel behaviors were trained. Using a multiple-element design, one behavior was trained following the usual shaping schedule and the other was trained similarly but an easy behavior was interspersed during shaping to further increase the rate of reinforcement. In the second phase of this study, extinction was implemented to analyze the strength and variability of behavior produced from of each method of reinforcement. Finally, the conditions for each behavior were switched. The subjects of the experiment were an 11-year-old female dog and a 1-year-old male dog. The acquisition data for the first subject show little difference between the two methods of reinforcement. Data for the extinction phase and the reacquisition phase are pending.


Promoting Generalization Across Trainers Through Teaching Sufficient Exemplars

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
KATHLEEN ROSSI (University of North Texas), Jeffrey Gesick (University of North Texas), Laura Coulter (University of North Texas), Matthew A. Davison (University of North Texas), Robin Lynn Beasley (University of North Texas), Holly Kowalchuk (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

The present study is a follow-up on a previous study that showed that multiple exemplar training produced partial generalization across trainers. The behavior only generalized to different trainers that had already taught two or more behaviors, but did not generalize to familiar people that had not conducted any training with the participant. This suggests that past training experiences are relevant variables for generalization across trainers. The current study examines that possibility. Two Labrador retrievers (1 year old and 5 years old) are the subjects of the current study. Baseline probes were conducted to verify that generalization still did not occur with the previously trained behaviors. The intervention consisted of the training a new behavior by trainers with a history of non-generalization. After the new behaviors were trained, probes were performed with all trainers across all behaviors. These probes test for generalization of the newly acquired behaviors in the presence of trainers that did not train that behavior, but with history of training other behaviors. Further probes tested the previously ungeneralized behaviors for generalization after training a different behavior. Baseline data show that the previously acquired behaviors did not generalize to the new trainers. The remaining results are pending.

4. The Impact of Behavioral Characteristics on Dog Adoptions: A Survey of Potential Adopters
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
VERONICA J. HOWARD (University of Kansas), Florence D. DiGennaro Reed (University of Kansas)
Abstract: While research has identified factors that place dogs at risk for relinquishment to animal shelters (e.g., Diesel, Brodbelt & Pfeiffer, 2010) as well as characteristics associated with successful adoption (e.g., Posage, Bartlett, & Thomas, 1998), the extent to which a dog’s behavioral characteristics influence adoption decisions has only begun to be explored (Wright et al., 2007). The current survey aims to identify behavioral characteristics that influence the ratings of potential adopters. We surveyed visitors to a large Midwestern humane society and asked them to complete a 40-item questionnaire. Respondents rated the importance of eight dog traits in making an adoption decision and were asked to indicate the degree to which specific behavioral characteristics influenced the likelihood of dog adoption. While respondents indicated “personality”/ “temperament” was the most important trait in making an adoption decision, a number of specific, trainable behaviors were rated as increasing the likelihood of adoption. These findings have implications for the allocation of resources in a dog shelter. For example, shelter staff and volunteers might prioritize training particular skills in order to increase potential adoptability. Future research should assess the degree to which these ratings correlate with actual adoption decisions.

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior to Reduce Biting and Chewing of Horses

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Adam E. Fox (West Virginia University), SHANA R. BAILEY (West Virginia University), Ezra Garth Hall (West Virginia University), Claire C. St. Peter (West Virginia University)

Biting and chewing by horses on crossties can result in injury to the handler and damage to equipment. The classical and operant conditioning techniques most commonly used to eliminate undesirable behaviors in horses involve aversive stimulation. These techniques are often effective in reducing target behaviors, but may result in undesirable, and sometimes dangerous, avoidance behaviors. Operant-conditioning techniques that involve positive reinforcement have been used to effectively train behaviors in horses (e.g., trailer loading). Positive-reinforcement techniques may also be effective in reducing horses biting and chewing when on crossties. Presently, positive reinforcement was delivered according to a differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior (DRO) schedule, in the context of a reversal design, to effectively reduce biting and chewing in two horses. Initial DRO intervals were 20 s and 30 s for the two horses and were successfully increased to 94 s for both horses. Based on the present findings, positive-reinforcement techniques can be effective in reducing undesirable behaviors in horses. Relative to aversive-stimulation techniques, positive-reinforcement techniques may have the added benefit of being less likely to result in potentially dangerous avoidance behaviors in horses; thus likely improving horse welfare and trainer safety.


Response Acquisition by Dogs Using a Signaled 10-s Delay to Reinforcement

Area: AAB; Domain: Basic Research
LINDSAY PARENTI (Pet Behavior Change, LLC), Megan E. Maxwell (Pet Behavior Change, LLC)

Although reinforcement often is delivered after a delay in naturalistic situations with pet dogs, little research has been conducted on the ability of dogs to acquire new responses under delayed reinforcement conditions. In this study, the nose-poking response of six dogs (Canis familiaris) was exposed to a contingency in which reinforcement was available after a 10-s signaled non-resetting delay following each touch of the subjects nose to a small buoy. Once established, nose-poking was then exposed to extinction. All subjects acquired the response, and rates averaged between 3 and 10 responses per minute across subjects. One subject required prompting in order to contact the contingency. Two subjects began destroying the operandum in extinction, necessitating that one subject be dropped from participation. Difficulties in using this particular operant under these conditions will be addressed. Procedural difficulties notwithstanding, these results suggest that dogs can acquire new responses under 10-s signaled reinforcement delays.


Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Schedule-induced Polydipsia

Area: AAB; Domain: Basic Research
ZINA A. ELURI (Eastern Michigan University), James T. Todd (Eastern Michigan University)

Polydipsia is an important clinical issue in that it has been used as an appropriate means of understanding the etiology of compulsive behavior. Polydipsia is the excessive drinking that occurs when an organism is exposed to food delivered on a fixed-time schedule, resulting in consuming three to four times of their daily water intake. This study has examined the rate with which three experimentally nave Sprague-Dawley rats, reduced to 85% of their free-feeding weight, acquired polydipsia. All experimental sessions were conducted in standard operant chambers. Food pellets were delivered into a food cup by mechanical food dispensers. A clicking sound was made when each pellet was delivered, thereby, providing rats with an immediate signal that food will be available. The rats had unlimited access to water through an electrical contact drinkometer. Drinkometers were used to measure the duration, frequency, probability, and post-food latency of drinking tube contacts. The results indicate individual differences in timing, the overall amount of water consumed, and frequency of drinking tube contacts. Given that only three rats were used, the results of this project should be reviewed with caution. This study should be replicated with more subjects to assess the generalizability of these results.


Reducing Undesirable Behavior in a Large Breed Dog Using Stimulus Control

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
MATTHEW A. DAVISON (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Many dogs have irritating behaviors that their owners attribute to the dogs personality. However, for larger dogs, these annoying behaviors can pose a real problem when the dog grows up. Puppies jumping up on their owners can be cute, but a 120 lb Rottweiler is a different story. Puppies mouthing hands can be a nuisance. American bulldogs biting hands can be dangerous. This experiment investigates the use of a stimulus control technique to reduce undesirable behaviors using a multiple-baseline design across behaviors. The subjects were two large breed dogs that displayed undesirable and potentially dangerous behavior. During baseline the experimenter approached the dogs as the owners and visitors would and recorded the occurrence of target behaviors. The intervention consisted of reinforcing the target behavior in the presence of a cue, ignoring the target behavior in the absence of the cue, reinforcing incompatible behavior in the absence of the cue, ignoring incompatible behavior in the presence of the cue. Data was analyzed using Green and Swets (1966) signal-detection theory. The results show that this intervention was sufficient to eliminate the behavior. Generalization data is pending. Stimulus control of behavior seems a viable way to reduce behavior without punishment.


Teaching Patagonian Cavies to Like People Using CAT

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
MARY ELIZABETH HUNTER (University of North Texas), Kathleen Dignan (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

When captive animals are fearful of people, routine husbandry or medical procedures are stressful for the animals and training for these procedures is difficult. These activities also have a high potential for injury for animals or staff. This study extends the generality of the Constructional Aggression Treatment procedure (Snider 2007), which is based on the assumption that fearful and aggressive behaviors are maintained because they increase distance between the subject and threat. This study uses CAT in a situation where animals are loose in a large enclosure and when two animals must be worked with together. The subjects are two Patagonian cavies (Dolichotis patagonum) who are extremely wary of people. Baseline observations of behavior were taken when keepers entered the enclosure. Intervention consists of shaping and differential reinforcement to replace fearful behaviors with alternative relaxed behavior, using distance as a reinforcer. During trials, a person approaches until one cavy alerts or freezes and retreats when both animals return to normal behavior. Proximity was increased once criteria were met at the previous step. The aim of the study is to shape the cavies to approach trainers and to increase relaxed interactions between the cavies and people. (further results pending)

10. Bringing Behavior Analysis to Horse Training
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
AMANDA VALENCIA (California State University, Northridge), Ellie Kazemi (California State University, Northridge)
Abstract: Although there has been some applied animal behavior training and research with horses (e.g., Ferguson & Rosales-Ruiz, 2001), compared to other species (e.g., dogs) literature on evidence-based horse training is limited. The science of behavior has taught us much about how the use of procedures such as reinforcement and shaping can be effective methods to teach new behavior. However, professional horse trainers (i.e., equestrians) often acquire their knowledge through an apprenticeship model where many myths about horse behavior, and punishment-based teaching methods, are passed to a new generation of horse trainers. Much of this knowledge therefore lacks a clear basis in the science of behavior. Due to the fact that aversive methods can be highly ingrained in the repertoires of many professional horse trainers, strong evidence is needed to make a large-scale transition from punitive to reinforcer-based training methods. The purpose of this presentation is to share several assessment and intervention procedures we implemented at Bennett Farms at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center using 6 horses. I will show, through data we gathered, the progress we made in teaching professional horse trainers to apply the principles of behavior to horse training.

The Applied Animal Behavior Analysis Practicum at Western Michigan University

Area: AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
STACY D. ENGEBRETSON (Western Michigan University), Lori Barnes (Western Michigan University)

Developed by Jennifer Sobie and augmented by Lori Watson and Stacy Engebretson, the purpose of the applied animal behavior practicum is to allow psychology majors to have supervised, professional hands-on experience training dogs using humane and reward based behavior modification techniques. This training not only increases the animal's potential to be adopted but also provides dogs with an enriched kennel environment. The core of the practicum is hands-on work with shelter dogs to teach basic behaviors, resolve common behavioral problems or to maintain favorable established behaviors. At the conclusion training sessions, data collection on each behavior and response acquisition are reported then charted. Each animal's record of progress throughout its training may be shared with staff or potential adopters. Weekly training course meetings and weekly on-site supervisor evaluations offer an analysis of the techniques being applied during training as well as a behavioral definition of these techniques. Finally, supplemental readings on training techniques are given to students on which they are tested. The students gain access to a professional setting in which they implement their skills while the partnering facility gains free animal training along with extra stimulation, affection, and exercise for each dog. Using behavior modification techniques, students have the ability to turn stray or unwanted dogs into adoptable pets.




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