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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #67
CE Offered: BACB
Applications of Behavior Analysis to Enhance Dog Training, Welfare, and Assessment
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Alexandra Protopopova (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Erica N. Feuerbacher, Ph.D.
Abstract: The field of applied animal behavior has a large variety of domains that can be informed by the application of behavior analysis, including welfare, training, and assessment. One area in which behavior analysis has made continued contributions is with domestic dogs. With the increased numbers of dogs in homes (70-80 million in the United States) and in shelters (on average 3.9 million annually), understanding how best to interact with them, train them, and make good decisions in shelters is essential. The current symposium presents research using behavior analysis to address all of these aspects. The papers cover: 1) improving shelter dog welfare and behavior using negative reinforcement shaping procedures, 2) assessing training lore on how to enhance reinforcer efficacy, and 3) how disparate behavioral measures of sociability, often used as a factor in determining adoptability and measured in different ways such as time allocated to social interaction or latency to approach a person, correlate with each other. The data presented can be used to improve the welfare of domestic dogs by giving humans better tools for interacting with, understanding, and training them.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral assessment, dog training, domestic dog

Construction Fear Treatment for Dogs in Shelters

MORGAN KATZ (MSPCA at Nevins Farms), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Of the approximately 3.9 million dogs that enter US animal shelters each year, many exhibit behaviors related to fear, which can affect their likelihood of adoption. Current dog training procedures to treat fear include counterconditioning and desensitization, which can often take months or years to show any behavior change and do not teach specific behaviors aimed to increase the dog's chance of being adopted. The current study used a negative reinforcement shaping procedure to teach fearful dogs to approach and and interact with people. The results showed that constructional fear treatment increased the amount of time the dog spent at the front of the kennel, and increased sniffing, tail wagging, and accepting petting for all 3 participants.

One Large Reinforcer or Four Small Ones: Does Reinforcer Delivery Affect Its Efficacy for Domestic Dogs?
ERICA N. FEUERBACHER (Carroll College), Chelsea Stone (Carroll College)
Abstract: Food is typically a preferred interaction for domestic dogs and a more effective reinforcer than social interaction. However, little is known about how to enhance the reinforcer efficacy of food for dogs, but there is a lot of training lore suggesting ways to increase the efficacy of food. One recommendation in dog training is to deliver multiple, small treats while praising the dog, rather than one large treat, to enhance the effectiveness of the reinforcer. However, this practice has not been evaluated. In the current study we compared the reinforcer efficacy of delivering four small treats while praising the dog compared to one large treat, which was equivalent to the four small treats. We assessed the efficacy of these two reinforcer delivery methods from two perspectives. First, in a concurrent choice, we assessed whether dogs preferred receiving four small treats with simultaneous praise versus one large treat without praise. Second, we assessed dogs’ break point in a progressive ratio schedule for each reinforcer delivery methods. We found individual variability in dogs’ sensitivity to the two reinforcement methods and we discuss the results in terms of applying them to improving dog training methods.

The Methodology, Reliability, and Validity of Canine Sociability Tests

KELSEA MARIE BROWN (Texas Tech University), Erica N. Feuerbacher (Carroll College), Alexandra Protopopova (Texas Tech University)

A growing number of studies make claims about dog sociability in both applied and basic contexts. Yet, there is currently no standard for measuring sociability in dogs. The purpose of this three-part study was to determine whether a wide range of canine sociability tests would produce the same results as each other, over time, and between shelter and pet dogs. Experiment 1 established the appropriate methodology for detecting social behavior in a shelter setting using a mixed-subjects design to assess whether experimenter position (standing, sitting, or kneeling) and presence of affection (petting and praise or none) affect leashed dogs social behavior. In Experiment 2, three common sociability procedures were compared using shelter and pet dogs: 1) unleashed dogs latency to approach, time in proximity, and following patterns; 2) leashed dogs touching, gaze, and proximity; and 3) the relative reinforcer efficacy between food and human attention. Experiment 3 explored the relationship between sociability and social cognitive tasks including perspective taking, joint attention, and choices in a t-maze. The data have implications for the validity of temperament tests in both basic and applied research. Results can be applied to improve matches for adoption and better inform shelter staff about the dogs in their care.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh