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

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Invited Paper Session #437
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

What, if Anything, is Special About Dogs?

Monday, May 29, 2017
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: AAB; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Clive Wynne, Ph.D.
Chair: Valeri Farmer-Dougan (Illinois State University)
CLIVE WYNNE (Arizona State University)
Dr. Wynne was born and raised on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England, studied at University College London, and got his Ph.D. at Edinburgh University before setting off on his travels. After time at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Duke University, Universit?t Konstanz, the University of Western Australia, and the University of Florida, he came to Arizona State University in 2013. Over the years he has studied the behavior of many species?ranging from pigeons to dunnarts (a small mouse-like marsupial)?but some years ago found a way to meld a childhood love of dogs with his professional training and now studies and teaches the behavior of dogs and their wild relatives.

Since the resurgence of interest in dog behavior in 1998, many claims have been made for unique social-cognitive skills in dogs. I will briefly review available evidence that dogs are able to respond to human behavior in ways that are not available to other nonhuman species. I conclude there is no well-established finding regarding dog's social-cognitive behavior that cannot be accounted for with species-general learning mechanisms. Notwithstanding an absence of special social-cognitive skills, even the most informal interaction with dogs suggests that there is something remarkable about their motivation to interact with people. I review several lines of evidence that indicate that during domestication dogs became much more motivated to interact with members of other species and more reinforced by that interaction. This started with Pavlov who noted a "social reflex" in his dogs and continues to the present day in a range of studies. I will consider dogs' play behaviors, proximity seeking to a human, and even studies of what behaviors lead dogs to getting adopted. In conclusion, the notion of the dog as "man's best friend" may be a cliche, but it is a stereotype with some observable behavior behind it.

Target Audience:

Graduate-level behavior analysts and psychologists

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, attendees will be able to: (1) Critique claims of behavioral uniqueness in dogs; (2) Outline evidence for human proximity as reinforcer for dogs; (3) Describe recent research relevant to dog domestication.



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Modifed by Eddie Soh