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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #311
A Dog’s Life: Using Behavior Analysis to Investigate the Human-Dog Relationship and Address Behavioral Issues
Sunday, May 24, 2020
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 6
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nathaniel Hall (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Erica Feuerbacher, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: ERICA FEUERBACHER (Virginia Tech)

Dogs are described as “man’s best friend” and dog ownership is at an all-time high. Nevertheless, the nature of the human-dog bond has only recently been explored and much work in this field focuses on the structure of the relationship. While this might describe what the relationship looks like, it does not address what maintains the relationship nor does it identify the variables we can manipulate to produce, maintain, or enhance that relationship. Taking a behavior analytic approach, our research has sought to identify the functions maintaining human-dog interactions from the dog’s perspective. This talk will highlight our work investigating dogs’ preference for different human interactions, what stimuli typically function as reinforcers for dog behavior, and how we can use those to address behavioral issues, such as separation-related problem behavior in owned dogs and kennel reactivity in shelter dogs. Audience members will learn about the current state of knowledge of dog social behavior, how behavioral science can help enhance the human-dog relationship by taking the dogs’ perspective through preference and reinforcer efficacy tests, and how that knowledge can be applied to solve common behavioral issues in companion and shelter dogs.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts, applied animal behaviorists, graduate students, dog owners and enthusiasts.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify typically preferred human interaction in dogs, and the effect of population, context, and familiarity on preference; (2) identify common, effective reinforcers in dogs; (3) discuss how a behavior analytic approach to the human-dog relationship can help us enhance it; (4) discuss how identifying effective reinforcers is essential for addressing behavioral concerns in domestic dogs.

Dr. Feuerbacher is an Assistant Professor of Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare at Virginia Tech and director of the Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare Lab in the Department of Animal & Poultry Science. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Florida in the UF Canine Cognition and Behavior Lab and her Masters in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas in the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies with Animals. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she was an Assistant Professor at Carroll College in Helena, MT, where she led the canine program in which students trained foster dogs during the academic year. She has worked as a shelter behavior consultant, offered group dog training classes and private behavior consultations, and is co-founder of the Shelter Dog Institute. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Her research at Virginia Tech focuses on understanding dog behavior and learning from a behavior analytic perspective, using applied behavior analysis to solve behavioral issues, and identifying interventions that improve shelter dog welfare. She has earned several awards for her behavior analytic research and her dedication to the theoretical foundations of behavior analysis. She is passionate about humane, effective animal training, and working with owners, trainers, and shelter staff to improve our interactions with animals through behavior analysis.




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