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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Symposium #229
CE Offered: BACB
Reproducing the Past and Predicting the Future: Dog Aggression and Separation Anxiety
Sunday, May 24, 2020
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 5
Area: AAB/CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: JoAnna Platzer (Virginia Tech)
Discussant: Janie A Funk (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Terri M. Bright, Ph.D.

Applied animal behavior analysts strive to assess problem behavior in a way that limits fear, anxiety and stress for the animal, and keeps both the animals and the humans safe from harm. Without the advantage of a verbal interview of the animal or of a crystal ball, this can be challenging, and consistent methodologies are needed. These studies investigate new ways to work with owners and adopters to view simulations of past behaviors and to assist in predicting future behavior.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): dog behavior
Target Audience:

Those Behavior Analysts who are studying the principles of stimulus control as they may be used to assess dog behavior.

Learning Objectives: Learners will learn about the common post-dog-adoption problem of separation anxiety Learners will learn about the clinical applications of treating dog reactivity and aggression Learners will learn about how these two common dog behavior problems may be assessed for better shelter and private client outcomes.

Can an In-Shelter Test Predict Whether Dogs Will Exhibit Separation-Related Problem Behavior Post-Adoption?

ERICA N. FEUERBACHER (Virginia Tech), Andrew Robert Smith (Department of Psychology, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI ), Clive Wynne (Arizona State University), Sarah Hebert (Virginia Tech Blacksburg VA), Christopher T. Franck (Virginia Tech), Jessica Hekman (Broad Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA )

Separation-related problem behaviors (SRPB), such as excessive vocalization, defecation/urination, and destruction are a common problem in dogs and a common cause of their relinquishment. Detecting the potential for SRPB in shelter dogs could help shelters provide more targeted behavior counseling and better placement decisions. We tested whether we could predict post-adoption behavior of shelter dogs from an in-shelter test. We tested 27 shelter dogs. After interacting with the dog for 30 min, we left it alone in the room and video-recorded its behavior. We coded behaviors associated with SRPB as well as those not associated with SRPB (e.g., play or passive behavior). We contacted adopters approximately 6 mos after adoption to determine dogs’ at-home behavior. We assessed the time-course of different behaviors of individual dogs across the 30 min test as well as the individual dogs’ time allocation between different behaviors. Comparing the in-shelter behavior with post-adoption reports, we found that increased time engaged in panting and escape-related behaviors were predictive of dogs being more likely to show SRPB after adoption (binary: yes or no), but that the amount of time a dog engaged in a behavior did not predict more continuous variables such as frequency or intensity of SPRB.


The “Fake” Dog as Stimulus Control Agent to Assess Dog Reactivity/Aggression

TERRI M. BRIGHT (MSPCA Angell), Jocelyn Strassel (MSPCA Angell)

When dogs exhibit aggression toward one another, it has an impact on owners’ lives, from reduced ability for conspecific socialization, to limited ability to be in safe proximity to other dogs in public and at home. The level of aggression could be mild, as in a hearty growl, or dangerous enough that another dog could be injured or killed; and humans could also be injured, even killed, trying to break up a fight. Applied animal behavior clinicians and Shelter workers must make the most ethical and safe choices when it comes to evaluating dog-dog behavior. The behavioral principle of stimulus control is valuable in that a plush “stuffed” dog that looks very much like a “real” dog may be introduced to a patient and elicit or evoke behavior as a real dog might. In this study, a methodology was developed in a veterinary hospital whereby stuffed dogs were manipulated in the presence of a patient so their behavior in close proximity to another dog could be assessed safely. The dogs’ owners then confirmed whether the behavior matched what they had seen in the past, allowing the behavior analyst to safely see the patient’s behavior and to design the best treatment.




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