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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Symposium #27
Unleashing Applied Animal Behavior: Dissemination of Behavioral Science Through Practice
Saturday, May 27, 2017
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: AAB/TBA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Janie Funk (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Christy A. Alligood (Disney's Animal Kingdom and Florida Institute of Technology)

It has been widely accepted that demonstrating the effectiveness of behavior analysis with respect to real-world problems is one key to dissemination of our science. Additionally, the effectiveness must be presented in a way that is obviously relevant and communicated in a way that is easily understood by the general population. One emerging movement that has been successful to this end is within the domain of applied animal behavior. Leaders of this movement will not only discuss the barriers they have faced along the way to successfully disseminating behavior analysis while highlighting their efforts within zoos and towards pet owners, but provide recommendations for addressing potential challenges likely to present during dissemination efforts. Suggestions for extending our reach to new populations, and discussion of techniques for doing so, will be provided. While presented in the context of applied animal behavior, invaluable information will be provided for anyone interested in sharing the science of behavior.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): animal training, community outreach, dissemination, translational
Training the Guide Dog: A “Nice!” Outlet for Dissemination
JANIE FUNK (University of Nevada, Reno), W. Larry Williams (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Guide Dogs are used by individuals with visual impairment to aid in safe travel. Training Guide Dogs consists of two components, the first and most extensive component being the 'Puppy Raising Period,' which lasts upwards of 14 months. During this component, training is provided by volunteer puppy raisers. Puppy raisers receive only minimal training in behavior change procedures and no formal training in applied behavior analysis. The second component of training is completed by licensed or apprenticing Guide Dog Mobility Instructors. Most recent reports provided by Guide Dogs for the Blind (2016) indicate 43% of the dogs are dismissed from Guide Dog training, for reasons largely attributed to problem behaviors learned or not addressed during the Puppy Raising Period. The current presentation offers an account of common strategies of educating volunteer puppy raisers, as well as suggestions for enhancing the school’s approach via inclusion of basic behavior analytic techniques. Implications of this intervention on both puppy passing rates and as a means to disseminate ABA to a wider community will be discussed.

Behavior Management in Exotic Animal Care - The Welfare Connection

KENNETH T. RAMIREZ (John G. Shedd Aquarium)

The application of behavior analysis and basic training for animals in the zoo has largely been misunderstood and under-utilized. However, in the last 20 years the focus on applied behavior analysis in the modern zoo has grown quickly. Much of the early resistance to this trend was based on a misunderstanding and lack of recognition of the benefits that a behavior program can bring to the animals living in the zoological environment. The modern zoo has come to recognize that behavior management is a key component to good animal care and in fact is a primary method of increasing welfare for animals in human care. This presentation will demonstrate how behavior management programs aid in providing exercise, mental stimulation, and increasing animal participation in their own care. Examples of both husbandry programs in the zoo and conservation programs in the wild will illustrate various examples of these benefits in action.


Talk the Talk and Walk the Dog: Communicating With Pet Owners

KENNON ANDY LATTAL (West Virginia University)

The long-standing issue of communication between behavior analysts and those not necessarily familiar with our technical language will be discussed in relation to a new population: pet owners. Communication has many facets, verbal and otherwise, and these are manifest at all stages of the treatment program. The initial communication comes through the intake interview, which offers not only the opportunity to collect verbal reports of the issues, but also the opportunity to observe how the owner and pet interact with one another. The latter is an especially rich source of communication about different facets of the problem. Developing and implementing treatment programs also offer new opportunities to communicate with owners, both about their techniques in implementing programs, but also about more general behavioral principles and how they might be used with both presenting problem and other behavior also in need of adjustment. Follow-up visits after treatment is terminated can be especially useful to owners with respect to communicating about methods for maintaining treatment gains and developing new programs for other behavior. Two themes that are common to each phase of the treatment process are those of communicating at the appropriate level of precision by being neither condescending by oversimplification or obfuscation by being overly technical and staying true to a behavior-analytic world view. The talk will conclude with a discussion of these themes.

Expanding Our Reach: ABA Goes Bananas
SUSAN G. FRIEDMAN (Utah State University)
Abstract: Staddon (2001) wrote, “Behaviorism is frequently declared dead. But, although services are held regularly, the corpse keeps creeping out of the coffin.” As is often discussed, keeping behavior analysis out of the coffin is about better dissemination to wider audiences. Today, with easy, affordable distance education solutions we are in position to meet that goal from a logistics point of view. But what does “better dissemination” look like? What are the obstacles to wider acceptance of the natural science and technology of behavior change? The focus of this presentation is the dissemination of behavior analysis principles and procedures to zoo keepers, animal behavior consultants and trainers, to improve the quality of life of animals in their care. Common obstacles to the wide spread adoption of applied behavior analysis will be discussed, ways to describe behavior x environment relations for increased relevance will be described, and examples of social marketing will be shared.



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