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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #316
Developing Programs for Dog Owners: What Do Dogs Need and What Do Owners Need?
Sunday, May 26, 2019
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Swissôtel, Lucerne Ballroom Level, Alpine 1/2
Area: AAB/TBA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Valeri Farmer-Dougan (Illinois State University)

Fifty percent of families in the United States own at least one dog. With that ownership comes the training of the dog. However, not all owners possess appropriate training skills; research suggests that 90% of dog owners report their dog has at least one behavior problem, and 25% of relinquishments to shelters are due to behavior problems. Yet, few owners attend training classes. Data from the American Humane Survey and the American Pet Product Association National Pet Owners Survey suggest that only 5 to 25 percent of family owned dogs participate in training classes. Developing training programs that better meet the needs of owners is imperative to improve attendance and decrease relinquishments. Animal behaviorists are in a unique position to help shape and increase accessibility to dog training programs. Three talks will discuss research and service applications designed to improve training programs. The first will discuss how behavioral skills training can be used to teach owners to implement noncontingent reinforcement interventions. The second will examine the importance of facial cues when dogs are given verbal and gestural cues. The third talk will discuss a university-community dog training program in partnership with a shelter foster and adoption program.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): community programs, dog training, facial cues, noncontingent reinforcement
Using Behavioural Skills Training to Teach Dog Owners the Implementation of a Noncontingent Reinforcement Intervention
NICOLE PFALLER-SADOVSKY (Queen's University Belfast), Gareth Arnott (Queen's University Belfast Northern Ireland United Kingdom), Karola Dillenburger (Queen's University Belfast)
Abstract: Jumping-up on humans is an undesired behaviour that many companion dogs display. Not only is jumping-up inappropriate, it can also harm children or elderly persons who may be prone to fall over or get otherwise injured (e.g. scratches) by the greeting dog. Hence, it is important that dog owners have the necessary skills to train their dogs to keep their paws on the floor when greeting familiar or unfamiliar people. This pilot study investigated (a) the efficacy of a fixed-time noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) intervention to reduce the frequency of jumping-up; and (b) the effects of three different components (i.e. oral instruction, modelling, and feedback and modelling) of Behaviour Skills Training (BST) on owner procedural integrity. A multiple baseline design across dyads is used for data display and analysis. To date, three human-dog dyads have completed the NCR intervention taught by means of BST. The tentative results (Figure 1) show that (a) for two dyads the BST components modelling, and feedback and modelling importantly increased dog owners’ procedural integrity with the NCR intervention; and (b) latter reduced the frequency of jumping-up. However, these results should be considered preliminary as data collection with more human-dog dyads is currently being conducted.

What do Dogs Look at?: Determining Salient Stimuli When Giving Basic Obedience Cues

JENNIFER GAVIN (Illinois State University), Valeri Farmer-Dougan (Illinois State University)

Determining what salient stimuli are important for dogs given basic cues is important when designing community training programs, as well best as practice programs for service dogs. Research has shown that dogs can find hidden objects when gestural cues, head tilts, eye movement, and voice cues are given. However, which cue is most salient for basic obedience cues is not well investigated. Eight dogs participated in an experimental session in which cues (sit, down, stay) were delivered with the presence or absence of a gestural cue. The trainer’s face, eyes, mouth or whole face were occluded, along with a no-occlusion condition. The percentage of correct responses, as well as the latency to respond were obtained. Results showed that dogs performed most accurately and most quickly when a gestural cue was given with visible full face. Dogs performed with least accuracy and longest latency when no gestural cue was given while the eyes were covered. Covering the eyes was more deleterious than a full-face occlusion. It appears that dogs rely on gesture and eye contact when responding to basic obedience cues. Results will be discussed in context of both family “dog obedience” classes and the training of service dogs.


Student Community Service, Shelter Dogs and Operant Conditioning: A Triple Win

VALERI FARMER-DOUGAN (Illinois State University), Jennifer Gavin (Illinois State University), Antonia Min Berenbaum (Illinois State University)

The collaboration between the Illinois State University Canine Behavior and Cognition Laboratory and Pet Central Helps Animal Rescue and Shelter will be described. This collaboration has three major goals: 1. Providing an interactive teaching laboratory for students to practice and apply theories of learning, particularly operant and classical conditioning; 2. Providing consultation, training and development of behavior intervention programs for dogs in foster care or recently adopted from a local shelter; and 3. Providing students with a unique environment for applied research in canine behavior in shelter environments. A unique adaptation of an advanced operant conditioning laboratory will be described, the impact on the shelter dogs will be highlighted, and several student-driven research projects examining the effectiveness of reward and training will be presented. Finally, the talk will describe the pitfalls as well as important advantages of developing programs such as this through town-gown collaborations.




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