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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Poster Session #85
Saturday, May 29, 2021
1:00 PM–3:00 PM
1. Application of Behavioral Principles to Balance the Controversy of "Positive-Only" vs. "Balanced" Dog Training
Area: AAB; Domain: Theory
MATTHEW GROSS (Shippensburg University), Richard Cook (Applied Behavior Medicine Associates of Hershey)
Discussant: Mindy Waite (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)
Abstract: Currently within the world of dog training there exists opposing schools of thought about the use of aversive methods when training dogs - "Positive-only" vs "Balanced" trainers. Practitioners of Positive-only/Force-free methods utilize only positive reinforcement and negative punishment procedures while training dogs, and often extend their philosophies to the stated opposition of methods which include the use of aversive (negative reinforcement and positive punishment) procedures. "Balanced" dog training practitioners advocate for the use of all operant conditioning procedures when appropriate, and do exclude aversive methods. A concern arising from this controversy is that excluding the use of aversive/punishing techniques removes tools from the bag that might be the most appropriate, or even only, method to address certain dog-related behaviors, including to but not limited to severe behaviors, which may lead to situations where the dog is not successfully trained, or worse, euthanized. This controversy arises not only over disagreement over the use of aversive methodologies themselves, but also stems from erroneous assumptions and incomplete or differing understanding of the behavioral terms. This presentation will highlight and attempt to clarify the issues and misunderstandings related to this controversy, while allowing the viewer to form their own opinion on the matter.
2. Social Reinforcement in Domestic Dogs: Spaced Sessions Might Impact Reinforcer Efficacy
Area: AAB; Domain: Basic Research
ERICA N. FEUERBACHER (Virginia Tech), Caitlin Togher (Virginia Tech)
Discussant: Mindy Waite (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)
Abstract: Whether human social interaction can function as a reinforcer for domestic dog behavior remains unclear, but is an important question for owners hoping to maintain desirable behavior in their dogs through social interaction. Previously, we demonstrated brief (4 s) of human interaction did not function as an effective reinforcer for dog behavior for repeated operant behaviors. However, it is possible that dogs satiate quickly on social interaction or that longer social interaction would be more effective. Thus, we examined whether 4 s and 30 s of social interaction would function as a reinforcer when sessions were limited in number of trials, and were spaced out across hours and days. Dogs completed a nose touch as an operant response and alternated between social reinforcement and extinction conditions. Although we did identify individual differences, for most dogs we found both 4 s and 30 s of social interaction were effective reinforcers; continued responding in extinction might be due to imperfect discrimination of conditions. These results suggest satiation could be an issue for using social interaction as a reinforcer; temporally spaced use of it could maintain its efficacy.

Effects of Real-Time or Recorded Human Voice Cues, Facial Coverings, and Use of Gestures on Accuracy and Latency of Responding to Obedience Cues in Dogs (canis familiaris)

Area: AAB; Domain: Basic Research
VALERI FARMER-DOUGAN (Illinois State University), Jennifer Gavin (Illinois State University), Lux Cermak (Illinois State University)
Discussant: Mindy Waite (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)

To what a dog attends when responding to verbal cues has been a focus of considerable research. Less research, however, has examined factors specific to voice quality or masking of the face. Prior research shows that changes to phonetic pronunciation of a behavioral cue significantly decreases response accuracy in dogs. Our lab has also shown that non-occluded versus covered faces improves cue response accuracy. The present study examined how canines responded to obedience cues when a recorded or human voice delivered the cue. Dogs were also exposed to varying facial occlusions and gestural cue conditions. Results show that a synthetic voice cue increased latency and decreased accuracy of responding, particularly when paired with facial obstruction and a lack of a gestural cue. Further, the obstruction of the full face or the eyes reduced accuracy and increased latency more than mouth coverings regardless of type of voice cue. These data are highly relevant during the pandemic-mandated mask wearing for handlers and trainers. The data suggest that mask wearing is not deleterious to cue responding in dogs. However, recorded human voice is not perceived as identical to an actual human voice by trained dogs.


Unleashing the EAB Lab: Teaching Behavior Analysis and Humane Education Through a Virtual Companion Animal Behavior Clinic

Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
LINDSAY RENEE MEHRKAM (Monmouth University), Ashley Farrell (Monmouth University), Nicholas Quinn (Monmouth University), Cristina Naha (Monmouth University)
Discussant: Mindy Waite (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)

Animal labs can offer students of behavior analysis a unique, hands-on learning experiences. However, COVID-19 restrictions - while put in place to protect both human and animal health - have presented challenges to traditional brick-and-mortar lab classes. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate the use of a virtual animal behavior research clinic as a method to teach undergraduate students humane training and education techniques based on behavior analytic principles with companion animal dogs and cats remotely. Training sessions included instruction, modeling, and rehearsal for modules on habituation, Pavlovian conditioning, preference assessments and reinforcer assessments, matching law, shaping, and environmental enrichment techniques. Future directions to evaluate the efficacy of the virtual clinic on student learning outcomes and social validity are needed and will also be discussed.

5. Impact of Positive Reinforcement Training on Cribbing Behavior in Horses
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
JACQUELINE OH (Virginia Tech), Erica N. Feuerbacher (Virginia Tech)
Discussant: Mindy Waite (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)
Abstract: Cribbing in horses is an undesirable behavior which can cause physical degradation of the horse’s oral health and property damage to structures that the horse cribs on. In the equine world, it is seen as undesirable and owners often try to prevent the behavior through physically restrictive devices (cribbing collars), which might decrease the horse’s welfare. Behavioral interventions, such as providing enrichment, have reduced but not eliminated cribbing. We investigated the impact of positive reinforcement training on cribbing behavior in a horse over a 10-week period. We recorded rate and duration of cribbing before, during, and after training sessions in which the horse was shaped to engage in a variety of operant behaviors using positive reinforcement. The horse’s cribbing behavior was not followed by grain delivery; only desirable behaviors were reinforced, although these changed throughout the session based on training goals. We found that proportion of time engaged in cribbing decreased during the training session compared to the pre-training period, and we did not see a rebound in proportion of time spent cribbing after training, as has been observed when physical devices preventing cribbing are removed.



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