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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #239
Constructional Approaches to Animal Welfare and Training
Sunday, May 29, 2022
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 154
Area: AAB/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Joseph Hacker (Key Autism Services)
Discussant: Paul Thomas Andronis (Northern Michigan University)
Abstract: Israel Goldiamond developed Constructional Approach (Goldiamond, 1974) to help humans struggling with various problems to achieve meaningful life goals. This approach has also been applied to human-animal interactions to improve animal welfare and training. The critical features of the Constructional Approach are to have goals that expand degrees of freedom of the animals, to start with the animal and their caretaker’s current skills and assets, and to use shaping programs with functional reinforcers. In this symposium, the presenters will provide various constructional programs, such as Constructional Aggression Treatment for fearful and aggressive behaviors (Rosales-Ruiz, 2021) and Constructional Affection (Will & Chase, 2009), to help many different animals, including dogs in homes, dogs in animal shelters, and exotic species in zoos and an application of a conjugate reinforcement schedule (Lindsley, 1963) to loose leash walking.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Animal Training, CAT, Constructional Affection, Constructional Approach
Gimme Shelter! A Constructional Approach to Helping Shelter Dogs Get Adopted and Stay Adopted
MAASA NISHIMUTA (Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training), Sean Michael Will (Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training)
Abstract: Many dogs in shelters exhibit behaviors that can be considered undesirable to many looking to adopt. When shelter staff and volunteers enter the enclosure to provide day-to-day care, these behaviors can present challenges that make the job more difficult and can deter adoption. These behaviors can also present challenges to the adopting family and make it difficult to establish the kinds of relationships they desire to have with the dog. The Constructional Approach (Goldiamond, 1974) provides a way to help dogs learn the types of behaviors required to immediately start building the kinds of relationships good for the dog and the new family. This presentation will feature a detailed look at Constructional Affection, a procedure that uses affection as a reinforcer to teach dogs how to ask for and receive affection. This presentation will also discuss how this approach improves animal welfare and expands the dog's degrees of freedom.
Let's Stay Together! A Collaborative and Constructional Approach to Loose Leash Walking
STUART HOFFMAN (Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training)
Abstract: Leash walking techniques are available in no short supply. Everything from punishment-based procedures involving pinch, choke, and electric collars to positive reinforcement-based procedures involving various forms of differential reinforcement involving food are available. But one question these approaches have yet to ask is the Basic Behavior Question (Goldiamond, 1967/2004). What behavior under what conditions are we looking at? Is there a way to provide a leash training experience that minimizes contact to extinction and provides the dog with the critical consequence available for pulling for other behavior? This presentation will present a new method to teach dogs how to walk calmly on leash using an approach that utilizes a conjugate reinforcement schedule.
A Safe and Fast Deworming Procedure for Horses
JESSICA WARD (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas), Mary Elizabeth Hunter (Behavior Explorer)
Abstract: Most horse owners administer oral deworming medication to their horses on a set schedule, often six times per year. The deworming process involves using a plastic syringe to inject a thick paste into the horse’s mouth. Most horse owners do not specifically train their horses to accept this procedure. Consequently, many horses resist the procedure and some horses engage in behaviors, such as head shaking, pulling away, or even rearing, that may be dangerous to humans or to themselves. This study used a negative reinforcement shaping procedure to train six horses to accept dewormer medication. The procedure consisted of a food sampling phase followed by three shaping phases that simulated the deworming task, first using only the experimenter’s hand, then a small syringe, and finally a large syringe. Once the horse was acclimated to the syringe, the horse’s preferred liquid food was delivered through the syringe at the end of each trial. By the end of the study, all participants successfully completed the procedure and were able to stand still with no or minimal head movements while being dewormed.

Hope for the Hopeless: Transforming the Behavior of Exotic Animals Once Thought Impossible to Train

BARBARA HEIDENREICH (Barbara's Force Free Animal Training)

The zoo animal training community provides a unique environment to demonstrate the importance of a constructional approach to improving animal welfare. The contemporary zoo animal professional is training a wide variety of species to cooperate in their own medical care (and day-to-day care.) This can include parrots presenting body parts for injections, gorillas opening mouths for tooth brushing, giraffes presenting hooves for trimming, and tigers participating in voluntary intra-nasal swabs to evaluate for COVID-19. These impressive behaviors have inspired many animal training communities. For some animals, behaviors such as these can present challenges due to a history of the use of coercion to gain cooperation. This often results in animals emitting escape and avoidance behaviors or aggressive responses in the presence of people and objects associated with these experiences. A constructional approach provides a procedure to transform avoidance behavior into affiliative responses. Constructional Aggression Treatment can replace aggressive behavior with calm responses. Using a constructional approach allows new desired responses to be shaped in the presence of these stimuli, which results in significantly improved welfare of animals once thought impossible to train.




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