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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #42
Going to the dog lab: Basic and applied behavior analysis on canine behavior.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
008B (CC)
Area: AAB/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lisa Gunter (Arizona State University)
Discussant: Terri M. Bright (Simmons College and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
Abstract: In this symposium, we extend the operant laboratory and applied behavior analysis to a non-traditional population of pet dogs. We show how applied behavior analysis can be extended to dogs to decrease unwanted behavior. In this symposium, we present a Functional Analysis of resource guarding and operant treatments for separation anxiety and home-alone nuisance barking. We then show how the basic animal laboratory can be extended to study how conditioning principles influence basic canine odor perception. Together, this symposium will highlight how dogs bridge the basic animal laboratory to applied behavior analysis.
Keyword(s): Dog behavior, Functional Analysis, Odor discrimination, Problem behavior
Functional Analysis and Treatment of Resource Guarding in Pet Dogs.
BRANDON C PEREZ (University of Florida), Lindsay Mehrkam (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida), Nicole R. Dorey (University of Florida)
Abstract: Aggression is regarded as the most prevalent and serious problem behavior exhibited by dogs and is the most common reason owners refer their dogs to behavioral specialists (ASPCA Aggression in Dogs, 2014). Resource guarding is an especially salient topography of aggression that is occasioned by the presence of high-value items. Although Pavlovian conditioning techniques such as systematic desensitization and counterconditioning are widely used in treatment procedures, no research has been conducted evaluating the use of operant assessment and treatment to resource guarding in dogs. The purpose of our study was to extend the application of functional analysis methodology and treatment to dogs exhibiting human-directed resource guarding occasioned by various stimuli (e.g., food bowl, toys, rawhides, bones) in a home setting. Six dogs of various ages and breeds underwent four experimental conditions (control, attention, escape, and tangible) in a functional analysis. We subsequently conducted a treatment evaluation involving function-based treatments based on the function(s) of each subject’s resource guarding. Treatment effects were also evaluated with different trainers and guarded stimuli, in untrained settings, and in a two-week follow-up. Behavior analytic techniques – including operant conditioning - may hold promise for lasting behavior change with respect to resource guarding in domestic dogs.
An Operant Treatment of Separation-Related Problem Behavior.
ERICA N. FEUERBACHER (Carroll College), Kristy Muir (Animal Training Behavior Solutions)
Abstract: Separation-related problem behaviors, such as excessive vocalization, defecation/urination, and destruction are a common problem in owned dogs and is a common cause of relinquishment of dogs (Bailey, 1991). Traditional techniques use a counter conditioning and desensitization treatment. We hypothesized that owner return is a reinforcer that can be used to shape behavior, including potentially separation-related problem behavior. If correct, it could also be used to shape and maintain appropriate behavior. Thus, we assessed a treatment using an operant approach to separation-related behavior problems by making owner return contingent on desirable behavior. We compared this to using food as a reinforcer to shape and maintain desirable behavior during owner absence. We first video recorded each dog’s behavior in a baseline session. Next, dogs were placed randomly into either the Owner Return or Food group. For Owner Return dogs, the owner entered the room contingent on the dog’s calm response, monitored via webcam, that was incompatible with behaviors observed in baseline. Across successful trials, we increased the criterion for owner return. We decreased the criterion after unsuccessful trials. For Food dogs, the experimenter triggered a remote dispenser to deliver food contingent on calm behavior. We recorded all sessions and used the dog’s behavior as a direct measure of treatment efficacy. Owner Return dogs showed greater improvement than Food dogs. All Owner Return dogs showed an increase in the time alone without problem behavior. The food treatment was largely unsuccessful: all dogs initially consumed the food but stopped eating shortly into the session.
Automated Differential Reinforcement of Not Barking in a Home-Alone Setting: Evaluating a Humane Alternative to the Bark Collar.
ALEXANDRA PROTOPOPOVA (University of Florida), Clive Wynne (Arizona State University)
Abstract: Nuisance barking is one of the top reasons for dog owners to seek help from a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist. Excessive barking is reported to be a reason for relinquishing a pet dog to the shelter. Current treatments for home-alone barking are limited to the use of collars or devices that deliver aversive consequences in an attempt to punish barking. Even though past research has supported the efficacy of some of these devices, the ethics of these methods are debatable. An alternative to positive punishment for decreasing problem behavior is the Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior (a DRO schedule). DRO schedules have been shown to be effective in decreasing and even eliminating various problem behaviors in varied human populations. The aim of the proposed study is to evaluate a more humane alternative to the traditional devices that deliver aversive consequences contingent on barking; we propose to evaluate the efficacy of an automated DRO schedule to curb nuisance barking. We hypothesize that barking may be decreased by the delivery of competing reinforcers for other behavior. More specifically, we predict that barking will decrease compared to baseline when food is delivered at preset intervals, contingent on no barking occurring in that interval. We expect the results from this study to directly benefit the dog training community by providing a humane tool to combat nuisance barking and, thus, improve the bond between dog and owner and prevent possible relinquishment of the dog to a shelter.
Effect of Odor Pre-Exposure on Sensitivity in Detecting that Odor.
NATHANIEL HALL (University of Florida), Clive Wynne (Arizona State University)
Abstract: In this study we are assessing how odor exposure might influence a dog’s threshold detection for that odor. Using a custom built 7-channel liquid dilution olfactometer, dogs are trained on a go/no-go olfactory discrimination that is under computer control. To assess a dog’s sensitivity to an odor, dogs are presented with successively lower concentrations of the target odor until the dog is no longer able to detect it. Dogs first receive a baseline threshold assessment for two pure odors (amyl acetate and phenyl ethanol). Half of the dogs then receive Pavlovian conditioning to one odor while the other odor is an unexposed control odor. The remaining half of dogs receive repeated daily exposure to one of the odors, while the other odor remains an unexposed control odor. All dogs then receive a post-test assessment of threshold to both the control and experimental odors to see whether the dogs show a change in sensitivity to either odor. The figure below indicates that dogs that receive Pavlovian conditioning show improved sensitivity to that odor whereas no significant improvement in sensitivity is observed for the control odor or the odor that was simply exposed (exposure only).



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