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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #389
The Assessment of Reinforcers for Shelter Dog Behavior
Monday, May 28, 2018
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom D
Area: AAB/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jonpaul D. Moschella (California State University, Fresno)
Discussant: Erica N. Feuerbacher (Virginia Tech)

Approximately 6.5 million animals reside in animal shelters at any given time (ASPCA, 2017). Approximately 25% of animals surrendered to shelters are surrendered due to behavior problems (Salman et al., 1998). Certain behaviors during interaction with potential adopters, may hinder the chances of adoption (Protopopova & Wynne, 2014). However, there have been few behavior analytic studies conducted to address dog behavior in the shelter environment. One area that has been evaluated is the functional analysis of problem behavior in owned dogs (Dorey, Tobias, Udell, & Wynne, 2012; Hall, Protopopova, & Wynne, 2015). While successful, these studies do not account for variables that may influence the behavior of dogs in animal shelters, which may vary greatly from the home environment. This symposium addresses these variables in two areas. First, Grisom and Payne conducted descriptive analyses of dog problem behavior in the animal shelter and determined several variables that have not been previously considered in the functional assessment literature. Second, Salazar, et al. conducted an assessment of human attention as a reinforcer for shelter dog behavior and used response-stimulus pairing procedures to condition attention as a reinforcer.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Attention, Conditioning, Functional Assessment, Shelter Dogs
Descriptive Analysis of Contingencies Maintaining Problem Behavior in Shelter Dogs
JANISA GRISOM (California State University, Fresno), Steven W. Payne (California State University, Fresno)
Abstract: Shelter dogs with problem behavior may have trouble getting adopted or may be euthanized. However, there are few studies that have used behavioral assessment and treatments for problem behavior of shelter dogs. Some studies have used functional analyses to determine function of behavior with nonhuman animals, including dogs. However, it is unclear whether the functions tested in those functional analyses approximate the natural contingencies in the environment that the animals live. This study conducted a descriptive analysis to identify environmental variables that occur with problem behavior of shelter dogs. Eight dogs housed at a local animal shelter participated in the study. The observations were analyzed and used to determine the temporal proximity of stimuli to problem behavior. Results demonstrated that descriptive analyses are useful in identifying stimuli occurring in the natural environment that are not otherwise used in typical functional analysis conditions.
The Assessment and Conditioning of Attention as a Reinforcer for Shelter Dog Behavior
ALYSSA SALAZAR (California State University, Fresno), Steven W. Payne (California State University, Fresno), Sarah Orique (California State University, Fresno), Martha Cisneros (California State University, Fresno), Maria Salmeron (California State University, Fresno), Cintya Fulgencio (California State University, Fresno), Sandra Alex Ruby (California State University, Fresno)
Abstract: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA, 2017), there are nearly 3.3 million dogs that enter animal shelters every year. Protopopova & Wynne (2014) suggest that dogs who were overlooked for adoption ignored the initiation of play by potential adopters at a rate twice as much as dogs who engaged in play. Ignoring potential adopters also comes to be a behavioral issue when shelter overcrowding leads to high euthanization rates. Dogs in animal shelters for whom attention is not a reinforcer may less likely to be adopted if they do not interact with potential adopters. The purpose of the current study was to assess the efficacy of attention as a reinforcer for shelter dog behavior. Results suggested that human attention was not a powerful reinforcer for shelter dog behavior. We next used a response-stimulus pairing technique to pair food and attention and then conducted a test of the efficacy of attention as a reinforcer following this test. In addition, we used an open-field test to determine if, following conditioning, the amount of time a dog would spend interacting with a simulated potential adopter would increase.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh