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

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Symposium #441
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating and Enhancing Sociability in Shelter Dogs Using Behavior Analytic Techniques
Monday, May 28, 2018
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom D
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Carla H. Lagorio (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
CE Instructor: Erica N. Feuerbacher, Ph.D.

One of the more unique things about dogs is their particularly social and affiliative disposition towards people. In fact, the idea of sociability is particularly important in the animal shelter setting, where decisions about who lives and dies are made. This symposium will cover all aspects of dog-human sociability in the shelter, from considering sociability from a behavior analytic perspective to validating (and questioning) typical sociability assessments to ensuring that we encourage particular social behaviors from dog to encourage adoption.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): domestic dog, sociability, social behavior
Target Audience:

Practitioners who are interested in social behavior in different species and the factors that might affect it.


Procedural Differences Affect Canine Sociability Behaviors

KELSEA MARIE BROWN (Texas Tech University), Erica N. Feuerbacher (Virginia Tech), Alexandra Protopopova (Texas Tech University)

There are a variety of procedures used to measure canine sociability, and these methods vary both systematically and unsystematically. The tests are typically used in isolation; thus, it is unclear whether they measure the same concept. The purpose of this three-part study was to determine whether a wide range of canine sociability tests would each produce the same results. Experiment 1 examined the effects of minor methodological changes for detecting social behavior in a shelter setting; we employed a mixed-subjects design to assess whether experimenter position (standing, sitting, or kneeling) and presence of affection (petting and praise or none) affect leashed dogs' social behaviors. In Experiment 2, we tested the effects of leash presence on a range of social behaviors including time in proximity, gazing, and touching. Experiment 3 explored the relationship between sociability and potentially related concepts using reinforcer efficacy, following, pointing, and attachment paradigms. Results indicated moderate consistency within tests, but very low correlations between behaviors on different tests. The findings suggest that minor methodological deviations can affect a dog's performance on a sociability test, and sociability may not be linked to attachment or social cognition.


A Multi-Site Assessment of a Meet-and-Greet Intervention to Increase Adoption Rates in Dogs

ALEXANDRA PROTOPOPOVA (Texas Tech University), Nathaniel Hall (Texas Tech University)

The need for behavioral interventions that increase adoption rates are crucial to animal shelters. A recent intervention, based on each dog’s preference for toys in addition to structuring the first interaction between the dog and adopter was successful in increasing adoption rates by 68% in one municipal shelter site. The benefits and feasibility of this intervention remained to be established using a large-scale randomized and controlled multi-site study. Nine animal shelters in four states in the US were enrolled into a multiple baseline design. Each shelter was randomly assigned to 2-5 months of the baseline condition, in which they continued their current unstructured adoption counseling program, followed by 3-6 months of the experimental condition (total of 8 months each). During the experimental condition, the staff were asked to conduct the intervention. Throughout the study, data was recorded using automated equipment that tracked the number of adopter-dog interactions and the number of interactions that resulted in an adoption.


Preference for Different Human Interactions and Different Humans in Shelter Dogs

ERICA N. FEUERBACHER (Virginia Tech), Clive Wynne (Arizona State University)

Sociability is thought to be an important factor for shelter dog adoption success. One way of assessing sociability is to determine dogs' preference for human interaction. A straightforward way of assessing preference is using a concurrent schedule in which dogs can choose to interact with one individual or another, and measuring the time spent with each alternative. We used a concurrent schedule to assess shelter dogs' preference for petting or food and petting or vocal praise. We found that some shelter dogs preferred food but many prefer petting, which is in contrast to owned dogs. However, petting was preferred to vocal praise across shelter dogs and owned dogs. Finally, we assessed how quickly shelter dogs would form a preference for one stranger over another. In a 10 minute session, shelter dogs showed a preference for one individual over another with a magnitude of preference similar to owned dogs' preference for their owners. Our results point to ways to assess sociability and the interactions that might enhance it. They will also help us facilitate effective dog-human relationships.




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