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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #72
CE Offered: BACB
Motivation in Working Dogs: Problems, Myths, and Forgotten Solutions
Saturday, May 27, 2023
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nathaniel Hall (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Simon Gadbois, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: SIMON GADBOIS (Dalhousie University)
Abstract: The past few decades have seen the overdue rise of force-free, pain-free, fear-free (also known as “positive”) training methods in training animals, and dogs in particular. This new Zeitgeist has helped change the way we train dogs for the better, yet, it has also contributed to some theoretical and practical disconnects with modern Learning Theory, ideas about reinforcement, and conditioned reinforcers and seems to have mostly ignored the neurobiology of learning. There are missed opportunities, especially if we are willing to consider modern theories of motivation, i.e., to consider what neuroscience and the motivation construct in the behavioural sciences have to offer. I will discuss old (seemingly forgotten, ignored or unduly rejected) and new theories of motivation, reinforcement and conditioning that may offer some help in addressing motivational issues with our canine research assistants, trainees and helpers. Contrasting examples from two different fields of working canines will be given: Wildlife Conservation Canines, and Biomedical Alert Canines. The importance of incentive motivation and the development of intrinsic motivation will be discussed.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Academics, practitioners, animal trainers, dog trainers.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Get a better understanding of the theories of motivation from neuroscience and psychology; (2) Reconsider methods to enhance and mostly maintain motivation in working dog; (3) Apply both incentive motivation and intrinsic motivation principles in training dogs.
SIMON GADBOIS (Dalhousie University)
Simon Gadbois is a researcher in animal behaviour and behavioural neuroscience at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. Early in his academic career he integrated biology (ethology), experimental animal psychology and neuroscience within a post-cognitivist perspective. A true generalist, he has studied olfaction, learning and social behaviour in species of insects, molluscs (slugs and snails), fish, reptiles, birds (pigeons) and mammals (rats, dogs, red foxes, coyotes and wolves). He has studied wild canids for over 20 years and established the Canid and Reptile Behaviour and Olfaction lab at Dalhousie in 2006, prior to that he had studied the behavioural endocrinology of social behaviour in wolves and behaviour patterns in foraging behaviours comparatively in foxes, coyotes and wolves. Since 2007 his lab has been engaged mostly in research on biomedical detection, diagnosis and assistance as well as tracking and trailing of species-at-risk with his wildlife conservation canines. The lab has a strong applied and methodological focus.



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