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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #180
Recent Advances in Canine Behavior Analysis: The Roles of Social Reinforcement and Context on Learning
Sunday, May 26, 2024
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 102 AB
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Valdeep Saini (Brock University)
Abstract: Advances in behavior-analytic research on domestic dog behavior, welfare, and learning has become increasingly important in recent years, given that approximately 3.1 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters annually. The research presented in this symposium focuses on improving dog welfare by better understanding the conditions under which domestic dogs value social reinforcement from humans and the extent to which learning is influenced by contextual variables. The first presentation uses a behavioral economics approach to assess interactions between social and food reinforcement by evaluating the extent to which dogs will respond for each reinforcer type when they are concurrently available. The second presentation examines the extent to which preference for human attention is influenced by single or concurrent-operant procedures and if a given procedure confounds the value of attention from humans as a reinforcer. Finally, the third presentation examines how learning in dogs could be impacted by context- and state-dependent effects, and the extent to which reduced retention and recall of skills is influenced by shelter environments. Collectively, these presentations are focused on using behavior-analytic techniques and procedures to better understand learning in dogs, ultimately with the goal of improving dog welfare and human-dog relationships.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): animal welfare, canine, shelter dogs

A Behavioral-Economic Analysis of Demand and Preference for Social and Food Reinforcement in Domestic Dogs

VALDEEP SAINI (Brock University), Rebecca Duncan (Community Living Toronto), Shawn Patrick Gilroy (Louisiana State University), Erica N. Feuerbacher (Virginia Tech)

Prior research has shown that responding can be maintained under concurrent food and social reinforcement in dogs, but little is known about interactions between these reinforcers. In the present study, we approached the problem from a behavioral-economic perspective, using demand-curve methods to analyze demand for, and interactions between, food and social reinforcement from a familiar human. Four dogs were given repeated choices between food and 4-s of social interaction concurrent schedules. The fixed-ratio prices of the food and social interaction were varied, separately or together, generating within-subject demand functions. Demand for both food and social interaction decreased with increases in their own price (though food reinforcers were less sensitive to changes in price). Demand for a constant-price of social interaction increased with increases in the price of food (positive cross-price elasticity), suggesting a substitutable relationship. Demand for a constant-price of food did not change with increases in the price of social access, suggesting no reinforcer interaction. The results provide further evidence of the reinforcing value of social interaction from humans in domestic dogs, and how it is modified by the availability of qualitatively different reinforcers of higher value.

Analysis of Methods for Identifying Human Attention as a Reinforcer for Dog Behavior
REYNAFE NAOL ANIGA (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Steven W. Payne (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Abstract: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA, 2022), approximately 3 million dogs enter shelters annually. Researchers have identified several behavioral factors influencing adoption and found that poor interactions between humans and dogs is a leading behavioral concern that affects adoption decisions. Researchers have examined the reinforcing efficacy and effectiveness of human social attention on dog behavior; however, these studies have produced mixed or unclear results. Procedural differences across studies may account for this disparity. The purposes of the current study were to (a) determine if confounding variables in single- operant procedures may influence study results and (b) directly compare the two common procedures (single- and concurrent-operant procedures) used to assess human social attention as a reinforcer for dog behavior. Overall results suggested that the reinforcing efficacy of human attention depends on the methodology used, providing some clarity to this issue. Practical and research implications of these results will be discussed.

Context- and State-Dependent Learning Effects in Different Dog Populations

Adrienne Carson (Virgina Tech), James McGuirk (Virginia Tech ), Lisa Gunter (Virgina Tech), ERICA FEUERBACHER (Virginia Tech)

This issue of animal shelter resources is particularly relevant to the question of whether training should be carried out while dogs are living in such facilities or post-adoption in their new homes. While research in other species has shown context-dependent and state-dependent learning effects, little is understood about the retention of learned behaviors by shelter dogs. Given that a shelter is a different context from an adoptive home, their learning could be impacted by both context- and state-dependent effects. We trained 17 owned and 17 shelter-living dogs in a training room within the animal shelter to acquire a novel behavior. One month later, we tested both owned and shelter dogs’ performance of this behavior in their homes. We then assessed their response latency, and whether dogs correctly responded in their homes at the same training level reached in the shelter. Preliminary results show that acquisition by former shelter dogs closely correspond to that of owned dogs. In test, shelter dogs had much longer response latencies than owned dogs, and dropped more steps, but both groups were able to test at higher criteria levels in the home than at the shelter.




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