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 #446
Shine a Light: Constructional Approaches to Helping Dogs Get Adopted and Stay Adopted
Monday, May 27, 2024
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 102 AB
Area: AAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Bob Keith Siemens (Calgary Humane Society )
Discussant: Maasa Nishimuta (Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training)
Abstract: Dogs arriving in animal shelters in large numbers every year present a challenge to animal shelters that adopting a Constructional Approach (Goldiamond, 1974) can often provide unique answers that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. When considering staff or volunteer training or trying to ensure a family is well equipped for the challenges a new puppy may present, there are many different approaches and resources available. Taking a Constructional Approach can help guide our selection of procedures and tools to achieve desirable outcomes in any of these areas. The Constructional Approach has decades of research demonstrating its effectiveness in achieving meaningful outcomes with humans, and this symposium extends these findings to be applied in organizations and with animals. This symposium will feature two Constructional programs being implemented in two different animal shelters in the U.S. In each shelter, Constructional programs are being implemented to build desirable behavior in dogs and volunteers and help guide the adoption process.
Instruction Level: Basic

Finding Forever Homes: A Constructional Approach to Helping Dogs Learn Behavior That Promotes Adoption

SEAN MICHAEL WILL (CAAWT), Maasa Nishimuta (Constructional Approach to Animal Welfare and Training)

Animal shelters across the United States are tasked with caring for and re-homing over three million dogs annually. To help dogs get adopted from animal shelters, well-trained volunteers are required. Inadequate training can lead to mismanagement of the volunteers and attrition of those volunteers who are critical to helping shelter dogs get adopted. However, animal shelters often lack access to the resources and funds required to provide adequate training. In this presentation, data from a recently completed study will be discussed that demonstrated the effectiveness of a video model with voiceover instruction to teach shelter volunteers how to implement a Constructional program with shelter dogs. The program learned was Constructional Affection, which uses affection in the form of gentle petting and scratching to reinforce desirable behavior. All participants in this study mastered Constructional Affection after viewing the instructional video only one time. Furthermore, when the volunteers' behavior changed, so did the dogs' behavior they were working with. As the volunteers increased their behavior of correctly implementing Constructional Affection, the rate of desirable behavior from the dogs also increased.


Successful Adoptions Through the Constructional Approach


The decision to bring a new dog into the family can be life changing for both human and animal. Behavior professionals in animal welfare organizations often focus primarily on the behavioral and medical needs of the animals in their care. While important to consider, the requirements to maintain or change the behavior of a dog is only one piece of the puzzle. This presentation will use The Constructional Approach (Goldiamond, 1974) to explore how understanding where we are, where we want to go, and how we are going to get there for both the dog and the adopter can help both in determining a potential match, and in identifying the level of behavior support indicated to make the match a successful one for both the family and the dog. By further understanding both ends of the leash, we can more effectively support each party, ultimately leading to a fulfilling adoption.




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