Treating separation anxiety in a dog using a stimulus control procedure
Separation anxiety in dogs is a critical problem for pet owners. Owners with such dogs cannot leave the dog unattended for any length of time because of behaviors such as destructive chewing, barking and howling, and inappropriate elimination (even with otherwise housetrained dogs). Separation anxiety is commonly treated with a combination of behavioral and pharmacological interventions. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that the relaxation induced by a drug can become conditioned to new environmental stimuli, after which the drug can be successfully withdrawn using a fading procedure. A dog with a history of generalized anxiety and separation anxiety was treated using a routine that included the benzodiazepine Oxazepam and several new environmental arrangements. After observing behavior changes such as a reduction in vocalizing and pacing, the dosage of medication was gradually decreased to zero, while leaving the routine of environmental arrangements in place. No change in behavior was observed as the medication was reduced. However, stopping the routine of environmental arrangements resulted in the immediate return of anxiety related behaviors. This was demonstrated using a multi-element single-subject design. Further research conditions explore the critical aspects of the control by the environment arrangements.
The More the Merrier or the Bigger the Better? Comparing Dimensions of Treats for Dogs
Dog trainers manipulate the number and size of treats they deliver, such as by “jackpotting” (delivering multiple treats for especially good behavior) or giving very small treats to avoid satiation. However, not much is known about how such manipulations affect training. This study uses a paired-choice preference assessment to determine if there is a preference for one large treat or two smaller treats. Once the preference is determined, the preferred and non-preferred treats will be tested on actual training tasks to determine if there is a correspondence between the preference assessment and the performance on the training task. The subject for this study is a nine-year-old Chihuahua mix. In the preference assessment, the dog is presented with two bowls, each covered with a visual stimulus. A red circle covers the bowl containing one large treat and a blue square covers the bowl containing two small treats. The experimenter uncovers the bowl the dog noses. After a preference is determined, the effectiveness of one large or two small treats will be tested with a simple task (touching a target) and a difficult task (entering a crate that has previously been used for trips to the veterinarian). Results in progress.
Give Them Love Shelter Program
Animal shelters around the world struggle to get dogs adopted and to ensure dogs have a high quality of life while at the shelter. Shelter dogs ideally should receive proper medical care, accurate temperament assessments, appropriate environmental enrichment, and individualized behavior programs. This project will provide a sustainable behavioral system that addresses the job needs of staff and volunteers and the care of the dogs. A four-level volunteer training program teaches volunteers to use job aides to insure the shelter is a healthy and enriched environment for the dogs, conduct behavior assessments, and implement individualized training programs for each dog. Dogs receive training in one or more of the following areas based on a behavior assessment: fear, aggression, and how to politely and patiently solicit and receive attention from humans. The ultimate goal is to reduce euthanasia rates and increase successful adoptions.
Give Them Love: An Experimental Demonstration of Petting As a Reinforcer For Shelter Dogs
Common reinforcers used while training dogs include food, toys, and access to favorite activities. Gentle stroking and petting is a less recognized, but equally effective reinforcer. The present study is an experimental demonstration of the use of touch as a reinforcer to teach acceptable behaviors to dogs. Five shelter dogs that jumped up on people were chosen as subjects. Five conditions were used to determine which environmental antecedents resulted in the dog jumping. These conditions included entering the dog’s kennel with a rope toy, bowl of food, or a leash, entering the kennel while talking to the dog and petting the dog, and entering the kennel but doing nothing. Using a systematic petting procedure known as Give Them Love, touch was used as a reinforcer to teach alternative behaviors in all conditions where jumping had occurred. The study used a multiple baseline design across conditions and across dogs. The intervention resulted in an immediate reduction in jumping and an increase in sitting and lying for all dogs. For dogs that required training in multiple conditions, training time decreased for each subsequent condition.
Establishing Equivalence Relations in the Dog’s Natural Environment
The phenomenon of stimulus equivalence has been demonstrated mainly with humans. However, dog owners have anecdotally reported equivalence (or what appears to be equivalence) in their canine companions. The present experiment tests the possibility of equivalence with a 10-year-old-female-Husky-Doberman. During the first phase of the experiment the dog was trained to perform identity matching and was successful with minimal training. During the second phase (A-B training) the dog was trained to perform name-object relations, and then was trained symbol to object relations (C-B). Finally, the dog will be tested on name-symbol relations (A-C). Results are in progress.
High School Education Program at the Give Them Love Animal Shelter
Many students who are preparing for college are not aware of the wide variety of careers that involve working with animals. This education program is designed to give local high school students a unique opportunity to explore behavior analysis and participate in hands-on work with animals. The curriculum consists of classroom learning and hands-on projects where they are able to apply the techniques they have learned in the classroom.
Syringe training captive animals: Maintaining behavior with uncertain outcomes
Husbandry procedures with captive animals are important for their daily management, health, and welfare. While most husbandry training involves positive reinforcement, some husbandry procedures occasionally result in aversive consequences. For example, oral syringe acceptance must commonly be retrained after dosing with medication. However, it is unclear whether such dosing is punishing due to flavor novelty or the animal’s flavor preferences.
The present study will assess the effect of novel and non-preferred flavors on oral syringe acceptance in two captive ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). A paired-choice preference assessment was conducted to identify approached (preferred) and avoided (non-preferred) liquids for each animal. An ABACD concurrent multiple baseline across participants design will be used. Following a stable baseline of syringe acceptance with one preferred liquid (A) a preferred but untrained liquid will be substituted to test for the effect of novelty (B). Baseline conditions will then be reinstated (A) and then a non-preferred untrained liquid will be substituted to test for the effect of an aversive consequence (C). Procedures to address either novelty or aversion will then be implemented (D).
This research may improve oral syringe training with captive animals by suggesting procedures for enhancing response maintenance. Results pending.
This research will be presented at the 38th Annual Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Convention in Seattle, WA, 2012.
Teaching Patagonian Cavies to Like People Using CAT
When captive animals are fearful of people, routine husbandry or medical procedures are stressful for the animals and training for these procedures is difficult. These activities also have a high potential for injury for animals or staff. This study extends the generality of the Constructional Aggression Treatment procedure (Snider 2007), which is based on the assumption that fearful and aggressive behaviors are maintained because they increase distance between the subject and threat. This study uses CAT in a situation where animals are loose in a large enclosure and when two animals must be worked with together. The subjects are two Patagonian cavies (Dolichotis patagonum) who are extremely wary of people. Baseline observations of behavior were taken when keepers entered the enclosure. Intervention consists of shaping and differential reinforcement to replace fearful behaviors with alternative relaxed behavior, using distance as a reinforcer. During trials, a person approaches until one cavy alerts or freezes and retreats when both animals return to normal behavior. Proximity was increased once criteria were met at the previous step. The aim of the study is to shape the cavies to approach trainers and to increase relaxed interactions between the cavies and people. (further results pending)
Chase Owens and Sean Will
Often referred to as possessive aggression, or dominant behavior; resource guarding is when a dog engages in protective or aggressive behavior, maintained by negative reinforcement in the presence of particular stimuli. Like toys, food, attention and other valued items. The goal of our project is to implement a heavioral procedure, based on CAT to treat dogs with various forms of resource guarding.
What Are We Clicking: Punctuated Events or Behavior Cycles?
Often during shaping, the clicker is thought of as marking a punctuated event, rather than reinforcing an entire behavior cycle. However, trainers often end up with unwanted behavior that will not go away, even though they are not clicking for these behaviors. This investigation aims to increase our understanding of whether the click functions to reinforce a “snapshot” of a particular behavior or the whole chain of behavior since the last click. A dog was initially taught to touch a small stool and the touch was marked with the sound of a clicker. Later the click was progressively moved to other parts of the initial behavior cycle, such as clicking when the dog was halfway to the stool or halfway back to the trainer. We observed how the history of reinforcement and placement of the click influenced new behaviors offered, as well as resurgence of old behaviors. Results from this project will hopefully lead to recommendations for how to choose approximations for effective shaping.
Exploring The Sequential Order of Behavior During Extinction
Sean Will and Chase Owens
Extinction has often been thought of as something negative or at least unpredictable. Extinction is associated with increased rates of problem behavior upon the removal of a previously reinforced behavior. This project is designed to explore extinction and better understand conditions controlling the resurgence of behaviors. This can help form behavioral programs that incorporate extinction and control what behaviors occur during resurgence.
Comparing Methods to Promote Generalization Across Trainers
Katie Rossi, Jeff Gesik, & Laura Coulter
Generalization across trainers is often desirable; however, it does not always happen. Two methods to train for generalization include training a behavior with either multiple trainers or with one trainer and then retrain the behavior with other trainers one at a time. This project sought to compare these methods of training for generalization of two novel behaviors with two Labrador retrievers (5 months and 4 years old).
Rate of initial behavior acquisition and time to generalization to multiple trainers was tracked. In each condition the behavior of going to and lying at a specific location was trained (different locations per condition). The first condition utilized three trainers. The second condition used one trainer at a time. Probes for generalization were taken before and after training. Results will describe the shaping plans for each condition and the rate of acquisition as well as time to generalization for each behavior. Baseline data shows that the already trained behavior “Sit” generalized to all trainers. Baseline for untrained behaviors showed that the behavior is not in the animalsʼ repertoires for any trainers. Further results pending.
Further Effects of Indirectly Increasing Rates of Reinforcement on the Acquisition of Behavior of Dogs
It is well known that high rates of reinforcement are important for learning new behaviors. One way to achieve this is to use a direct method of increasing reinforcement; shaping. However, at some point the behavior has been divided into so many approximations that it cannot be divided any further. Are there other methods of achieving higher rates of reinforcement? In what ways do indirect reinforcers improve learning and the strength of the response?
The first phase of this experiment refined procedures from an earlier study to explore the use of indirect reinforcers as a technique for increasing rates of reinforcement. Two equally difficult novel behaviors were trained.
Using a multiple-element design, one behavior was trained following the usual shaping schedule and the other was trained similarly but at various intervals an easy behavior was interspersed during shaping to further increase the rate of reinforcement. In the second phase of this study, extinction was implemented to analyze the strength of behavior produced from each method of reinforcement. The subject of the experiment was a ten-year-old female dog. Baseline data show less than four left paw movements or one right paw movements per session over thirteen sessions. Further results pending.
Using Your iPhone/iPod Touch to Make Data Collection Easy
Data collection is integral to behavior analysis, yet the process itself is often challenging. Understanding when current methods of data collection fail and succeed allows these techniques to be refined, thus resulting in more versatile and useful information. This project will demonstrate how the touch interface of the iPhone/iPod Touch permits the observer to focus on the behavior of interest, rather than the process of data collection. It will also show how other design features can be used to give immediate feedback (both with graphs and raw data), minimize data entry errors, and reduce response cost. Integrating existing behavior analytic knowledge with new technology can increase the frequency of the data collection, as well as save time that can be used to analyze, rather than input, data.
Eliminating the Aversive Function of Stimuli: Using Constructional Aggression Treatment to Crate Train a Macaw
Calm crating is crucial for safe transportation of animals. The subject, a blue and gold macaw (ara ararauna), avoided a crate in the presence of the crate door but reliably entered the crate when the door was absent. Stimuli associated with aversive environmental events often gain a discriminative function. It was hypothesized that the macaw had been transported in the crate when the door was present and exposed to training conditions when the door was absent. The present study consisted of three phases. Phase 1 demonstrated the aversive control of the door by cueing the macaw into the crate with the door absent and with the door present. Phase 2 and 3 used a changing-criterion design to assess the effectiveness of a negative reinforcement procedure, constructional aggression treatment (CAT), on reducing the aversive function of the crate door. The door was removed contingent on previously defined behaviors incompatible with escape. Phase Three used free-shaping to train the macaw to exhibit calm behaviors during transportation. Results for treatment are pending.
Enrichment for Lemurs
Enrichment has become a primary focus for many zoos and aquariums throughout the world and yet it is not a focus of behavior analytical research. Captive animals are often less active then their wild counterparts. These animals serve as ambassadors to educate the public on their species, yet it is more common to see them engage in stereotypic behavior and less in species-appropriate behavior. A struggle animal keepers face when designing enrichment is prolonging habituation (Tarou & Bashaw, 2007). Many ideas have been proposed, some anecdotally investigated, to increase the length of time habitat enrichment functions as enrichment, but few have been compared to see which method is most effective.
This study was designed to manipulate individual enrichment components to discover which method, removal of enrichment, adding novel enrichment, or rotating enrichment, as well as training enrichment, is the most effective at increasing overall behavior as well as species appropriate behavior. After an initial pilot study to increase enrichment offered to a family of Ring-tailed Lemurs, controls were tightened and this specific study of method comparison was developed. Each phase of the study manipulates a different independent variable to assess its effect on behavior of the lemurs.
Turning an Aversive Noise into a Reinforcer
Clicker training is a primary method in training dogs. The clicker is a loud, sharp noise. Because of these qualities it is the tool of choice when capturing discrete behaviors systematically. The same features of the clicker that makes it ideal for training can evoke fear responses in some animals. To be effective a clicker must act as a conditioned reinforcer, but when the clicker operates as an aversive stimulus, training will be ineffective. This study utilizes a fading procedure to change an aversive click into not just a neutral stimulus, but also a conditioned reinforcer. One dog, a 2-year-old Border collie mix, exhibited fear responses, eloping and freezing, when introduced to the clicker. Baseline data demonstrates behavior prior to the click, tail wagging, head up and ears erect, and after the click, at zero after elopement.