Morgan Katz's Research Projects
Project Members: Chase Owens, Laura Will, Morgan Katz, Sean Will, Tayla Cox
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.
Project Members: Morgan Katz
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induced by a drug can become conditioned to new environmental stimuli, after which the drug can be successfully withdrawn using a fading procedure.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.