Morgan Katz

Morgan is a third year Masters student in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas.  Before coming to UNT, she earned a BS in Psychology from The Ohio State University and completed the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Program.  Morgan serves as the co-chair for ORCA’s 7th Annual Art and Science of Animal Training Conference.  
Since joining ORCA, Morgan has been active in projects at the Denton Animal Shelter and at home with her own dog, Jerry.  Her research interests include helping shelter dogs become more adoptable and successful in their forever homes as well as treating problem behaviors related to aggression and separation anxiety.
Currently, Morgan is completing her internship at the SPCA of Texas in Dallas.  In addition to daily behavior modification with dogs, she is designing a program that aims to improve the quality of care for dogs during the intake and assessment process.  She is also implementing a playgroups program that provides a structured way for the dogs to have more time out of their kennels and more social interactions with other dogs and people.

Morgan Katz's Research Projects

Give Them Love: An Experimental Demonstration of Petting As a Reinforcer For Shelter Dogs

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.

Treating separation anxiety in a dog using a stimulus control procedure

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.