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ABSTRACTS FOR THE 2014 MEETING     Schedule           2014 meeting 


Discussion Panel on Resource Guarding

Crista Coppola, Amy Marder, Pam Reid, Lindsay Wood

The panel will present data on evaluation, identification and treating resource guarding in a shelter environment.   Possible etiology and motivation for resource guarding will also be discussed with data presented on correlation between body condition score and presence of resource guarding.  Discussion will continue with the different methods recommended and used to treat resource guarding.

Do Electronic Training Collars Compromise the Welfare of Dogs?  A Look At The Evidence.

Dan Estep, Suzanne Hetts

A variety of organizations and individuals have decried the use of electronic devices that deliver electrical stimulation (shock) for training dogs. Some have argued that the devices are never acceptable in training dogs because they reduce the short-term and long-term welfare of the dogs. For example one study conclude “did find behavioral evidence that use of e-collars negatively impacted on the welfare of some dogs during training even when training was conducted by professional trainers using relatively benign training programs advised by e-collar advocates.” The conclusions from these studies are now being used to argue for changes to governing policies for trainer/behavior consultant certification programs and even laws regulating the sale and use of these devices. The question is how good is the research?  Does the research support the conclusions that are claimed?

In this presentation we’ll review the studies and lead a discussion on electronic stimulation training devices and the welfare of dogs.

Learning Theory and Natural Horsemanship

Robin Foster

Natural horsemanship is an approach to equine training that has been romanticized in films such as The Horse Whisperer and Buck, and popularized through a marketing blitz by trainers selling their services.  Although there are variations in the specific methods used, the general philosophy behind natural horsemanship is that behavioral and emotional change is accomplished by teaching people “expertise and success with horses based on the way horses relate and communicate in their natural world,” (Parelli, http://www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/natural-horsemanship/). Natural horsemanship has been embraced by owners, trainers, and educators, but only a cursory attempt has been made to frame it in terms of learning theory, and even this effort is sometimes inaccurate.  Such a framework could lead to scientifically-grounded refinement, validation, and assessment of the effectiveness of this approach on equine performance and well-being and on the quality of the horse-human relationship. The goals of this discussion are to: 1) begin to systematically analyze natural horsemanship methods in terms of learning theory in its broad context (e.g., behavior change, emotional state, and ethological differences across species); 2) discuss how to overcome barriers and promote scientific perspectives in practical equine training, perhaps using the canine model as an historical example; and 3) consider ways of encouraging equine science programs to incorporate learning theory into curricula that include natural horsemanship.

Fighting Between Dogs In The Home Environment

Lauren Hays

Fighting between dogs in the home environment is an issue commonly presented to behaviorists (Blackshaw, 1991).  This case study describes an example of an inter-dog aggression case and the protocol by which it was improved.  The behavior history of both dogs, the outline of the treatment protocol, the progress of dogs, and the follow-up will be described.  Although every case will be different, this case study is meant to demonstrate one successful method for addressing the issue of inter-dog aggression in this particular home environment.

Effects of Dog Breed Labeling on Potential Adopter Perceptions & Shelter Length of Stay
Lisa Gunter

Previous research has indicated that certain breeds of dogs, including pit bull-type dogs, stay longer in shelters than other breeds (Protopopova, Gilmour, Weiss, Shen, & Wynne, 2012). Current dog breed identification practices in animal shelters are often based upon information supplied by the relinquishing owner, or staff determination based on the dog’s phenotype. However research by Voith, Ingram, Mitsouras, & Irizarry (2009) has found discrepancies between breed identification as typically assessed by welfare agencies and the outcome of DNA analysis. Specifically, breed identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff and veterinarians was inconsistent across individuals and an unreliable means of identification: many dogs labeled as pit bulls lack such DNA breed signatures (Olson, Levy, & Norby, 2012).

The present study examines dogs that were labeled as pit-bull-type breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Bulldog) and dogs that were phenotypically similar but were labeled differently at a limited admission animal shelter in Phoenix, Arizona. We compared the dogs’ lengths of stay as well as potential adopters’ perceptions of their approachability, intelligence, friendliness and adoptability when viewed in photographs. Data analysis from this study will be presented.


Social Media Can Be Your Friend

Julie Hecht

Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook and Blogs. Will it ever stop? Probably not. And that’s  not necessarily a bad thing. At first glance, social media might appear daunting, inaccessible and even unnecessary. Instead, those in applied sciences are finding benefits to engaging in social media. Behaviorists, researchers and science writers are getting on the social media bandwagon. This talk provides a social media overview: initial considerations when deciding to join social media, platform differences, and research into social media benefits and challenges. I will review examples of successful uses of social media, and we will also discuss helpful resources to keep you (and others) engaged.

Clever Hans in Canine Science

Julie Hecht

Dogs are following horses’ lead. Canine behavior and cognition research is incorporating more controls to try and rule out experimenter and handler cuing. I will review the latest precautions that scientists are taking in canine behavior and cognition research to avoid cuing and bias, and I will explore the challenges to maintaining these precautions in applied research. Ultimately, we’ll discuss the import of these considerations and additional steps that could be taken.

Police Officers And Dogs: Creating A “Law Enforcement Friendly” Training Tool That Will Reduce Dog Shootings In The State Of Colorado

Suzanne Hetts and Jennifer Barg

In 2013, a bill was passed by the state of Colorado that is unique in the U.S. and has captured national attention.  This bill established a task force that will create a 3 hour training tool to be used by law enforcement departments for the purpose of teaching officers to better understand canine behavior, evaluate likelihood of an attack, and consider alternatives for safely responding to dog encounters without using lethal force.  The primary goal is still officer and community safety, but also to reduce the numbers of unnecessary shootings of family dogs non-violent crime calls.  Arriving at a consensus for content of the training and a delivery method among a very diverse team of experts from animal control, animal welfare, veterinary medicine, animal behavior, and law enforcement while also meeting the criteria of the bill has proven challenging.  In this presentation we’ll begin by providing a few examples of recent dog shootings in Colorado that provided the impetus for the bill.   From there we’ll present a brief overview of this bill, and the progress the committee has made on completing the tasks it was charged with namely content creation, delivery method, and credentials for instructors.  We’ll end with open discussion on these topics and the difficulties we encountered overcoming the differences in perspectives regarding the training.

Colorado Saving Shelter Pets Act

Suzanne Hetts, Dan Estep and Jennifer Barg

The Buddy Fund (a 501c3 headquartered in NYC),  along with several web-based organizations that it is backing,  is attempting to push through an initiative that they hope to have entered onto the November 2014 Colorado state-wide election ballot. This initiative, should it pass, would have extreme consequences on the Colorado Animal Welfare community as well as on the homeless pet population in this state. While the state of Colorado is very progressive in many aspects of animal welfare, pet overpopulation is still an issue in some regions.

Major concerns with this initiative include but are not limited to:  medically necessary euthanasia must be approved in writing by a Veterinarian; the State of Colorado and not the individual agencies would maintain ownership of the animals; quality of life issues are not addressed; and community safety is not taken into account.  In its original form, this Act did not provide for shelters to make any euthanasia decisions based on behavior.  In a recently revised format, the Act now makes allowances for animal shelters to euthanize based on

behavior with the following provisions:


Given this recent change to the initiative, it is only a matter of time before the CAABS and ACAABS will be brought into the discussion and looked to for expert opinions. Already this issue has captured much media attention in Colorado and emotions on both sides of the argument are being passionately voiced. The goal of this presentation is to help the group understand what is happening in the state of Colorado, consider individual opinions and discuss how and if we should respond at this time.

Most shelters aren’t euthanizing for time and space.

Quality of life and health and safety issues:

1.                  Create an awareness of the CAABs and others about the issue

2.                  Make points about the ramifications of the bill on the shelters and animal control

3.                  Discussion of health and safety, animal welfare issues

4.                  Offer our ideas for action  - get feedback

Who’s that Doggie in the Window?

Mark Hines

The current FCI breed standard (revised 11/08/2010) for the German Shepherd Dog reads: “The German Shepherd Dog must be, in its essential image, well-balanced, firm in nerves, self-confident, absolutely calm and impartial, and (except in tempting situations) amiable. He must possess courage, willingness to fight, and hardness, in order to be suitable as companion, watchdog, protector, service dog, and guardian”. It has become more and more difficult to find a GSD that fits this standard, as today’s GSD is a hodgepodge of diverse temperaments. My talk will focus on the numerous “types" of GSDs we see throughout the world today and how the breed has been changed geographically and politically since WWII.

Socializing Feral (under socialized) Kittens in a Shelter

Helena Kokes

The Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s kitten socialization program assisted a total of 264 kittens from January 2011 to December 2012.  93% of these kittens were successfully adopted into homes.  This presentation will detail our kitten socialization program and include post adoption follow up information. Candidates for our feline behavior modification program present between 1 week to 4 months of age and do not appear to have a positive association with people upon arrival to the shelter. These kittens display behaviors including hissing, growling, swatting and attempting escape from contact with people. Rather than euthanizing, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley commits to working with these kittens for a minimum of 3-5 days to condition positive associations to people. Post treatment behaviors include soliciting attention and contact, readily approaching novel people, and purring with loose/comfortable body postures when handled. Many of these kittens present highly social behaviors post treatment and adopters report surprise upon hearing the initial behavior reports. Additionally, we see often marked improvement and success with kittens who are beyond their key socialization period; findings will be presented for discussion. We believe this behavior mod program targeted to felines is highly effective and has a great potential for saving lives.

Neophobia,  Aloofness,  And Shyness In Captive Coyotes In A Natural State

Suzanne La Croix and Lynne Gilbert-Norton

Avoiding interactions with humans is often an adaptive behavior for wild animals.  Indeed, such behavior can be imperative among wild species that have been hunted, harassed, and persecuted.  Here, I will describe observations of neophobic, aloof, and shy behaviors for animals housed in a captive coyote facility.  I will discuss the conflicting merits of these behaviors in managing a captive colony.  Then, I will look at the effectiveness of training methods used to habituate these animals to human-animal interactions and how it can differ between animal-care workers and researchers.  Finally, the implications of this knowledge for dogs that present as anti-social will be explored.

Food-Related Aggression In Shelter Dogs: A Comparison Of Behavior Identified By A Behavior Evaluation In The Shelter And Owner Reports After Adoption

Amy Marder

In order to assess the relationship between food-related aggression in the shelter as identified by a standardized canine behavior evaluation and owner-reported food-related aggression after adoption, this retrospective cohort study followed 97 dogs adopted from a shelter and their adoptive owners. The Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program, a standardized canine behavior evaluation that was administered to all the dogs in the study prior to adoption, was used to classify dogs as either food aggressive (FA+) or not food aggressive (FA-). Adoptive owners were subsequently surveyed to assess the dogs’ behavior after adoption, the owners’ perception of food-related aggression, and their satisfaction with the dog as a pet. Twenty (20.6%) dogs evaluated were deemed FA+ in the shelter, and slightly more than half (11/20; 55%) of them were later reported by adopters as exhibiting FA+ behavior in the home after adoption, whereas out of the 77 dogs that were deemed to be FA- in the shelter, 17 (22%) were reported to be FA+ by adopters; conversely, the majority (60/77; 78%) of dogs identified as FA- in the shelter were reported by adopters as not having exhibited FA+ behavior in the home (P = 0.004). Most adopters, including those whose dogs were reported FA+ in the home, did not consider FA+ behavior to be a challenge to keeping the dog as a pet. In conclusion, in this sample of shelter dogs, the observation of FA+ behavior during a standardized dog behavior evaluation was associated with FA+ behavior in the home following adoption, however, an almost equal number of dogs observed to be FA+ on the behavior evaluation did not show food aggression after adoption. Failure to observe FA+ behavior on the shelter test was associated with the absence of FA+ behavior after adoption. The detection of FA+ via a behavior evaluation should be interpreted with caution, since a positive finding in the shelter evaluation does not consistently indicate that the behavior will occur in the home nor that a dog is unsuitable for adoption.

Taz the Pica Cat Revisted

Barb Pezzanite

Taz, a Domestic Shorthair cat with an excessive chewing problem including wires (phone, HDMI, computer), glass table corners, chairs, wall, coffee mugs, etc, was presented at IFAAB 2013. Taz also displayed some random aggressive behaviors toward her owner under various circumstances.  She had already been prescribed medication by her veterinarian prior to my consultation.  Tazí progress and effective strategies to help prevent the chewing will be presented at IFAAB 2014. Additionally, an informative observation on a toilet-trained cat named ì13î with a housesoiling problem will be discussed if time remains.

Legal Case Study: Complex Dog Aggression Case

Jennifer Rommel and Heidi Meinzer

Legal, educational, safety and emotional challenges in a complex aggression case involving two young sporting breed dogs, each with multiple behavioral problems, in a home with an eight-year-old child who has been a target for aggression.

1. Can all of these areas be adequately addressed at the time of the initial behavioral session?

2. Legally what are our responsibilities:

   a. during the first session,

   b. in written reports to the client/referring veterinarian and

   c. in follow-up communication with clients/referring veterinarian, especially when the owner disagrees with the recommendations?

3. Changes in my aggression case protocols as a result of this particular case in the areas of: pre-appointment education, history taking, behavioral assessment procedures, and the delivery of behavioral and safety information during/after the session.

Do Animals Lie: A Discussion:

Melissa Shyan-Norwalt

At a veterinary behavior workshop, I was confronted with a case where the dog was "Fear Aggressive" (diagnosis given by our team).  However, when I asked the client if the dog showed elevated tail, perked ears and "chesty" behavior (made itself look bigger), the client replied that he did.  These signals, to me, did not represent fear aggression.  However, the "leader" of the group dismissed my concerns by saying that the dog had been positively reinforced for showing these social signals and that they did not represent dominance aggression at all. This led me to return to comparative animal behavior questions of whether animals lie. By this, I am not talking about Batesian Mimicry or other such patterns.  I am asking whether dogs can actually "consciously" choose to present false social signals? Can they (removing the word "consciously") learn to react with misrepresentational social signals by operant or classical conditioning (suggesting that outward signals do not parallel inward physiological states)?  Are animals misleading us and each other by how they present communicative signals? Recent research on "sharing" and on conspecifics and nonspecifics who "lie" about where the food source is, or about sharing the food source, suggest that there are some sound evolutionary benefits to misrepresenting resources, but what about emotional state?  I am reminded of a photo we looked at when Patricia McConnell did her presentation on microsignals a few years ago.  The dog was a trained guard dog, it showed fierce teeth and "guard" grimace (a full frontal picture).  Yet, when one covered the lower half of the face, the eyes showed calm, not intense, signals that did not agree with the mouth. For this discussion, I am asking that people bring what they know about this topic, the science, their personal experiences, and their opinions, for a lively discussion!  (Snacks can be served if it will help).

Panel: Use Of Dog Head-Halters, And Restraint ( Response Prevention) Techniques

Victoria Voith, Karen London, Melissa Shyan-Norwalt, Nancy, Williams

This panel will review the history of dog-head halters and participants will share their experiences with halters and restraint equipment.  Some of the topics will be what specific products are designed to do and how they are used, difficulties clients may have with products and how best to make their use easier for people,  and specialty designed restraint equipment. It is anticipated that the other participants at the meeting will engage in discussion. Short demonstrations and presentations followed by time for discussion.

Does Chronic SSRI Treatment Interfere With Fear Extinction in Animals?

Mindy Waite

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used, both acutely and chronically, in humans and companion animals for a variety of anxiety and fear disorders. Recent studies in rats suggest that chronic SSRI usage may interfere with the learning process necessary for fear extinction through extinction-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Therefore, chronic SSRI use in companion animals may actually work counter to the goal of decreasing anxiety/fear over time when paired with CBT. As such, use of SSRIs may be appropriate when used for relatively short periods of time, such as for separation anxiety, but their use for long-term behavioral issues or multiple behaviors over time may actually inhibit progress. Data from these papers will be presented in the context of previous drug/behavioral studies (both supportive and challenging), comparison of animal models, drug facts, neuroscience, as well as study caveats. A discussion based on professional experiences with chronic SSRI use in fearful/anxious animals is welcomed following the presentation.

Aggression and Castration Controversy

John C Wright and Victoria L Voith

 An article in Animal People, July-August 2013, titled “Does castration really alter male dog behavior?”,   implied that castration not only has a limited impact on aggression but may predispose  neutered dogs to be aggressive.  Our presentation will discuss this article and references cited. The talk will focus on interpretation of findings, methodological & statistical considerations. It is anticipated that the audience will engage in the discussion.