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Nancy G. Williams, Peter L. Borchelt
The Relationship Of Heart Rate Variability And Emotional Reactivity In Dogs
Few studies have examined emotional reactivity and physiological responses to mildly stressful events in behaving dogs. This study examined behavior and heart rate variability in ten dogs during mildly stressful events in order to investigate the relationship between emotional reactivity and cardiovascular responses in dogs.  Behavioral and cardiovascular responses of 10 (5 males; 5 females) pet dogs, representing six different breeds, were examined at baseline, during three stressor tasks, and at recovery.  Sessions were recorded on videotape for behavioral analysis while electrocardiogram (ECG) data were recorded using a standard 5 lead - Spacelabs Holter monitor. The three stressors included: mild restraint, a suspended helium balloon anchored to an oscillating fan, and a life-size three-dimensional model of a Cocker Spaniel.  Results indicated increased heart rates to behavioral challenge as compared to baseline primarily driven by vagal withdrawal. Interestingly, heart rate was lowest during the oscillating fan condition and highest when exposed to the dog model.  Further studies examining anxious and aggressive dogs are being conducted. Our goal is to evaluate that data in comparison to this study to gain some insight into the relation between heart rate variability, predicting behavior and behavior modification.  In the future, an increased understanding of the relation between physiological arousal and cognitive states can lead to improvements in the management and treatment of behavior problems in pet dogs.

Animal Shelter Behavior Programs Panel
In the past fifteen years behavior evaluations at animal shelters have become more common.   In theory they may serve a variety of functions, but most often, they are used to determine whether animals are made available for adoptions.  Depending on the breadth of the “test,” they may be used to develop an animal profile to facilitate “matching” of pets and homes or to “prescribe” enrichment and rehabilitation activities.  These efforts are gaining widespread acceptance within the animal sheltering community.  The question that begs to posed, and answered, is “does the science support the expectations?”

The session will include a general introduction to the field of testing and the concepts of reliability, content, construct and predictive validity, scales and other relevant issues.  Several presentations will feature work conducted at animal shelters and will help to delineate the opportunities, and limitations of this environment.  The session will conclude with a discussion of how to move forward with consensus efforts regarding methods and interpretation that can be a service to the animal sheltering community.

Tentative speakers:

Stephen Zawistowski: Introduction.  What animal shelters face, and the tools required (10 min) 

John Wright and Stephen Zawistowski:

Testing:  Theory and application  (30 min)

Amy Marder Predictability of a Shelter Dog Behavioral Assessment Test  (30 min)
Kimberly Barry and Diane Mollaghan The Effects of Shelter Stress on Dogs and Cats  (30 min)
Pamela Reid and Jill Goldman:

The Sweet Smell of DAP  (30 min)

Melanie McLeroy:  Head Start  (30 min)
Marylee R. Nitschke
Where we have been in the control of behavior
Historical notes on the control of behavior: ideas, notions, theories, methods and some equipment.  The history of applied psychology's development of how interspecific behavior can or cannot be regulated by others will be outlined.  Illustrations of "equipment" will accompany the outline.
Patricia B. McConnell
Publishing without Perishing
No matter how extensive our training in animal behavior and how deep our experience has been working as applied behaviorists, few of us have had mentors who've taught us how to negotiate the world of publishing.  There's no doubt that many of us have a great deal of knowledge that we'd like to share, and that there's a huge market of people who love to read about companion animals, but bridging that gap can be rewarding and exciting, or an exercise in frustration (or most likely, both).  In this 40 minute talk, I'd like to discuss some of the in's and outs of publishing books related to applied behavior, and generate a discussion from other participants who've published.  The goals of this talk are to stimulate more publications from knowledgeable people and to increase the reinforcements that we authors get from our efforts.

Nathan Penny

Examining Canine Behaviour During Training Classes
The processes of learning and memory are critical for enabling animals to display adaptive and flexible behaviour in response to a changing environment.  Expression of adaptive behaviour is a function of many complex influences, including physiological and emotive states. Numerous studies have demonstrated that stress can have a detrimental effect upon learning and memory. Predictability and controllability of a stressor may also be factors that modify the impact of stress. Companion dogs may encounter stress during the acquisition of operant responses, such as sit, stay, come, or heel. Although most dogs acquire these responses in the context of structured obedience classes, the classes often differ in the operant conditioning procedures employed by the instructors. The objectives of this study were: i) to identify if differences exist in the behaviour of dogs during different training classes with different training methods, ii) to determine if differences exist in canine performance upon the completion of different training classes, iii) to determine if differences exist between different training classes regarding owner reported satisfaction, owner perceived canine performance, and owner perceived handler and canine emotional states during classes. Subjects were privately owned companion animals attending one of three different dog obedience-training schools. The primary measure for comparison in this study was observable behaviour, the secondary measure was an owner completed survey. The behaviours compared between training classes were: mobility, vocalization, play, escape from the gentle leader, escape from owner, yawning, aggression toward the owner, aggression toward another person, aggression toward another dog, and submissive posturing such as pinned ears, lowered head, lowered body, and tucked tail. Canine performance during sit, down, stay, come, and heel exercises was also recorded and compared between training classes. Ideally this information will be utilized to help improve the welfare of dogs during basic obedience training.

Karen B. London

Spiels and Phrases

As Applied Animal Behaviorists, we often deal with people who are in varying degrees of distress, confusion, and vulnerability.  It can be difficult to handle the tricky emotional situations that develop in the course of appointments.  Ironically, many of us, myself included, have little or no training in dealing with the human species—the one that is there at every appointment and decides whether or not to stick with the program.  So much of our success with clients depends on the rapport we are able to establish with the human clients, and this can require some delicate verbal foot work.  I have compiled some expressions and phrases that I find useful to diffuse tension, to offer empathy and sympathy to clients, to connect with them, and to take a bit of the sting out of things that must be said, even though I would rather not.  My goal is to share the “spiels and phrases” that I find useful and generate a discussion about useful things to say so that we all go home from the meeting with more useful ways to talk to our clients.

Kimberly Barry and Diane Mollaghan  

The Effects of Shelter Stress on Dogs and Cats   

Every day in shelters people do some form of behavioral evaluation of their animals. These evaluations are designed to determine which animals should go back into the world to be "pet" animals.  As part of the process we must consider the effects of the shelter environment on the animals and how it may influence their behavior. For example, are dogs that show slight fear and submission under stress better pets than dogs that show confident behavior under stress? Can we even talk about predicting behavior in this way? This discussion would explore ideas about how we interpret behavior in shelters to predict success in new homes and how the concept of stress plays a role in that interpretation.

Melissa Shyan

Dogs Who Bite and Then Apologize: What’s going on?

All of us have had clients who report that their dogs bite them and then are "contrite" afterwards.  However, this contriteness doesn’t carry over into an inhibition of a bite response on future occasions.  What’s really going on that causes this "apology" in an owner-aggressive dog? Does this represent a situation of "reconciliation behavior" (a la’ DeWaal’s work with primates)? If so, what does it mean for dog social

behavior and what are it’s ramifications for applied animal behavior work.  Data will be presented.  Discussion will be encouraged.

Martha Lindsay

Thunder Phobia

Thunder phobia is a common problem in dogs and, arguably, in cats.   Behavioral modification techniques have been inconsistently successful in modulating symptoms so many practitioners advise medication.  A literature review of behavior modification techniques and medication therapies currently advocated will be presented.  In addition, a system for evaluating thunder phobia symptoms for client monitoring has been developed recently which is valuable for client monitoring.   Finally,  some alternative medicine therapies currently being used experimentally for treatment will be discussed.


Panel: Randall Lockwood (leader), Suzanne Hetts, John Wright

Issues in the Forensic Evaluation of Canine Behavior

 Behavioral evidence is increasingly being introduced in criminal and civil trials. This has included:

    - Assessment of general temperament in cases of fatal or severe dog attack

    - Evaluation of prior training for guard, attack or dog fighting

    - Incident reconstruction in fatal or severe dog attack

    - Assessment for behavioral indications of abuse or severe neglect

This is an emerging discipline and many of the assessments that have been used in court have been done in a rather unstructured fashion. In the absence of "generally accepted" procedures or protocols, any such assessments may be subject to Daubert hearings that challenge such evidence as "junk science". If applied animal behavior is to gain broader acceptance in the courts as a science, the profession will need to reach some consensus on best practices.


The panel will discuss these concerns with specific attention to such questions as:

    - How standardized/quantitative should  assessment protocols be?

    - Are control groups always necessary?

    - What variables may invalidate such assessment ? (e.g. time lag between incident and assessment, how and where animal has been confined)

    - What special considerations are needed in a forensic investigation? (e.g. record keeping, chain of evidence, blind or double-blind procedures, videotape procedures)

    - What is the best way to present such evidence to the court?

Daniel Q. Estep, Ph.D.                         

Changes in Applied Animal Behavior Case Loads

       Over the last eleven years, my case load has changed.  While this year I am seeing about the same number of cases that I saw in 1991, the proportion of cases that involve cats as patients has decreased from 33% to 17%.  The diversity of presenting problems has also decresed over the years.  The majority of cases now involve dog aggression to people.  My experience may not be unique.  Conversations with other applied animal behaviorists suggest similiar changes in case loads.  Why have these changes occurred? Have the frequencies of the problems themselves changed or are clients getting help elsewhere?  What do these changes mean for our practices and the future of animal behavior consulting?  If we want to see a greater diversity of cases, what might we do?  These questions will be posed for discussion. 


Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D.

Issues relevant  to  animal behavior forensic expert as exemplified in the San Francisco dog mauling

Properly qualified applied animal behaviorist have the opportunity to play significant roles in civil and criminal litigation involving dog attacks.  This role involves one of consultation to attorneys or testifying as an expert regarding factors or circumstances which influence or prompt a dog to become aggressive. Examples of kind of behavioral issues the applied animal behaviorists may be called on to address while engaged   in  forensic work  comes from the well publicized case in which a 33 y.o San Francisco lady, Diane Whipple,  was viciously mauled to death by two Presa canario dogs.  Did the owners of these dogs know they could kill? Did these dogs demonstrate behavior prior to the mauling of Whipple to indicate conclusively that they were dangerous by nature?  Evidence from this case relevant to these issues will be discussed to exemplify the kinds of issues applied animal behaviorists frequently need to address in dog bite litigation.

Pamela Reid and Pia Silvani

Devil Puppies

Is there such a thing as an evil puppy? There are occasional reports of very young puppies that are unusually aggressive. Typically, they are excessively mouthy, they get frustrated easily, and they throw serious temper tantrums. Are these puppies inherently "different" or "abnormal"? Should they be euthanized or can they be turned around? Case studies of devil puppies will be presented, followed by a discussion of what can be done, if anything, to help these puppies and their owners.

Pamela Reid and Jill Goldman

The Sweet Smell of DAP

Dogs arriving at a shelter are often anxious and fearful., Shelter personnel are always seeking ways to help these dogs adjust to their new surroundings. The manufacturers of Dog Appeasing Pheromone claim that it can help reduce stress. We compared new arrivals at our shelter, some were exposed to DAP and some were not. We examined the dogs' behavior for indications of stress.

Pamela Reid and Peter Borchelt

Evaluating Dangerous Dogs

Applied animal behaviorists are sometimes called upon to evaluate dogs suspected if being involved in a serious or fatal attack on a person or other dog. In cases where the dog is still alive, it may be desirable to conduct a behavioural assessment. We show video footage to spark a discussion of the format of evaluations for dangerous dogs and what we can conclude from these evaluations.


Karen Pryor

Clicking with Cats:  A proven, positive intervention that benefits cats and cat owners too

'Clicker training,' a technology derived from laboratory operant conditioning, but developed by practitioners, world wide, over the last ten years, is much more appropriate for cats than the traditional methods usually implied by the word ‘training.’ Indoor cats, especially, benefit from an enlarged behavioral repertoire developed with a clicker and food treats. The training process itself constitutes mental and physical enrichment of the environment.  

   Even unskilled pet owners and children can learn to click effectively, to teach target-following and gentle play, as well as husbandry behaviors such as tolerating grooming and nail clipping, coming when called, and using a scratching post. A simple clicker-based repertoire tends to replace undesirable behaviors that have surfaced due to lack of stimulation, such as aggressive play and destructiveness.  

   Since 1998 cat owners, veterinarians, and shelter workers have been developing and sharing successful clicker techniques for overcoming fear, socializing feral kittens and adult cats, eliminating cat chasing by dogs, and even neutralizing cat-to-cat hostility in indoor cats. Clinic or shelter volunteers or staff can use clicker techniques, if necessary working through the cage bars without handling the cats, to reduce fear and stress, establish social contact, and make shelter cats more adoptable.   

Michelle Posage

Cat-to-Cat Introduction and Prevention of Intercat Aggression

Animal shelter staff, veterinarians, veterinary staff, and animal behaviorists commonly make recommendations on the proper technique for the introduction of a new cat into a household with resident cats.  Cat owners often ask for advice on how to best select an individual cat to assure a successful companion for their household cat.  Realistically, the best approach many animal behavior problems is to give good advice on how to avoid them.   What are the most common recommendations given to new cat owners?  Which recommendations regarding this topic are founded on scientifically planned and well researched studies?  How much impact does a gradual introduction really have when compared to other types of introductions?  What recommendations regarding the age and sex of a new cat should be made?  I will present a review of existing literature regarding these topics as well as a short survey of the recommendations given at two animal shelters, two veterinary hospitals, and a pet store.  An open discussion of feline matching and introduction amongst the forum participants is hoped for.   

Amy Marder

Predictability of a Shelter Dog Behavioral Assessment Test

Behavioral assessment tests (“temperament tests”) are widely used in shelters to determine a dog’s suitability for adoption.  The tests are utilized on a pass/fail basis.  The dogs that “pass” are placed up for adoption.  The dogs that “fail” are put to sleep.    Shelter workers assume that the behaviors exhibited during the tests will likely appear after adoption.  This study was undertaken in order to test this assumption.  A 140 item behavioral assessment test was administered at the ASPCA by trained staff to 70 dogs which were 4 months of age and older.  The test included cage behavior, housetraining, walking in public places, friendliness, response to petting, response to handling, play behavior, ability to obey and learn commands, response to threats, response to pain, response to loud noises and frightening objects, behavior toward other dogs, reaction to being left alone and reaction to confinement.  The evaluators objectively observed the dog’s behavior noting the position of the ears, tail, mouth, eyes, body posture and movement and vocalizations.  All dogs tested were placed in new homes.  No dogs were put to sleep as a result of their behavior during the test.  A 45 item questionnaire was administered to owners after adoption at 5 intervals: 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months and 6 months to 1 year.  The questionnaire included items that pertained to the behaviors evaluated during the behavioral assessment test:  e.g. housetraining, behavior when handled, play, friendliness, fears, behavior toward other dogs, behavior toward people. It also inquired about behavior problems in general.  The results of the evaluation and questionnaires were compared to determine predictability.


Melanie McLeroy

Head Start

Every shelter's dream is a high rate of successful, permanent placements.  At Austin 's shelter we have initiated "Head Start," a program that identifies dogs who are at a higher risk of being returned and trains them before they are placed in adoption.  The training is done by volunteer trainers from around the county, aided by a team of volunteers from the shelter.  The trainer teaches and guides their team through a month of work with a group of dogs.  A training session is provided for the new owners when the dog is adopted. As the first trainer to plunge into this program, I have witnessed many growing pains: possible conflict among trainers regarding techniques; communication issues among team members; owner compliance; etc.  Many shelters around the country are instituting training programs--a close look at the first year of Head Start could be helpful.

Wayne Hunthausen

Taking the Byte Out of Electronic Presentations

The computer can be a powerful tool for presenting lecture material.  Good electronic presentations keep the audience's attention without distracting from the message.  I will share basic information relevant to giving electronic presentations, including tips on using PowerPoint, graphic file management, video formats, electronic imaging programs, data storage, data input options, etc.