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Steve Zawistowski

Dog Bites and Breed Legislation


Over 300 American towns and cities have enacted some form of legislation
that restricts ownership of specific dog breeds.  In addition, a number of
insurance companies are not writing new home owners’ policies if the
applicant owns one or another specific breed of dog.  These actions are
being taken as a response to a perceived greater risk posed to public
safety by certain breeds such as pit bulls, Chow chows, Rottweilers and
others.  This is happening even though there are no clear data
demonstrating such an increased risk.   Efforts to have dangerous dog laws
concentrate on “deeds, not breeds” can be difficult to enact and implement
due to a lack of standards and guidelines on how to evaluate deeds.

I will provide a review of some passed, pending and challenged laws.  In
particular I will try to point out areas where behavior is considered, and
how.   I would like to initiate a discussion of how behaviorists can
contribute to a standardized, empirically based system for dealing with dog
bite/attack incidents.


Peter L. Borchelt

Dog Bites and Scratches


I will present an update on dog bite force data and compare topographies and forces of bites and scratches. Bite forces were measured using both a new super high pressure film and a different test material, polyurethane foam. Dog bites were recorded at much higher pressures than reported last year. In addition, I will show how bites and scratches differ in topography (shapes of marks) and present several legal cases in which analysis of wounds was critical in determining whether  or nor dog was declared dangerous.


Wayne Hunthausen

Taking the Behavioral History


I will lead a discussion period for attendees to share how they collect historical information. 

Discussion topics will include:  Use of pre-appointment history forms.  Owner video recordings.  Collection and recording of oral and observed information during the consult.  Use of forms during the consultation. 


Amy Marder, Meghan Rogers,  [not attending]/Joan Engel



The purpose of this study was to gather information about the prevalence of, and perceptions of, problematic dog behavior in owned animals.  Questionnaires were collected from Boston and New York City dog owners.  Questions pertained to aggressive behavior (bare teeth, growl, snap or bite) to family members, aggressive behavior (bare teeth, growl, bark, snap or bite) to individuals outside of the family, house soiling, destructive behavior, barking, escape behavior, behavior when left alone and fear of people, objects and noises.  Respondents were asked if they considered a behavior to be a problem and if so, to rate the severity and whether they had considered getting rid of the dog because of the behavior problem.  Respondents were asked to describe the progression of the problem over time, how they managed it and whether and from whom they had sought help.


Although data collection continues,  we have 325; 260 from females and 65 from males. 

Their ages ranged from 12 to 82 years, 146 have completed college.  Ninety-eight breeds

were represented.. 

62% of the participants reported that over their dog’s life, their dog had behaved in a

way that they considered a problem.  The most common were barking (24%), jumping up (23%), house soiling (21.5%), destruction  (20.9), aggression to dogs (24, and aggression to people 18.2 (13%) of the dogs had bitten people.   7.2%  had considered getting rid of their dog due to a behavior problem. The most common reason was aggression to people.


27% of the dogs exhibited signs of possessive aggression, 13% were aggressive when handled.  26% of the dogs showed signs of protective aggression to unfamiliar people and 11% anxiety when left alone. 32% showed signs of fear associated with thunder, 28% fireworks and 24% of vacuums.


Joan M. Engel

Title: Internet resources for pet owners


If you have a dog or cat with a behavior problem, what are the

internet resources available when you search for help?  The results

of searches for behavioral help will be presented.


Kim Barry, Val Masters, Melanie McLeroy, Diane Mollaghan, Nancy Williams

Dog Temperament 

This panel will examine the following topics:


Temperament dimensions


In order to create a model to study temperament of domestic dogs, we first define the temperament traits that exist. Thus far, researchers have failed to come to a consensus of opinion on this matter.  The reason for the apparent disparity in research may stem from the fact that temperament is often assessed with different objectives in mind.  Personality traits such as aggressiveness, excitableness, playfulness and anxiousness maybe relevant in obtaining a personality profile for a pet dog, but many of these traits may differ or at least be interpreted differently when it comes to assessing personality of a working dog.


How do we measure it?


The next step in this process involves the creation of a diagnostic tool to accurately

assess these temperament traits.  Akin to human personality studies, most empirical assessments of personality have not been faithful to the conceptual definition of a trait, and too often only one criterion is used resulting in weak correlation.  Many temperament traits consist of broad dimensions, which need to be measured by looking at behaviors multiple times in different contexts, in order to obtain an aggregate measure of behavior (Epstein).  However care must be taken that the achievement of reliability is not at the expense of validity. Both psychological and physiological measures of traits will be examined.


Pet matching


About choosing their ideal pet.  Two important criteria in predicting decision-making success have been identified: previous pet-owning experience and temporal factors, such as the amount of time adopters spent making their decision (Ledger, 2000).  People with little experience may be more prone to make decisions based on less information, and in shorter time vs. those who have experience and are vested in gaining background knowledge.  Do certain adopters reach their decisions based on affect or cognition or both? Serpell had examined the role of owner perception of behavior problems as a function of attachment.  Given that levels of attachment can be predicted prior to adoption, does an individual’s decision-making criteria (affect and/or cognition) also influence subsequent perceptions of problem behaviors in the home?


Personality assessment: How well people identify the personality traits they seek in a pet.  (Once they have identified their choice they could report in retrospect and compared to how they intended to choose )Did they utilize behavioral information made available from temperament test, pet history or based on their own experience interacting with the pet.  How does their own human personality traits influence their choice, are people seeking traits that are similar or different from their own.  Do people project their own personality traits inadvertently on the dogs they choose?   (When these are not consistent, is this a reason for a mismatch?)


John C. Wright

Does priming for quality of temperament affect subsequent ratings of dogs’ adoptability? 


This study was done in order to determine if judgments of shelter dogs’ temperament and

adoptability were influenced by raters’ prior exposure to an “actor” (dog) behaving in either an aggressive or friendly manner.  Our hypothesis was that raters’ judgments of different dogs’ adoptability (e.g., a German shepherd, Collie, German Short Hair Pointer, and Bassett) would be differentially influenced by schema-consistent information regarding the breed (a German shepherd) and the temperament (aggressive or friendly) of the actor dog. 

Specifically, we thought that people would attribute negative or positive characteristics

only to dogs of the same breed as the actor behaving in either an aggressive or friendly manner, respectively.  Results of the judgments of both men and women raters and implications of the study will be presented.



Crista L. Coppola (Presenter), Temple Grandin and R. Mark Enns

Influence of human interaction on salivary cortisol: Can human contact reduce stress for dogs in a public animal shelter?


Animal shelters are an extremely stressful environment for a dog, most specifically due to social isolation and novel surroundings.  The stress response of dogs housed in this environment may be alleviated through human interaction shortly after arrival.  During their second day in a public animal shelter, adult stray dogs were either engaged in a human contact session or not.  The session involved taking the dog into an outdoor enclosure, playing with the dog, grooming, petting and reviewing basic obedience commands.  Each dog interacted with a human for approximately 45 minutes.  Salivary cortisol levels were examined from each dog on their 2nd, 3rd 4th and 9th day of housing.  Animals that engaged in a human contact session had lower cortisol levels on day 3 than animals that did not.  On this day, male dogs also tended to have a lower cortisol level than females.  No other differences were seen between treatments or sexes on days 2, 4 or 9.  Breed type and age did not have an effect on cortisol levels on any day measured.  A human interaction session can be beneficial to both animal welfare and adoption procedures.  The current study not only utilized the human contact session as a treatment to reduce stress but also as a means to acquire temperament information on individuals to assist in compatible adoptions.  Human interaction may be an effective means of reducing the cortisol response of dogs in the aversive shelter environment.


Lauren Hays

Effects of a Standardized Obedience Program on Approachability and Problem Behaviors in Dogs from Rescue Shelters.


Improved adoptability is a common goal among rescue shelters.  Dogs are more likely to be adopted if they are friendly, mannerly, and approachable.  The possibility of improving rescue shelter dogs’ behavior through an obedience program has not been examined.  We developed an approachability test to determine whether dogs became more approachable during and after a standardized 12-week obedience program.  We also quantified jumping behavior and pulling on the leash to measure if these problematic behaviors also improved through training.  The subjects consisted of 26 dogs donated to the Triple Crown School for Professional Dog Trainers for one of the 12-week sessions.  The approach test was administered six times, at two-week intervals.  The tests were videotaped and jumping and pulling behaviors were quantified after testing.  Scores for approachability were based on the proximity between the tester and the dog at the end of each test.  For the dogs that completed all 12 weeks of the study, contingency analyses were performed for each behavioral measure.  Relative to the start of the 12-week training program, the dogs became more approachable (p<0.025), jumped less (p<0.025), and pulled on the leash less (p<0.025) than when the study began.  These results reinforce the importance of obedience training as a tool for increasing a rescue shelter dog’s adoptability and permanence once placed in

a home.



Is this a feasible option (time budget-wise) for rescue shelters?

Would rudimentary obedience training for only a few weeks be of long term value to the dog and the family?

What are other ways that rescue shelters could help prevent common problem behaviors before they become a cause for the dog's return?

P. Borchelt, D. Estep, S. Hetts,  M.L. Nitschke, M. Shyan-Norwalt, N., Williams,V. Voith

Panel on Growing the Field


Last year, we spent several hours in discussions and decided to investigate the feasibility of forming an educational program somewhere between full ABS certification and what is presently available to dog trainers. This was precipitated by the formation of several groups that claim to train "pet counselors" or "behavioral consultants". In the last year, we have found that community colleges generally do not offer animal behavior and animal learning courses, and that on-line courses from high quality programs in accredited universities are readily available. We ….. will give an overview of the situation (which has changed in the last year), present options for potential students to get basic courses from high quality programs, and show how similar programs are working currently in other fields (e.g., nursing, veterinary technology).  This type of program could work for dog trainers, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, shelter staff, second (or higher order) careerists, and retread psychologists or other mental health professionals.


Barbara Pezzanite

Arousal conditioned to people leaving


Classic behaviors of dogs experiencing separation anxiety include following the owner from room to room, whimpering, jumping on the owner as the owner tries to leave, then barking and scratching at the door after the owner has left.  But what of the dog that becomes frantic when anyone leaves the apartment, chasing and nipping at the person’s derriere, then hopping on the couch and falling asleep once the individual has left?  The odd behavior must have to do with the leaving itself, not the separation.  How does this unusual behavior develop?  Meet Pugsley, a 3-year old male Pug whose owner contacted the ASPCA for a consultation.  Neither Pugley’s owners nor close relatives could leave the apartment without the feel of this 15 lb Pug’s teeth nipping at their backside.  The behavior developed after the birth of her son. Why? 


In the next 20 minutes I’ll present the case of client X and Pugsley, opening up the discussion for further diagnoses and treatment options.

Pamela J. Reid

Case studies: Modification of Aggression in Shelter Dogs


Working in a shelter provides the behaviorist with a unique glimpse into

what can happen after we complete a client consultation. We provide advice

and guidance but, in the end, it is up to the client to implement our

suggestions. In the shelter, we have the opportunity to “jumpstart” the

process by initiating the animal’s behavior modification program and, if

reasonable progress occurs, the animal is transitioned into an adoptive

home. The adoptive owners are then responsible for continuing the behavior

modification and management protocols. But is this effective? In this

presentation, I’ll introduce you to a few of our more challenging

aggression cases, complete with follow-up information from the owners.


Patricia McConnell



This presentation will be an inquiry into the current state of knowledge of ethologists, behaviorists and neurologists into the cognitive abilities of canines. Included will be discussions of the latest research on problem solving abilities of dogs, of the interplay of emotions and cognition in mammalian species and on the current hot topic in cognition and philosophy: the “theory of the mind.”


D. Glenn Martyn

Abstract: Expanding Human/Canine Communication - Part II

"Challenging Some Behaviorist Assumptions"


Part I of "Expanding Human/Canine Communication" looked at the potential to establish more complex systems of verbal and visual communication beyond typical single word or movement cues.  Anecdotal evidence was presented supporting the dog's apparent ability to learn arbitrary human acoustic patterns.  Part II reviews the scientific literature and asks whether additional studies are necessary to support some behaviorist conclusions - specifically those relating to "overshadowing" and "positive punishment."  Can dog trainers be taught methods, whereby using a stimulus package to establish stimulus control is still beneficial despite overshadowing?  Can low intensity punishment be effective in decreasing undesirable behaviors?  If so, how is it applied?


Alice Moon-Fanelli, Jan Koler - Matznick,  Karen London and Mary Lee Nitschke  

 Ballet vs. Demolition Derby:  What Can Canid Play Styles Tell Us?


Since Lorenz's early works, comparing the social behavior of the domestic dog (Canis familairis) to that of the gray wolf (Canis lupus), and explaining differences as aberrations caused by domestication, has been the traditional method for interpreting domestic dog behavior. Regrettably, this has resulted in a narrow view regarding possible theories about the evolutionary origins of the domestic dog. The New Guinea singing dog (NGSD) (Canis hallstromi), has been re-classified as a feral domestic dog, which we think should be questioned on the grounds of both scientific and conservation considerations. Preliminary observations of the NGSD, arguably the most genetically pure population of primitive dogs still extant, indicate they have truncated or absent social behaviors compared to both the domestic dog and to the wolf. Three of us currently live with at least one NGSD and our observations support the hypothesis that the NGSD has unusual social behavior. In general, NGSD behavior most closely resembles that of the African Basenji and the Japanese Shiba Inu. From captive behavior, it has been suggested that wild NGSDs most likely have a bonded territorial pair social structure, which is the norm for canids in general. We will compare the social behavior, particularly play behavior, of a variety of dogs, both domestic and wild, using video footage of NGSDs, wolves, Basenjis, Shiba Inus, Malamutes, and Inuit Sled Dogs. Implications for the evolutionary theory that the domestic dog may have more than one potential ancestor with very different genetically based social behavior as well as a new view of the phylogenetic position of the NGSD will be discussed.


Nancy Williams

Restraint Equipment and the Power to Stop the Pull


Despite the many claims made for different types of equipment used to control dogs and reduce pulling on a leash, there is scant information and no data to support these product claims. The equipment includes various neck collars, harnesses, head halters, and leashes. Each manufacturer claims that its product will reduce pulling in a safe and humane manner.


This study will collect and analyze data reflecting the dog’s effective pulling power while restrained by several different commercially available products.  In addition, the session will compare the results of this pull force study with the claims of the manufacturers and other proponents of each equipment category. 


The goals of this presentation are to stimulate discussion on the products, their ability to reduce pulling per the data, and the implications of the evidence collected to support the safe and humane use of the product to manage dogs. Future studies could extend this work to include physiological data collected during the use of the equipment.


Sophia Yin

Training dogs to behave at the door using a remote-controlled positive reinforcement device.


With a majority of dog training products, development and sales precede the scientific research for evaluating efficacy. In this presentation I will discuss the planning and research that preceded final development of the Treat & Train Dog Training System‹a product for decreasing barking, jumping,

and other unruly behaviors at the door. This system, which is sold by the Sharper Image (expected date of release January-February 2005), focuses on positive reinforcement and a remote-controlled, treat dispensing machine.


In this presentation I will provide an overview of the two research studies (one to evaluate the protocol in a simulated doorway situation and a second clinical trial to evaluate the system in people¹s homes). I will also discuss the pitfalls encountered during the studies, factors I considered in developing a protocol for use by the general public, and factors that the clinical trial revealed were important in teaching owners how to perform the training.


Pam Wennmacher

The Effects of Maintaining Behavior with Click + Continuous Food Reinforcement (CCF) vs. Click + Variable Food Reinforcement (CVF)


In clicker training, dog trainers often use the term “intermittent reinforcement” when a click is delivered after every correct behavior, but food is delivered only occasionally.  However, when behavior analysts use intermittent reinforcement, the click and food reinforcement are always delivered together and the click never occurs without the food being delivered.  Many dog trainers believe that there is no difference if the click is delivered after every correct behavior, even without food reinforcement, or if the click is only delivered immediately preceding food reinforcement.  The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of maintaining behavior with a click + continuous food reinforcement (CCF) versus a click + variable food reinforcement (CVF).  Two dogs will be trained to lie down and stand-up on hind legs, until a performance criteria of 80% correct is reached during baseline.  Once at criteria, one behavior (either stand-up or lay down) will continue to receive continuous food reinforcement, while the other behavior will be reinforced with food delivery on a variable ratio (VR) schedule.  One dog will receive continuous reinforcement for stand-ups, while the other dog will receive continuous reinforcement for lay downs.  The clicker will be used to mark every occurrence of the correct behavior for both dogs, regardless of food delivery.  Results are expected to show a decrease from baseline in the behavior that is reinforced on the VR schedule for both dogs. 

Debra L. Forthman and Helen M. Hendy [Helen will not be attending. ]

Factors Associated with the Severity of Canine Aggression


Over the past year I’ve seen approximately 44 cases of canine aggression (22 males, 22 females). In fourteen (14) of these cases, the owners described their dogs’ aggression as perplexing, because it was sudden in onset or because they could see no factor to which to attribute their dogs’ dramatic change in personality, from an affectionate and biddable animal to one that was aggressive to dogs, people or both. In intake interviews, the key question was, “Has anything in your dog’s routine changed recently?” Often clients did not initially recognize that something had changed around the same time as the dog’s behavior, but ultimately seven (7) of these clients said that the only change in the dog’s routine was attendance at daycare. While the behavior of dogs often changed swiftly and dramatically for the worse after regular, frequent attendance at daycare, the effects of the use of pinch collars were generally more subtle and developed over a longer period of time; five (5) dogs worked in pinch collars developed aggression problems, as did one (1) dog that attended daycare and wore a pinch collar.  My colleague and I analyzed the data from the aggressive dogs and from fourteen (14) nonaggressive controls to look for patterns related to daycare and pinch collars, as well as 1) sex, 2) breed and 3) whether or not the dog had been rescued. The outcome measure was the severity of aggression: 0 (no aggression), 1 (dogs only) 2 (people only) or 3 (both dogs and people). As expected, there were no sex differences, while breed was the most significant factor, highlighting our role in counseling people on breed choice. Surprisingly, however, in paired comparisons, the breeds that were most likely to show aggression were the toys, which were not significantly different from sheepherding breeds, with terriers and other breeds, generally the largest dogs, showing the least severe aggression in this sample. Further, daycare and pinch collars had no significant effects on aggression. These two were in the anticipated direction, while rescue, also not significantly associated with the severity of aggression, had the opposite effect expected, an encouraging finding. My observations of the owners of toy dogs suggest that these kind people do not know how to discipline a tiny dog. Having rejected physical discipline, they have exhausted their options and permit the dog to engage in increasingly inappropriate behavior. Sheepherding dogs are high-strung and need "jobs."

 We believe that an increased sample of dogs in daycare and those worked in pinch collars will permit a better analysis of these potential factors. Analysis of more refined measures of the forms of aggression may also produce interesting results.


Jennifer Sobie

Relative Victim/Aggressor Size As a Variable Affecting Efficacy of Response Cost as a Treatment in Inter-Dog Aggression in a Multi-Dog Family  


Abstract: Though not inevitable, multi-dog families are sometimes affected by dog-to-dog aggression. Previous studies by the author have shown that response-cost in the form of time-out has been effective in ameliorating these aggressive displays. However, further evaluation indicates that the relative size of victim to aggressor is a variable affecting the outcome of time-out as a successful treatment. When dogs are of similar size, although time-out provides an initial reduction in the attack behavior, this reduction often is not stable even with continued response-cost treatment. This presentation discusses these results, and presents

further data on the effect of social status manipulation as an add-on treatment in such resistant cases. Included will be evaluation of cases and the practical application of the use of the concept of response class mediation in addition to response-cost in successful long-term treatment.

R. K. Anderson

Puppy Vaccination and Socialization Together?: What Are The Risks and Benefits?

Some veterinarians tell clients that puppies should not be exposed to other puppies or dogs until after 16 weeks of age when regular vaccination is usually completed. Some want clients to keep puppies isolated in their own house and yard without benefit of any socialization or learning in puppy classes or even with other individual puppies and dogs. They believe the risk of infectious diseases is too great and unacceptable. This has made it very difficult for trainers and behaviorists who are concerned with the need for early learning and socialization to convince owners of puppies to enroll in classes or even have puppy interactions with friends. For several years, I have been working with colleagues to collect data that would be useful to better document the risks of disease and the benefits of early learning and socialization for puppies. These data may be helpful  to promote the concept among veterinarians that vaccination and early learning/socialization go together. _______________________________________________________________________