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An exegesis on the reification of some terms in animal learning
Peter Borchelt and Pam Reid

There are numerous "conditioned" and "unconditioned" stimulus effects in animal learning. A wide variety of procedures may lead to either increases or decreases in behavior, with no consensus regarding the number/type of processes involved. Historically, the field of animal learning has been comprised of narrow, laboratory based research programs involving a "preparation" ( a species, a response system, a procedure) yielding data and theory that do not necessarily connect with other research preparations. As these terms and concepts have spread throughout the dog training world, many have become reified; that is, the text book example/definition IS the process, or anything that could plausibly fit into the example/definition IS an example. This also happens among animal learning researchers. Applied animal behaviorists face the task of understanding learning in a complex environment with multiple stimulus effects, usually operating simultaneously. We will list all of the stimulus effects we can think of and attempt the daunting task of constructing a taxonomy that might simplify things (or not).  

Hidden Aversives and Hidden Reinforcers
   presented for Karen Pryor by M. Nitschke

One approach to analyzing pet behavior problems is biological, using ethology or the study of innate behavior to query aspects of the animal's actions: is dominance involved? Is aggression occurring, and if so what motivates the aggression? What is the nature of the relationship between pet and owner, or pet and another pet? Often, however, another branch of science, behavioral psychology, can give answers too. The Skinnerian behaviorist would ask: what are human actions are maintaining the behavior? At ClickerExpo I watch hundreds of dogs and owners interacting in public. Often I see owners, who may be quite dedicated dog enthusiasts, both punishing and reinforcing behavior completely unknowingly. The resulting repertoires are usually attributed to the nature of the individual dog, but in fact, far from being intrinsic, they can often be altered simply by shifting the reinforcement contingencies. With examples and handouts.

Mentoring for CAAB’s

Suzanne Hetts, Nancy Williams, Jen Rommel and Kelly Long


The difficulties in meeting the coursework and supervised experience requirements for certification by the Animal Behavior Society have been previously discussed at IFAAB.  Many CAAB’s receive requests for internships or opportunities for supervised experience from people interested in becoming certified.  The ABS criteria do not specify what supervised experience should entail.  This presentation will discuss our mentoring program and our experiences as mentors and “mentees”.  Mentors who are in private practice do not have university support and must devise a system that compensates them for their time.  The “mentee” experience needs to be adjusted based on the individual’s background.  In this presentation, one “mentee” comes from a veterinary background, the other from a graduate clinical psychology degree.  Generous time will be allotted for discussion.


The Impact of Maternal & Post-Weaning Dietary DHA, (Docosahexaenoic Acid) on Puppy Trainability
Melissa Shyan


DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid important for CNS and retinal development in young mammals.  DHA is the most abundant brain fatty acid. In a highly controlled study, 39 genetically similar puppies were tested for the effects of dietary DHA on learning. Prior to whelping and during nursing, puppies' mothers were fed a balanced diet including three levels of DHA, (as were the puppies post-weaning). To simulate an in-home environment, puppies were socialized through play and human interaction.  At 10 weeks, puppies was tested in a T-Maze, where symbols indicated which arm contained reinforcement. When success criterion was reached, symbols were reversed, until criterion, and then reversed again.  Puppies in the enhanced-DHA diet condition performed significantly better than their control counterparts, suggesting that DHA levels can affect memory and trainability.

The Anatomy of a Reactive Dog Class
Emma Parsons

The reactive dog class is a seven week class in which dogs who suffer from dog on dog aggression are taught through the principles of classical and operant conditioning (namely clicker training) to give their owners automatic eye contact every time they see another dog in the environment. Instead of lunging and growling at the end of the leash, these dogs begin to practice emotional self control and will perform other behaviors that are incompatible with the aggression. They are now thinking dogs instead of reactionary ones.

Typically within three weeks, the dogs are walking with their owners calmly on leash. As the class progresses, we work on a series of foundation behaviors, as well as introducing new learning experiences such as freeshaping select agility obstacles.  

The Puppy: to squish or not to squish?  
Crista L. Coppola

What do you do with a young dog who throws unpredictable temper tantrums that are way out of proportion to the situation? I will present two case studies where young dogs were treated for throwing temper tantrums (growling, snarling, trying to bite, etc.) Both puppies responded well to being “squished,” that is being physically restrained until tantrums extinguished. But is squishing just an alpha roll in disguise? What exactly is it and what are the alternatives? Are there ways to predict which puppies will respond well and which will not?  

Exploring Normal and Un-Normal Puppy Behavior
Suzanne Hetts, Mary Lee Nitschke, Pia Silvani

A panel discussing puppy behavior in the context of which puppies in our  practices are likely to be safe companions in their homes. Is there a  profile of puppy behavior that would indicate a poor prognosis as a safe  pet companion? How do we responsibly advise clients in questionable  situations? An emphasis will be on discussion of the group's considered professional  opinions in consulting with clients on the future of "questionable" puppies  in their homes.

 Each panel member will present for 10 minutes. The remaining time is for  group discussion.

Suzanne Hetts: Normal - Un-normal decision making criteria in puppy  behavior cases.  Ethology, genetics, and temperament testing considerations- a brief  synopsis of current data.

Pia Silvani: Two feral puppies with diverse outcomes, video of behavior profiles.  Client education and changing experiences with public puppy classes at St. Hubert's.

Mary Lee Nitschke: Reaching a euthanasia decision in puppy cases-factors that complicate the picture for all involved.

Group discussion: what we know, what we don't know, and explore how we stay with evidence based practice in these cases?  

Individual differences and the role of testosterone
Diane M. Mollaghan

The behavioral manifestations of castration have garnered considerable attention from research scientists from a broad array of backgrounds including neurobiologists, endocrinologists and veterinarians. Testosterone has been identified as triggering aggressive behavior in males of many vertebrate species, including dogs.  The role of testosterone and canine behavior was pioneered by Beech in the 1950’s and since then many interesting questions have been raised such as optimal timing of castration and dominance related behaviors. I would like to summarize previous research and contextualize some of the findings with the recent debates of the neural and hormonal basis of individual differences.  

Abstract #1: Urinary behavior of female domestic dogs, Canis familiaris: influence of reproductive condition, location and age Sharon Cudd Wirant and Betty McGuire

The urinary behavior of adult domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, is sexually dimorphic with respect to posture (males lift a leg and females squat), frequency of urination (males urinate more frequently), and tendency to direct urine at specific objects in the environment (males are more likely to direct urine). Such behavioral differences have led to the belief that urination functions largely, or exclusively, in elimination in female dogs, while having the additional function of scent-marking in male dogs. However, few studies have detailed the urinary behavior of females in relation to reproductive condition, age and environment. We observed urinary behavior of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers during walks in familiar and novel environments. The females ranged in age from 0.4 to 11.2 years. Older females urinated more frequently than younger females and directed the majority of their urinations at objects in the environment. Overall, females urinated more frequently and were more likely to direct their urine when walked in novel environments. Spayed females were more likely than intact females to ground scratch following urination and defecation. Overall, the most common posture displayed by females was the squat-raise, and spayed females were somewhat more likely than intact females to use this posture. Intact females, in contrast, were more likely than spayed females to use combination postures. Within both groups of females, however, there was substantial individual variation in urinary postures. Our data indicate that female urinary behavior varies with reproductive condition, location, and age, and that substantial individual differences exist among females. Additionally, the large proportion of directed urinations by females in our study suggest that urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent-marking.

Abstract #2:
Urinary behavior in the female domestic dog, Canis familiaris, in relation to the estrous cycle, location and age

Sharon Cudd Wirant, Betty McGuire and Katherine Halvorsen

 Olfactory communication urine scent-marking is commonly used by mammals, including domestic dogs, Canis familiaris. Although urine scent-marks are thought to convey information about reproductive state in canids, no study has simultaneously monitored urinary behavior and precise stage of the estrous cycle. We observed urinary behavior of ten intact female Jack Russell Terriers, ranging in age from 1.3 to 8.7 years, during walks in familiar and novel environments across three stages of the estrous cycle (anestrus, proestrus, and estrus). Stage of estrus was monitored using vaginal cytology. Statistically significant higher proportions of directed urinations occurred during proestrus and estrus than anestrus, and at older ages. Proportions of directed urinations did not differ between familiar and novel environments. Our finding that female Jack Russell Terriers directed a greater proportion of urinations during proestrus and estrus than during anestrus suggest that scent-marking with urine serves to advertise reproductive state in female domestic dogs. Additionally, our finding that directed urinations increase with age indicate that urinary behavior of female dogs continues to develop and change throughout adulthood.  

Animal Behavior Services Survey
Jennifer Sobie

In 2005 one of the discussions at IFAAB centered on training, recognition and certification of people practicing or interested in practicing in the field of applied animal behavior. The main focus of our discussion was available training, accreditation and/or certification. This proposed presentation continues this discussion, but its focus is on the job market. Included is a review of data collected in two surveys: one conducted May-Sept 2005 of veterinarians throughout Michigan, and the second conducted Sept-Dec 2005 of pet owners in West and Southwest Michigan. The surveys sought to assess the extent that veterinarians involve themselves with animal behavior consultation, either as providers or through referral of clientele to animal behavior consultants, and the extent to which pet owners utilize or consider utilization of the services of animal behavior consultants. The resultant data provide an appraisal of the views of survey participants regarding the role of veterinary medicine in behavior consultation, hiring and referral practices, perceptions of behavior consultant qualifications, perceptions regarding the role of formal education in behavior consultant competency, and awareness of the ABS certification program and perceptions regarding its efficacy.   

Children and the Behavior Consultation

Wayne Hunthausen


Open discussion and idea sharing regarding issues involving children and behavior consulting such as:

-Interviewing techniques

-Separating truth from fiction

-Managing difficult children

-The age of the child and learning, taking responsibility, taking part in decision making, etc.

-Discussing euthanasia

Is it Really Cats vs. Dogs? Discussion on Interspecies Play
Lauren Hays

Intraspecies play is a fascinating and fairly well documented area of  ethology. But what about those rare instances of interspecies play? How  often does it happen? Does it require a certain "type" of dog or cat? Is  it more likely that the cat takes on canine play behaviors or the dog takes  on feline play behaviors? Which areas of play are the most likely to "make  sense" between species (chasing, vocalization, etc.)?  

The Human/Canine Relationship – “A Look at the Past - To help predict the Future”
Glenn Martyn

It has been said that “Prior to the first world war most dogs were trained using patience, understanding and rewards by civilian trainers…” During the “Great War” they go on, “training techniques became harsher and more abrupt in order to supply the ever increasing demand” (for war dogs). Such statements are part of what we might call the “bogus history of dog training.” An accurate history of man’s relationship with dogs (and other animals) is far different. Can a better understanding of history and the cultural factors that impact our interactions with animals help us predict and guide our future relationships?   

Indoor Cat Enrichment Melissa Shyan

A survey was conducted to determine enrichment activities for indoor cats in the caregivers' homes. Indoor-cat caregivers (N=304) answered structured interviews about their cats' use of windows and other "fun activities." Caregivers were asked about durations of window use, what cats watched through the windows, and in what other "fun" activities cats freely participated. Of 577 cats, 84.3% looked out windows a total of five hours or less a day, that cats observed 14 different categories of outdoor stimuli, and that cats participated in 17 categories of "other fun" activities. Results suggest that cats use windows and sunlight much less often than the welfare community may expect, but that access to these should be considered when possible.   

Feline Aggression Towards Humans: Multiple Case Studies
Barbara Pezzanite

What are the potential causes, what can we do, & how long should we hold on? The first case study involves Kensington, a 7 year-old neutered male DSH. Kensington displayed aggression towards Client G’s then boyfriend, now fiancée, and dog (now deceased). As a result of the aggression, the fiancée will not live in the same apartment with Kensington. The second study is Cleo, a 5 year-old spayed DSH who attacks her owner and the owner’s fiancée. The third study is Hannah, a 5 ½ year-old spayed DSH who attacks strangers.   

Animal Behavior Consulting and the Law
Peter Borchelt, Kenneth Williams and Dan Estep

From time to time animal behavior consultants are asked  to provide consulting expertise to attorneys or to act as  expert witnesses in legal proceedings. In this panel  discussion, an attorney, Mr. Kenneth Williams, will  present different legal theories of liability and their  relevance to behavior consultants as well as some common  legal themes that effect consultants. The other panelists  will then present specific cases they have worked on as  examples of how consultants can work with attorneys.  After these brief presentations, discussion will be  opened to the group to share what we have all learned  about the pitfalls and rewards of working with the legal  system.  

Who are we? What is IFAAB?  
Kim Barry, Patricia McConnell and Mary Lee Nitschke

Every year we talk about these questions. This year myself, Patricia McConnell and Mary Lee Nitschke have been designing an intention statement that defines IFAAB. This talk will be designed to discuss the intention statement with the group and obtain a working copy. As we solidify our intention we will gain a new perspective on the future of these meetings.  

Self-directed Aggression: A Novel Treatment for an Unusual Problem
Jen Rommel & Nancy Williams  

A challenging but rarely researched area in animal behavior is the cause and treatment of self-directed aggressive behaviors. We will present a case involving a spaniel, which consistently delivered multiple bites to her rear legs in the proximity of any person. In addition, the dog exhibited this behavior when exposed to food or other objects. Previous treatment with drug therapy and behavior modification by the owners had affected no improvement in this severe case of self-directed behavior.

After primary medical conditions were ruled out, we began behavior modification immediately. The application of pressure wraps on the rear legs and tail provided continuous tactile stimulation for several days. Substantial improvements were noted within hours of this novel treatment with a lasting effect on behavior.

Discussions will include comparisons between the human and animal literature for self-directed behaviors as well as some novel treatment modalities.  

Context-Specific Compulsive Nibbling in a Four Year Old Dog
John C. Wright

Compulsive nibbling/licking in a “rescued” four year old dog will be described along with video taped segments. The nibbling suddenly appeared in the Winter of 2005, is ongoing, and is restricted primarily to the owners’ bed where the dog and four other pets (three dogs and one cat) sleep along with the two owners. “Nibbling” and occasionally licking is directed toward any bed material (covers, sheets, pillows) or on the pajamas or body of either the male or female owner when the dog is on the bed. It occurs in the morning and at night. If uninterrupted, the behavior will persist with only brief pauses for up to one hour. The nibbling can be briefly interrupted verbally or physically without the dog reacting emotionally; he typically gets up, lies down again and begins nibbling. The behavior seems to be pleasurable for the dog, and may/may not serve as an anxiety reducing (coping?) behavior. Its function (and diagnosis) is unclear. Discussion will center on hypotheses about the behavioral anomaly, opinions about whether it should be treated, and if so, in what way(s).  

Use of the Storm Defender in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia
Nicole Cottam

The etiology of canine thunderstorm phobia is not known exactly. Some  theorize that the phobia is essentially a noise phobia (learned or innate) and  the dog becomes conditioned to fear other aspects of the storm including  lightning and wind. Some dogs appear to detect storms before their owners,  leading some to believe that dogs can sense changes in the environment that  their owners cannot, such as changes in barometric pressure or levels of  static electricity. This investigative project sought to determine whether  pain/fear of static electricity plays a role in thunderstorm phobia. This is  being accomplished by two studies with owners of thunderstorm phobic dogs who  used the ‘Storm Defender,’ a cape with an inner metallic lining that is  thought to shield the dog from the potentially painful or fear-evoking effect  of static electricity. In phase 1, anecdotal information was obtained from 14  owners. Ten out of 14 owners reported a “moderate” or “good” therapeutic  effect from the cape. Four owners reported little or no effect. Phase 2 is  currently in-progress. In this double blind study, a placebo cape (cape  without a metallic lining) is being used to test whether the cape’s metallic  lining is responsible for the cape’s apparent therapeutic effect. Twenty dogs  were enrolled in phase 2 (10 experimental and 10 controls). Owners were asked  to record the frequency and intensity of 12 behaviors associated with  thunderstorm phobia during 4 storm experiences with the cape. A behavior  score will be generated for each of the 4 storm experiences and compared to a  baseline score.   

Doggy Day Care
Melanie Pokluda Mcleroy

Doggy Day Care is one of the fastest growing small businesses and franchises in the U.S. What does this mean for the dog owning community, the dogs themselves, and for canine behavior professionals? I will be examining what criteria are helpful when evaluating doggy day cares. These criteria include policies and procedures, training parameters for daycare technicians, and most importantly, playgroup guidelines. I'd also like to review the advantages and disadvantages of using day care in behavior modification programs.   

Head Scratchers
Karen B. London

When an ordinary day at the office involves a case of a dog bite that sent a neighbor to the ER and another in which a man’s dog prevents his return to bed after a nighttime visit to the john, what does it take for a case to be considered odd? For me, the weird cases aren’t those with the most aggression or the strangest family dynamics, but the ones that don’t make sense. They are the ones that lack clear patterns, where the obvious treatment plans accomplish little and I find myself at a bit of a loss and running out of ideas. I will present two cases that, quite frankly, left me scratching my head. The plan is to stimulate discussion about these cases, hopefully leading to avenues to pursue, as well as other cases we’ve collectively dealt with, in which we are far from satisfied with the outcome to date. The worst case scenario is that we don’t come up with any new ideas to try. The best case scenario is that I become thoroughly mortified when members of the group point out the all-too- obvious factors that I missed.  

Practical Approaches to Difficult Situations
Nancy Williams

Traditional approaches to the behavioral assessment and subsequent training of dogs with anxious or aggressive behaviors can be difficult, and/or dangerous. During an appointment, or later at home, we often struggle to control the dog safely while training, which places limitations on interactions with the dog. By using an inexpensive tethering restraint system both in the office and in owner’s homes, I have developed an effective novel approach to both the canine behavior evaluation and treatment processes.

 This approach can improve the standardization of assessment procedures, safety for the handler, and general training efficiency. Tethering appears to facilitate desensitization and counterconditioning training, as well as increasing owner compliance with behavior modification at home. We have used this approach with puppies and adult dogs with complex separation or aggressive behaviors.

 I will provide an overview of the techniques with accompanying cases videos of actual assessment and training procedures. Time will be allowed for discussion of how other behaviorists may find this system useful.