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IFAAB 2007 Abstracts   Program Schedule

Are Dogs Entering Our Shelters Really Becoming More Difficult?

Jenn Barg and  Sharon Wirant


It is a widely-held belief that dogs entering shelters in the   northeastern United States have become more challenging in terms of   their behavior problems.  Dogs with difficult behavior problems   generate a variety of issues: for shelters, who need to find homes   for these dogs and face higher euthanasia rates; for new custodians,   who must live with and handle these dogs; for trainers and behavior   consultants, who end up treating these dogs once placed with their   new custodians.  In response to the changing situation, many shelters   are transporting purportedly "easier" dogs and puppies from the   southern U.S. to provide adoptable dogs for their communities.  Using   six years of data (2001-6) from a New England shelter, we asked three   questions central to this issue: (1) Are we seeing an increase in the   number of dogs entering the shelter with a bite history; (2) Are we   seeing an increase in the prevalence of "problematic" behaviors in   dogs entering the shelter; (3) Are dogs transported from shelters in   the southern U.S. more or less likely to exhibit these same   "problematic" behaviors?  As behavior consultants, we should be   highly concerned about the dogs that are being placed into   unsuspecting pet homes; transporting more "adoptable" dogs may not be   the answer and will not address the behavioral situation in the northeast.

Putting Ourselves Out of A Job

Kim Barry


There is a rising tide of increasing numbers of dogs with behavior issues, and the issues they have are becoming more and more serious. We see it in private practice and in shelters across the country. What do we need to do to stop and reverse this trend? The typical applied animal behaviorist spends their time trying to fix what is broken. How do we start creating situations? animals? that don't break. This talk will generate ideas on how we stop and take a breath from the fixing, and start to focus on the preventing.

Sleep deprivation in horses and other sleep problems in companion animals
Joseph J Bertone and Dan Estep

Equine conventional wisdom dictates that horses can achieve ‘sleep’ in the standing position.  Almost any
horse that has episodic drowsiness is quickly diagnosed as a narcoleptic and a search for imipramine begins.
Although it is true that some horses can remain standing for prolonged (3 to 6 months) periods of time, there is a
subset of horses that seems to require periods of paradoxical sleep (PS) and associated REM that cannot go
without this stage for more than 2 to 4 weeks.  If they go with deprivation of PS, they begin to show episodes of
near collapse.  Pain associated with being in or achieving the recumbent position, or herd or environmental
insecurity hamper these horses from achieving the essential recumbent position to achieve PS and episodes of
near collapse ensue. In this presentation, we’ll show video of some of these horses and discuss the relevance of
the problem for applied animal behaviorists and veterinarians.

Breed Specific Legislation - What we all should know

Crista L. Coppola


Breed specific legislation is a hot topic right now.  Who is it affecting and who will it affect in the near future?  What are the two sides to the controversy?  Should we be doing anything to stop it?  Regardless of which side we are on we need to know the facts. 

The Effect of An Odor Eliminator, Zero Odor Litter Spray, on Feline Litterbox Behavior

Nicole Cottam


Decreasing litterbox odor is an important treatment component in addressing feline inappropriate elimination. A three-phase study was conducted to determine if the use of Zero Odor® Litterbox Spray increases the preference of litterboxes to cats, presumably by its odor-eliminating quality. In the first phase, cats were given a litterbox preference test between a litterbox sprayed with Zero Odor and one without. In the second phase, the number of occurrences of behaviors indicative of a cat’s dissatisfaction with the litterbox (scratching at the sides of the box, floor or wall, hesitating when entering the litterbox, balancing on the side of the box and eliminating outside of the litterbox) was compared before and after the use of Zero Odor®. Last, the frequency of eliminations that occurred outside the litterbox was measured during a baseline phase and a test phase, in which Zero Odor® was sprayed into all litterboxes in the home. Significantly fewer behaviors associated with feline litterbox dissatisfaction and fewer undesirable eliminations were observed in Phases Two and Three respectively. These findings suggest that use of Zero Odor® Litterbox Spray appears to decrease litterbox odor and increases the

attractiveness of litterbox to cats.

What Does it Take to Make a Behavior Program Succeed in a City Run Shelter?
Jill Goldman

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists market themselves not only to the veterinary community, but also to animal
shelters and humane organizations. This presentation includes data from a nine-month retrospective review of a pilot project to introduce a Behavior Program into a Southern Californian animal shelter. The Irvine Animal Care Center (
IACC) is one of approximately 11 animal shelters and humane organizations in Orange County, and provides only services for the city of Irvine.

Comparative Emotions Panel
J. Wright, P McConnell, J Ha

Recent statements on the neurobehavioral correlates of emotional expression and recognition in people has provided us with an opportunity to question the assumptions we have about similarities and differences in emotion and expression of emotion in humans and nonhuman animals. Bradshaw and Sapolsky (2006) have suggested that if humans and nonhuman animals share morphological, physiological, and genetic traits, then there is little reason to exclude mental states.  Panskepp's research (1998) on neurohormonal correlates of emotion in non-human animals has been used to inform our understanding of several types of human behavior, including social attachment, addiction and the production of laughter.  Adolphs (2006) presents evidence that one of the amygdala's role in emotion is to direct an active search for relevant social cues, like fearful expressions, in faces.  But what does this all mean for applied animal behaviorists?  Three relevant questions will be briefly addressed: "What are emotions?," "How do or might animal emotions influence our work?", and
"what do we need or want to know about emotions in companion animals?." The focus of this session is to initiate discussion on these topics.

Client Compliance Panel

Lauren Hays, Karen London, Mary Lee Nitschke, Pia Silvani


Coming up with a plan that would work if only our clients would follow it is not a very lofty goal. Coming up with a plan that our clients are willing and able to follow and helping them to do so is really what we want to do. Let those among us who have never had client compliance woes cast the first stone because this is a universal problem. How can we improve client compliance so that we can better help animals of all species, including our own? This topic is an area of interest across many disciplines, all of which can offer information, wisdom, and experience to us in our quest to improve client compliance in our own field. We plan to discuss the factors that are most critical in influencing clients to follow a treatment program and stimulate a discussion about what we have all collectively found useful or not so useful in getting clients to help themselves and their animals with good compliance.

Best Practice Guidelines for Behaviorists

Suzanne Hetts, Wayne Hunthausen


As well all know, animal behavior consulting is not regulated by government licensure.  Behavior consultants who are also veterinarians are bound by certain standards of practice established by the AVMA.  Those trained in other fields, such as zoology and comparative psychology, have no practice standards or guidelines to follow.  The American Psychology Association has practice guidelines for those working in human psychology but none for those trained as comparative psychologists. 


Certification by the Animal Behavior Society requires adherence to the Society’s ethics guidelines.  Some non-academic certifying organizations for both behavior consultants and dog trainers also have ethical guidelines. 


The guidelines from each above mentioned group will be reviewed, and discussion encouraged from participants as to what should be included in a “best practices” document for anyone offering services as a behavior consultant to analyze and modify pet behavior. 

Feline Behavior Problems After Adoption
Amy Marder

It is a common thought among shelter workers that the number one behavior problem in cats after adoption is housesoiling.  This project sought to find out if this was actually true.  100 consecutive cats of all ages adopted from the Animal Rescue League of Boston were followed up by phone after adoption at 1 week, 1 month, 2 months and 3 months.  Preliminary results indicate that the most common problems pertain to biting when petted or aggressive play behavior.  None of the cats were returned during the study.  


Reading Micro-Expressions Across Species

Patricia McConnell


Decades of research, primarily by Psychologist Paul Ekman, have documented that human facial expressions of the primary emotions, like fear and anger, are universally produced and perceived across all cultures.  He has also found that “micro-expressions,” or extremely brief and subtle changes in expression, are honest, involuntary and usually unconscious indicators of the true emotional state of a person.   In this presentation I will compare this work with the expressions of

dogs, and argue that one of the reasons that dogs and humans are such  ‘best friends’ is that we share similar expressions of emotions like fear, anger and happiness. The presentation will include voluntary (and anonymous!) participation in a brief research project that asks viewers to evaluate fleeting and subtle changes of expressions on human faces, helping to answer the question:  are professionals who work with aggressive dogs better than the general population at reading subtle

expressions of emotion on either species?

Disentangling the perception of problem behavior in dogs

Diane M. Mollaghan


Dog behavior problems can be a huge source of stress to their owners.  Owners are faced with the choice of seeking help from an applied animal behavior professional, or more often, then not, they result in the animal being re-homed

or surrendered to the care of a rescue shelter.  Behavior problems, like excessive aggressivity, anxiety, fear and property destruction and so on, are common among dogs adopted from rescue shelters (Voith and Borchelt, 1996), and this exposes dogs to the risk of being returned to the shelter once again (Miller et al., 1996).  Researchers have attributed this so-called “expectationgap” between an owner’s expectations about a dog’s behavior and it’s actual behavior in the home, to a large number of failed relationships between people and their pets (Ledger, 2000, Salman et al, 1998, Patronec et al., 1997).  The incidence or reported dog behavior problems appears be an interaction between the dog’s actual behavior and the pet owner’s perception of that behavior, based on their expectation.  But what are the factors to consider when examining this complex relationship, is it possible to tease the them apart?


In this study I will attempt to identify and disentangle some of the variables involved in the reporting of dog problem behavior.  I will examine the incidence of behavior problems in dogs surrendered and adopted from an animal shelter and the attempt to identify variables and examine their contribution to the perception of problem behavior.  These variables include human personality traits, levels of attachment between the pet and owner and the kinds of activities the owner engages with the dog.  I will also examine demographic information, hours spent indoors vs. outdoors, hours spent alone, diet etc.  I will couch my findings based on previous studies, and provide new data to hopefully generate some new hypothesis to the management and treatment of perceived dog behavior problems.

Presentation and Development of Flank and Blanket Sucking in 77 Doberman Pinschers

Alice Moon-Fanelli

A Survey of Prescription Drug Usage in Felines

Veterinarians and Animal Behaviorists were sent a survey designed to determine the usage and effectiveness of transdermal medications in cats with behavioral problems. Because cats are typically exceedingly difficult to pill, finding alternative methods may help prevent the following: 1) turning indoor cats into outdoor cats with the accompanying hazards of outdoor living, 2) the surrender of cats to animal shelters for lengthy periods of time, or 3) immediate euthanasia.

Shelter Behavior Evaluations: A Validity Study on Owned Dogs
Pam Reid

Evaluating the behavior of dogs in a shelter environment for the purposes of determining adoptability is a contentious issue. Popular “temperament tests” have been subjected to limited reliability and validity studies. One fly in the ointment is that validation studies have been conducted on shelter dogs. It is unethical to adopt out dogs that failed the test; consequently follow-up data are available only on dogs that passed and were adopted. We have no information on the post-adoption real world behavior of dogs that were euthanized. The objective of this study is to test owned dogs in an environment somewhat similar to a shelter – the boarding kennel. Boarded dogs are evaluated by means of a typical shelter dog test and their reactions are correlated with owner reports of the dogs’ real world behavior, obtained via the C-BARQ questionnaire.

Classical Conditioning – What’s New in an Old Story?

 Nancy G. Williams and R. K. Anderson


Historically, the psychology literature has examined the development, maintenance and extinction of classically conditioned (emotional) responses. Until recently, treatments for maladaptive or problematic emotional responses were without the benefit of knowing how responses or subsequent behavior modification affected the underlying physiology of the individual. Advances in technology have correlated physiological data such as heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) with behavioral responses during stress, to assess therapy and improve treatment modalities.


We will provide an overview of the classical conditioning literature and how recent studies have improved our understanding of traditional literature with psychological and physiological data. Using this information we will discuss how we can integrate the use of proprioceptive and kinesthestic feedback mechanisms in order to improve treatment modalities. Several case studies in dogs will be used to illustrate the principles discussed in this session. Panel discussions will include developments in cognitive behavior therapy and

Feeding Fear

Kathy Sdao


If classical conditioning “trumps” operant conditioning in changing animals’ emotional responses, then repeatedly delivering food to an animal as it starts displaying fearful or aggressive behaviors should serve to build an appetitive CER (conditioned emotional response) to the stimulus (or stimuli) that triggered those behaviors. This would, over time, cause the animal to “feel better” about that stimulus, resulting in less fearful/aggressive behaviors in the future. Human intuition, though, warns us never to “reward” fear or aggression by feeding a growling, snarling animal.


What are the behavioral effects of feeding a dog as he begins to growl or snarl? Does it matter if he’s fearful or not? Can you reinforce an emotion such as fear? Or does reinforcement strengthen specific behaviors only?


One example for discussion is the case of a male walrus named E.T. We zookeepers decided to feed him whenever he made a unique gonging sound, even though this sound always coincided with an aggressive display. The result after many weeks was 1) an overall decrease in his aggression, and 2) the gong sound came under stimulus control (i.e., a verbal cue from the trainers) and was dissociated from aggressive behaviors.

What do you do with a deaf Dalmatian puppy?
Melissa Shyan


This is a case study about a three month old deaf Dalmatian puppy.  The owners had read all the information they could find on the website.  But the puppy was extremely active, ignored the flashlight-treat clicker training, and grabbed and tore clothing.  They took her to obedience training at PetsMart with an instructor who said she could help, but were not helped.  The puppy continued to be "hyperactive," ignored efforts to get her attention, and was very jumpy and nippy.  I will present the techniques we used (with some tweaking of the program during implementation) to modify her behavior successfully.

Neurobiology of Learning and Behavior in Companion Animals

Jennifer Sobie


This presentation provides a basic overview of the neuroanatomical, neurophysiological, and neurochemical substrates of behavior in companion animals. Audience members will be introduced to the organization and functional anatomy of the nervous system and neural transmission, with a focus on the neurophysiological and hormonal mechanisms of behavior and the biological substrates for learning and memory.

Human Directed Aggression in the Miniature Pet Pig

Valarie Tynes, DVM, DACVB


Miniature pigs are frequently adopted by owners who know little about the physical and behavioral attributes of swine. Behavior problems, including human directed aggression, are common complaints, resulting in miniature pigs being relinquished to shelters and pig rescue groups in alarming numbers. Many possible causes for the aggression problems in pet pigs have been suggested, including early weaning, lack of environmental enrichment, inadequate socialization and improper training. One objective of this study was to determine if correlations exist between age of weaning and aggressive behavior towards humans, and between environmental enrichment and aggression towards humans.  The second objective was to gather information about the patterns of development of aggression in pet pigs; specifically, at what age do pigs generally first show aggression, under what circumstances they display aggression and what methods pig owners utilize in response to their pigs’ aggression. In order to gather information about these problems, I used an Internet survey site to collect information on hundreds of pigs, specifically about aggression problems that the owners had encountered.

Piecing Apart ‘Resource Aggression  

Emily Weiss, Heather Mohan, MS


Resource Aggression is often used as a catch all phrase encompassing food aggression and non-food object related aggression.  We have found profound differences in behavior between dogs that display aggression with both food and non-food items, and dogs that display aggression with only food items.  


The purpose of this presentation is to share video and data regarding these two types of aggression, and generate a discussion regarding a formal separation of the two for diagnostic and treatment purposes.

Liability in Dog Training Issues

Ken Williams


In a society where lawyers outnumber doctors, dog owners and dog trainers should be wary of potential liability! The cost of defending a law suit can quickly lead to financial ruin.


This presentation will include a discussion of common situations which may give rise to lawsuits with an emphasis on dog bite cases.  The speaker will illustrate the types of cases with examples, photographs and sample verdicts and settlements demonstrating the extent of potential liability.  Each state has laws and the speaker will discuss the common themes between the states and how case verdicts can be decided.


Common issues that involve dogs are the general liability of owners and trainers, situations involving contract issues, negligence issues arising from dog training.  The top ten things that a dog trainer should never say to a client to protect them will be outlined.


We will give discuss measures that dog trainers can take to protect themselves from legal peril and what to do in the event that trouble arises.

Urinary behaviour of female Jack Russell Terriers in relation to stage of  the oestrous cycle, location, and age

Sharon Wirant


In female canids, including domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), scent-marking with urine is thought to convey information on reproductive state, yet little is known about how urinary behaviour changes across specific stages of the oestrous cycle.  We measured urinary behaviour (proportion of directed urinations) of intact Jack Russell Terriers (n=10) across anestrous, proestrus, and oestrus during walks in familiar and novel environments.  Females ranged in age from 1.3 to 8.7 years.  Stage of oestrus was assessed using vaginal cytology, behaviour, and physical signs. Proportions of directed urinations were higher during proestrus and oestrus than anoestrus, and were higher in older females than younger females.  The findings in this study indicate that, in female Jack Russell Terriers, scent-marking with urine advertises reproductive state and continues to develop in adulthood. 

A comparison of owner-reported kitten and puppy behavioral problems and traits following shelter adoption.
John Wright

I will compare the incidence of owner-reported behavioral problems and perceptions of traits for kittens (N = 126) and puppies (N = 224) adopted from two different shelters when they were from 6 weeks to 13 weeks of age. The kittens were adopted from The Humane Society of Broward County (FL), and the puppies from the
MSPCA in Boston. Three different phone interviews were administered in the first year following adoption: at approximately 4 weeks post adoption, 18 weeks, and 52 weeks. A subset of the kitten data set consists of results already published (JAVMA, 2004), and a subset of the puppy results were presented at IFAAB in 2001 (N = 198). The comparative treatment will describe the similarities and differences similarly-aged kittens and puppies across the same categories of behavior.

Leopards, Wolves, Cats and Dogs:  The Evolutionary Conservation of Behavior and Implications for Behavior Consulting

Stephen Zawistowski


Modern genetic analyses are providing new insights into the evolution of domestic cats and dogs.  Combined with comparative behavior studies, we are getting a better idea of how our companion animals are similar and how they are different from their wild ancestors.  I will review these data, and some of their implications.  This will be placed into the popular culture and how people view and deal with the behavior of their pets.