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IFAAB 2009 Abstracts   Program Schedule

Marketing Behavior Services and Ethics
Hunthausen, Wright & Hetts

Seth Godin, internationally best selling author of business books, describes marketing as “the act of telling stories that spread, about things we make” (and do), which sell products and services.  People (our market, the pet owning public) often yearn for something new and different, embrace change and fads and are more likely to spend their money on something that sounds exciting rather than boring. 

A simple marketing formula is to state a problem a target market has, “agitate” the problem (describe all the negative consequences of not solving this problem OR all the enjoyable ones of resolution) and why YOUR product or service is the BEST choice for solving the problem.  Is this basic formula at direct odds with professional ethics that mandate “Refrain(ing) from advertising in a self-laudatory manner?” “Refrain(ing) from making false or unsubstantiated claims?” “Refrain(ing) from offering professional advice on those subjects in which they may not be qualified?” 

Ethical principles serve to identify for scientists the kinds of professional conduct to be adopted, and misconduct to be avoided.  Can marketers almost be viewed as the antithesis to scientists?   Scientists are trained to not “go beyond the data,” to replicate results prior to going public, and to avoid “making up stories” that masquerade as supportable results from research.  Does this mean scientists can never compete effectively as business people in the market place? 

The field of pet behavior suffers horribly because the best marketers, who are best known to the pet owning public, are seldom the most highly educated or most qualified experts in the field.  This panel will share examples of professional ethics statements relevant to marketing and professional behavior and discuss the difficulties academically trained business professionals have in developing effective marketing strategies that don’t create ethical problems or contribute to pseudoscientific claims.

Creating Effective Communication Among Trainers, Behavior Consultants and Veterinarians

Nancy Williams, Ellen Lindell, Pia Silvani, Victoria Voith

Clear and effective communication among trainers, behavior consultants and  veterinarians is important to the management and resolution of any behavior problem. The client’s veterinarian is often the starting place and hub of the communication wheel. The veterinarian should rule out or treat any medical conditions that cause or contribute to behavioral changes before referral to a trainer or behavior consultant.  Trainers and consultants need to keep in close contact with veterinarians as medical conditions may masquerade as behavior problems and because medical problems may arise during the course of the training or behavioral treatment.  Trainers and behavior consultants need to communicate in a professional manner with the referring veterinarian so that she/he knows what behavioral treatments and/or training is being done.  Trainers can also act as coaches to owners helping with the day to day management and implementation of behavioral programs and by facilitating communication between clients and other pet professionals.

This panel will explore the ways that veterinarians and non-veterinarians can work as a team to help pets with behavior problems and the kinds of information that would be most helpful to all concerned and the most effective ways it can be

A comparison of the results from a novel outside-of-cage test for aggression in dogs to the outcome of the complete Marder-Match-Up dog behavioral evaluation.
Angie Koban and Sheila Segurson, The Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston

In an attempt to find the most accurate, safe, and reliable test to screen for dangerous aggression in shelter dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, we evaluated the response of kenneled dogs to two different postural approaches by a person who remained outside of the kennel. A friendly approach (sideways, averted gaze) was performed first for one minute to assess the ability of the dog to exhibit appropriate behavior. This approach was followed by a two minute recovery period during which the person left the area and was not visible to the dog. After the recovery period, the person approached the kennel with a threatening posture (direct approach, stare, bend over, reach out) for one minute. Following a second two-minute recovery period a one-minute friendly approach was repeated. Behaviors such as tail movement, vocalizations, and ear position were observed and recorded after each phase of the test. Results were compared to those from the complete Marder Match Up dog behavioral evaluation, an 18 item test that is routinely performed at the shelter. Implications of these results for our understanding of the predictive value of single tests for aggression will be discussed.

Getting to know you: urine marking and investigation in domestic dogs
Anneke Lisberg

Although dogs spend a great deal of time and energy urine marking and investigating urine, and their olfactory capabilities potentially allow them to discern detailed information about individuals through urine investigation, the social functions of urinary communication in dogs are poorly understood. In my graduate research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I investigated sexual and social patterns of urinary communication behaviors in domestic dogs and considered the effects of gonadectomy on urine signals and urine investigation. My results suggest that both male and female dogs use several distinct urination behaviors to advertise social status and reduce close contact in social introductions, and may investigate urine both to locate potential mates and to assess unfamiliar individuals. In doing so, dogs may use urine marking and investigation to more safely establish social relationships. I will summarize these studies and discuss the practical implications of these findings for dog owners.

The use of strong aversives in the treatment of behaviour problems
Coppola, Brudecki &  Reid

The use of electronic collars and other strong aversives for treating behaviour problems is understandably controversial. While electronic training devices can be extremely powerful when used appropriately they also have the potential to exacerbate a problem when used incorrectly. This panel will introduce you to some of the basic considerations when using aversives, illustrated by case studies and applications involving negative reinforcement and punishment procedures. We’ll address these basic questions: Are there behaviour problems for which strong aversives are useful? Are they more appropriate for particular dog temperaments? Are they more appropriate for particular human temperaments? Should they only be used as a last resort when other methods have failed? We feel that even if you’ve no intention of ever using aversives like electronic collars, it’s important to understand the potential benefits and the possible risks, bearing in mind the average pet owner has access to these tools and many use them without proper guidance.

Law Enforcement Join Forces with the World of Academia
Mark Hines

Although U.S. Law enforcement agencies and major K-9 organizations have long recognized a need for national standardization of detection dog training, it has not been an easy task to initiate. The multitude of dog breeds and training techniques have been at odds for years. To illustrate difficulty, law enforcement agencies have detector dogs of every possible combination of breed, temperament, sex, size, training length, alerts used and reward systems employed to name a few of the differences.

After the disaster of September 11, 2001 there was renewed emphasis for standardization of detection dogs by the U.S. Government, particularly explosive detection dogs. The initial work of forming a scientific working group for Detector Dogs started June of 2003. In 2005, with funding from the FBI, The Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detection Guidelines (SWGDOG) was formally established in an effort to develop consensus-based guidelines that can easily be shared across all groups involved in detector dog work. SWGDOG is co-chaired by 2 academicians; an analytical chemist from Florida International University and a veterinary behavior specialist focused on canines from the University of Pennsylvania.

Questions Explored:

Will national standards finally be implemented for all detector dog teams?

What impact has the Scientific Working Group had on law enforcement agencies around the country?

What do the words “trained”, “certified” and “reliable” really mean in the K-9 world?

Predicting Separation Anxiety in Shelter Dogs Using Behavioral Tests
Kathleen Johnson

This study evaluated the accuracy of quantifying seven different behaviors of shelter dogs to predict the occurrence of separation anxiety in these dogs post adoption. While in the shelter, the dogs were observed for 25 minutes with the evaluator and for 30 minutes when left alone. The behaviors scored for both frequency and intensity, were excessive greeting, attachment, inappropriate elimination, vocalization, destructiveness, anorexia and increased activity. After adoption, data was collected from owners of 64 dogs. The owners were asked a standard set of questions assessing the same seven behaviors. Dogs given higher scores on the tests at the shelter before adoption exhibited one or more of behaviors associated with separation anxiety in their new homes. The following behaviors exhibited at the shelter were significantly correlated (p < 0.05) with occurrence in the home post-adoption: attachment, vocalization, destructive behavior, and greeting behavior. With this information it may be possible to identify behavior problems associated with separation anxiety prior to adoption, allowing for preventative pharmacological therapy and/or behavior modification to be instituted with the intent of increasing owner satisfaction and reducing the number of dogs returned to shelters.

Retrievers and the Remote Collar
Lauren Hays

At the top levels of field trial competitions, retrievers are required to perform extremely difficult and precise tasks. This precision is sometimes required at distances around 500 yards, in the midst of thick cover, while swimming in large bodies of water, and in almost any weather condition. The training for this type of work is far beyond that of the typical "gun dog" program. At the top levels, the primary tool is the remote collar. Due to technological advances in the remote collar, training is much more humane than in the early days of retriever field trial training. However, could there be other tools that could achieve similar results? Or is the distance a limiting factor on other types of training tools? Let's take a short tour through this multimillion dollar sport and discuss possibilities in bringing effective new methods to the table.

How on Earth am I Supposed to Know What?s Going On?
Karen B. London

The field of applied animal behavior is by its very nature an interdisciplinary one. Because of that, there is a seemingly infinite array of sources for new information. It is exceedingly difficult to keep track of new ideas, techniques, and perspectives in the field.  I?ll be the first to admit that despite a lot of effort, I often feel worried that I am not keeping up as well as I should with new research and new ideas. With so many of us doing a variety of work such as seeing clients, practicing medicine, giving seminars, writing books, dealing with the media, running businesses and making efforts of various degrees of futility to have a life, I strongly suspect I am not alone in wondering how best to keep up in our field. I would like to have a brainstorming session and discussion about what sources people are using to stay up in the field of applied animal behavior. I hope the discussion will lead us to e-mail groups, books, conferences, web-sites, journals, and other sources of information that will allow each of us to make better-informed choices about which sources to focus on in the limited time we have available for this aspect of our work.

Are Pit Bulls Different?
Amy Marder

Many people have claimed that dogs that have been identified as Pit bulls or Pit bull mixes behave differently from other dogs. The claims vary from the positive “Pit bulls are friendlier” to the extreme negative “Pit bulls are like wild animals and are more likely to bite than other dogs”.

This study was undertaken to partially answer this question. All dogs that received behavior evaluations in 2007 at the Boston branch of the Animal Rescue League of Boston were included in the study. All evaluations were performed by ARL-approved evaluators.

The Animal Rescue of Boston does not admit for evaluation large dogs, including pit bulls, who have previously displayed aggressive behavior. Small dogs with aggressive behavior may be admitted. The conclusions from this study in no way predicts the behavior of all pit bulls, large dogs or small dogs. It only describes the animals’ behavior in response to the specific tests used.

Subjects: 39 small dogs (<40 pounds)
22 large dogs (>40 pounds)
21 pit bulls or pit bull mixes (>40 pounds)

The small dogs and large dogs consisted of a variety of purebred and mixed breeds. There were too few purebreds to look at breed tendencies.

Method: The ARL Boston canine behavioral evaluation consists of 18 tests. The dog’s response to each test is recorded and described by a rank from 0 to 3 for friendliness, fear, arousal and aggression. Each group of dogs ranks were averaged and compared. Chi Square analyses were performed and stastitical significance was determined. P<.05 was considered significant.

Significantly more pit bulls chased and retrieved toys and played tug of war when compared to either the large dogs or small dogs.
Tug of war with a rope toy
Plush squeaky

Sounds Good to Me (Or not?)
The effect of environmental sound on canine behavior and health
Patricia B. McConnell

We all know that sound is one of the most fundamental ways that we communicate with dogs, but what is the effect of sound on the behavior and health of our dogs? Dogs are exquisitely sensitive to sound, and not just the sounds that are produced by us. Environmental sounds, from air conditioners,televisions and playing children can have a profound effect on the behavior and physiological health of our dogs. This presentation will review the book, Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion, present some of the current work on the response of non-human animals to different types of music, and discuss (and demonstrate) why some types of sounds could successfully treat anxiety-related behavior problems in dogs, while other types of sound can potentially create them.

The team approach to difficult cases involving rescue dogs: The Michael Vick fighting dogs
Nancy Williams and Mary Huntsberry

We will discuss the team approach between a behaviorist, the veterinarian and the rescue agency when working with adopted dogs exhibiting problem behaviors. Dogs that have no experience outside of a kennel situation often exhibit phobic responses to normal daily activities encountered in a pet home. The evaluation and placement of 52 fighting dogs from the Michael Vick case offers a unique opportunity to explore and develop treatment plans for extreme problems. Three of the dogs released to a rescue agency from the Vick case, and one fighting dog from another case, will be used to discuss the rehabilitation of the dogs. Two dogs had received an evaluation that it was reasonably likely that the dog could be adopted by a member of the public. Two other dogs received an evaluation that it was reasonably likely that the dogs would spend a significant amount of time, if not the dog’s remaining lifetime, in an environment that would control the dog’s interaction with people or other animals.

The medical aspects of each case will be discussed, in addition to video footage and heart monitoring data to illustrate the behavioral interventions, and progress of each dog after the initial evaluations.

“Why can’t I just use my voice?” How clickers actually work
Karen Pryor

My new book, "Reaching the Animal Mind: what the clicker training method teaches us about animals," will be published by Scribner in June 2009. In working on this book I tracked down some of what actually makes a clear-cut secondary reinforcer, such as the clicker, so powerful.

The learner’s interest in a click is maintained by food or other reinforcers; but the utility of the click is not as a bridge to the food, but as a marker (Ogden Lindsley’s word) identifying a specific action of the learner. The human voice gives a mixed message and is subject to timing errors, weakening its effectiveness as a marker. Even if the teacher controls for these variables a difference remains: Hunter graduate student Lindsay Wood demonstrated that in training a new behavior in naïve dogs (crossing the room to bump a target stick) a click was nearly 50% faster than a verbal yes. Why?

That’s not the only question. How come humans and animals can sometimes acquire a new response from just one click? Why are clicker-trained behaviors retained apparently indefinitely? What accounts for the elation that we see in learners? Why is it so much ‘fun’?

I interviewed Joe Le Doux’ team at NYU, Peter Holland, chief of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins and a heavy user of conditioned reinforcers, and Jaak Panksepp, at Washington State University. The NYU team confirmed that the marker passes through the amygdala, generating one-trial learning, long retention, and an emotional response. Holland elucidated many details of the powerful effects of clear-cut secondary and tertiary reinforcers (which we call cues) on learning, retention, and intensity of response. Panksepp confirmed that clicker training is an example of the ‘seeker circuit’ in action, exciting energetic participation or a sense of ‘fun.’ These effects are not typically produced by verbal markers.

Comparison of Visual Breed Identification and DNA Breed Identification
Victoria L Voith*, Elizabeth Ingram, Katherine Mitsouras, Joe Marilo, *

This presentation will consist of an administration of a quiz consisting of pictures of mixed breed dogs, disclosure of DNA breed analysis of the pictured dogs, followed by a discussion of what this means.


The Uses And Abuses Of Personality Assessments In Dog Shelters
Samuel D. Gosling

It is well established that personality can be assessed in non-human animals, including dogs (Gosling, 2001, 2008; Gosling & Vazire, 2003; Gosling, Kwan, & John, 2003; Jones & Gosling, 2005). We review core measurement issues underlying all attempts to assess personality in nonhuman animals. Assessments of animal personality have faced three concerns: (1) that personality cannot be measured reliably in animals, (2) that assessments of animal personality are overly subjective, (3) that the methods required to obtain valid personality assessments are impractical. Using data from our studies of several nonhuman species we address each of these concerns and evaluate the viability of canine personality assessments, with a special focus on comparisons between rating and coding methods.

Next, we summarize the latest findings from a major project conducted in collaboration with the Town Lake Animal Center in Austin, Texas. The aim of the project is evaluate the reliability and validity of temperament tests that are widely used in shelter contexts but are rarely subjected to rigorous psychometric analyses. We present findings concerning the reliability of and validity of temperament tests and examine the validity of stereotypes concerning breed differences in behaviors. Discussion focuses on how the research can be used to improve shelter efficiency and animal welfare (e.g., by promoting the effectiveness with which shelter animals are matched to suitable homes).

Excessive screaming as a behavior problem in Psittacines
Wailani Sung

Some species of psittacines, such as African Greys, are prized for their ability to mimic human speech and sounds, thusly making them popular as pets.

In nature, most species of parrots are social and live in flocks where it is normal to exhibit daily patterns of vocal communication. These vocalizations serve many different purposes (such as alarm, contact, etc), however, in a domestic setting, these same behaviors can become problematic.

Excessive screaming is a commonly reported behavior problem in Psittacines kept as companion animals. Owner education is key to helping manage and maintain these social animals as beloved pets.

I will discuss the underlying causes of these vocalizations as well as suggestions as how to modify them. It is important to note that it may not be possible to eliminate all vocalizations, but following these recommendations owners should be able to help modify this behavior, making them tolerable in a domestic setting.