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  Abstracts - IFAAB 2010 Meeting     Program Schedule


Nancy Williams, Mary Huntsberry
Aggression: Innovative Techniques for a Difficult Problem

 In an attempt to resolve cases of dog-to-dog aggression, a number of popular techniques combine punishment and reward with varying contingencies. While these techniques can achieve a reduction in problem behaviors, many require extensive effort and time that average pet owners find difficult to implement. In other cases, these techniques do not result in an adequate reduction in the problem. We have developed innovative methodologies that affect a marked reduction or eliminate aggressive behaviors toward other dogs. These methods range in difficulty, but are easily learned and implemented by most pet owners.

 Discussion will include innovative techniques applying the rarely implemented concept of response prevention in conjunction with a novel style for handling dogs. Handling includes the use of halters, harnesses, muzzles and visual blocking aids to reduce aggressive behaviors. Case descriptions and video footage will demonstrate the developed techniques. 

A simple process for monitoring heart rate, a physiological indicator which has been correlated with emotional states, will be reviewed. Reductions in heart rate indicate progress during the behavior modification process. Monitoring the underlying physiology of dogs during dog-to-dog interactions provides data that will ultimately increase our understanding of these problems and improve training methodologies.


Nicole Cottam
The Effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap™ on Canine Thunderstorm Phobia

 Thirty-two dogs, with at least three clinical signs associated with thunderstorm phobia, were solicited from states with high thunderstorm frequency via Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s ‘Your Dog’ newsletter. Owners were required to observe their dogs during two thunderstorms for which they were home and awake and, via a survey, rate the intensity and duration of 10 clinical signs associated with thunderstorm phobia. Owners were then sent an Anxiety Wrap™ and were again required to observe and rate the intensity and duration of the 10 clinical signs during the next five thunderstorms. Numerical anxiety scores were generated from the survey data. Preliminary data regarding the comparison of “before Anxiety Wrap™” and “after use of the Anxiety Wrap™” anxiety scores will be presented. The negotiations that occurred between myself, Tufts University and the Anxiety Wrap™ representatives regarding the design, mechanism of action of the Anxiety Wrap™, sample size and funding of the study will also be discussed.


Karen M. Davis
Applying Turtle Cognition and Sociality to Training and Enrichment in Captivity

Cognitive abilities in non-avian reptiles have received considerably less attention compared to mammals and birds. Ectothermic reptiles receive scant attention in training and enrichment programs in captive settings due to a bias that they are not social or cognitively adept. A review of this author’s study of the sociality, cognitive and social learning ability of freshwater pond turtles (Emydidae), demonstrates first, that turtles can learn and retain information about operant visual food acquisition tasks for up to 2 years. Secondly, that they exhibit complex underwater social behavior in a naturalistic setting, and lastly that have the ability to learn from other turtles. These findings suggest that turtles need to be included in training and enrichment programs in captive settings. I will be discussing how some of my methods and observations can be applied to future training and enrichment programs.


Daniel Q. Estep
Risk Factors for Aggression by Dogs:  Can We Make Sense of the Research? 

Since the 1980s there have been an array of studies that have examined the correlates of dog aggression in attempts to identify possible risk factors.  Early studies suggested that large, intact males of breeds such as German Shepherd dogs, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls were more responsible for injuries than others and that spoiling, tug games and lack of obedience were not related to dog behavior problems including aggression. Recent studies have found different results. Some have found small, female dogs and breeds such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Beagles to be more involved in aggression. In addition some studies have found that allowing dogs on beds and furniture, tug games and inadequate obedience were correlated with dog aggression.  How do we make sense of these seemingly contradictory findings? In this talk I’ll examine differences in methodologies, populations and dependent measures that might explain the differences.  The implications for these disparate findings are not trivial.  Government policies that restrict specific breeds, educational strategies to prevent dog bites and criteria for adoption of shelter dogs are all influenced by such research findings.  We’ll discuss these implications and how best to educate all the consumers of this research.


James C. Ha
The Modern Science of Temperament: A Review

 I have been involved in the assessment of temperament in nonhuman primates and in dogs since the late 1990¢s, and have recently analyzed two long-term temperament data sets for NHP¢s.  This work has placed me firmly into the complex debates about temperament and its origins, assessment, and applications.  I will review the human, nonhuman primate, and canine temperament literature from the point-of-view of these three aspects, and discuss the modern concepts of temperament, personality, and behavioral syndromes; strategies for the development of assessment tools; and the use of temperament as a predictor of behavior.  I will provide examples, mostly from my nonhuman primate work which is best developed at this point.  My goal will be to provide not specific details about canine temperament assessments but rather a broader perspective and approach: untangling the conflicting approaches and interpretations of temperament in the modern literature.


Mark Hines
Evaluating an Explosive Detection Dog Building Search

Explosive detection dog “Master Trainers” evaluate hundreds of building searches each year though real life scenario training and certifications. Are the handlers training and testing their canines in accordance with what the canine community knows about the science involved? I’ll share a 16 minute video of what might look like a routine building search by a K-9 team. This special video footage is a far cry from routine and ranks in the category of “as good as it gets”. But what is it that makes this K-9 team so special? I encourage you to write down your evaluation (good and bad) of what you’re seeing in the video. We can then open the floor to discussion.


Dr. Anneke Lisberg
Counter-marking in domestic dogs

 Well-known but poorly understood, counter-marking (scent marking over or near) conspecific urine occurs widely in Canidae and in many other mammals. Although previous studies on dogs, wolves and coyotes have discussed over-marking, there has been very little empirical investigation into the signals and social contexts of counter-marking or the responses to counter-marks. I will present data from several ongoing studies on counter-marking in domestic dogs that attempt to 1) define counter-marking in dogs, 2) identify which dogs counter-mark, 3) identify what urine sources elicit counter-marks, and finally 4) test which of the three potential outcomes of over-marking occurs in dogs:  scent blending, scent masking, or creation of scent posts with distinct, individual odors. I will also discuss the possible implications of my findings for dog trainers and owners.


Ellen Mahurin     
Books for Bites: How Animal Behavior Saved Family Dinners

 Karen Pryor has said that when she wrote her first edition of Don’t Shoot the Dog in the 1980’s her goal was “to make sure that every person on the entire planet Earth stopped yelling at their kids.”  In my experience, an education in animal behavior has indeed been useful in raising my two young children from infants to ages 2 and 4. In many family situations, I have been able to defuse stress and shape behavior using the same principles I use in behavior modification of animals. Operant and classical conditioning, attention to body language, and keeping calm are a few of my most valued tools.  I am currently working on a manuscript comparing my experiences as an animal behavior consultant to my experiences as a mom to small children.  Considering the universality of learning principles has made me better at both occupations.


Melissa Shyan and Jim Ha
Case Report: A Canine Assistants Dog—Selection, Socialization and Human Factors  

I report on a canine assistance dog provided for a 14 year-old boy with progressive Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).  The dog was provided by Canine Assistants (CA) of Alpharetta, GA. On a routine three month routine visit by a CA instructor, the dog appeared very shy, frightened, emaciated, and sick. After three months back at the CA facility, the dog was returned to the family by the CA Director. I was asked to accompany her and evaluate the family and situation to determine whether the dog should be removed from the family permanently, or left with the family. This presentation describes the evaluation (both pre- and post-family), its findings, the follow-up socialization training required for family and dog, and the final outcome of the behavior modification program. The results are discussed in terms of the Canine Assistants style of training (only positive reinforcement is used), the selection and breeding of assistance dogs, and the nature of coaching low-income, low-education families, and other factors. IFAAB participants are encouraged to present their own experiences with assistance dogs and with assistance dog training techniques.


Pia Silvani
You want me to do what?  Think Before you Speak!      

The information given to owners about dogs comes from every imaginable source.  Did you ever go to the butcher and hear him giving advice?  It seems no matter where you look or who you ask, everyone is a dog trainer.  Considering the layers of variables that exist within dogs and their human counter parts, it would be best for owners steer clear of advice that comes from sources without any legitimate credentials.  But, is the information given so far fetched that no dog owner would even think about doing it or is the information overwhelming the client?  Are they going home with six weeks of work and a booklet of protocols? 


Many clients have expectations for dogs that are so unreasonable they could not live up to what we are suggesting.  Knowing that human behavior has to change first, and then dog behavior will follow is tantamount to setting up the dynamic of dogs and humans to be less stressful.

Let’s take a look at what we are really saying, handing out and doing!

Camille Ward     (Erika Bauer, and Barbara Smuts)

Play in Dogs: It's More Than Just Fun and Games

 Play is a subject of great interest among dog trainers, behaviorist, dog day-care workers, and the dog-owning public, but scientific studies on dog play are rare. For my graduate research at the University of Michigan, I examined the development of social relationships between littermates of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) by studying their play behavior. My data on play in puppies demonstrate that littermates play with one another to practice cooperative and competitive strategies that help to shape their social relationships. I will discuss those strategies, including their implication for understanding play, and share new findings (paper in preparation) on role reversals (e.g, partners switch being in the 'winning' or 'top dog' position) in puppies and adult dogs and their importance in play. Understanding the intricacies of canine sociality is essential for working with and treating behavioral problems in dogs.


Kathryn Wrubel
An Examination of the Issue of Interdog Household Aggression

 A retrospective study was conducted to analyze the issue of interdog household aggression in detail from signalment to outcome which included 38 pairs of dogs diagnosed with interdog household aggression.  Follow-up regarding outcome, owner compliance, and efficacy of recommended treatments was analyzed.  Many of the dogs in the study had co-morbid diagnoses of anxiety and fear-based conditions and/or several risk factors (multiple owners, adopted after the sensitive period for socialization, acquired from a shelter or pet shop, orphaned).  The roles that unpredictability of social interactions, competition for resources, and communication play in this issue will be discussed.      


Stephen Zawistowski and Kat Miller
Pets and People: The numbers behind the bond.

 The majority of behaviorists build their professional practice around care for companion animals.  What are the current trends in pet ownership?  Is the pet population stable, or growing?  How has the pet industry faired during the recent recession?  What are the most recent developments in animal sheltering?  This presentation will provide updates related to these questions and others, based on  research and surveys conducted in the past several years.