Owner-Conducted Functional Analyses of Jumping-Up in Companion Dogs

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic lecture/debate/seminar


Functional behaviour assessments and function-based interventions are hallmarks of the applied science of Behaviour Analysis. Former include, among other approaches, an experimental analysis of the learner’s undesired behaviour prior to the onset of any behaviour-change intervention. During a so called “functional analysis”, the learner’s behaviour is repeatedly brought into contact with suspected reinforcers, e.g., social positive reinforcement (attention), reinforcement by access to a toy (tangible) or negative reinforcement (avoidance) by experimental manipulation of antecedent and consequent events. While a functional approach is considered standard practice with human learners, the field of “animal behaviour counselling” follows more a “train and hope” approach, heavily relying on the topography of behaviour. The need for approaches that are evidence-based and inform about the function of behaviour advised the current study. Five owner-dog dyads participated in this study. All dogs (age > 3 years) displayed jumping-up on their owners (i.e., dog lifts at least the front paws off the ground and touched the owners’ body above ankle hight) at varying frequencies and intensities. The owner-conducted functional analyses found that tangible (i.e., access to toys or to outdoors) was the maintaining function of jumping up for four out of five dyads (i.e., 80%). For one dyad, the functional analysis resulted in an inconclusive outcome. Social validity questionnaires filled in after completion of the functional analyses, yielded very high social acceptance rates. The current study adds to the literature by showing that owner-led functional analyses are feasible and reliably determine the function of jumping up on owners. Additionally, the functional analysis method was shown to have high social acceptance among participating owners. Benefits and limitations of functional analyses in the companion canine behaviour counselling context are discussed.
Period13 Mar 2019
Event titleCentre for Behaviour Analysis Seminar Series
Event typeSeminar
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionLocal