Evaluation of functional behaviour assessment and backward chaining procedure to reduce human-directed aggressive behaviour labelled as "resource-guarding" in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiars)

Research output: Other contribution

Abstract

Aggressive responses in dogs pose a problem for society and are a welfare issue to dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). This study aimed at investigating whether (a) functional behaviour assessment methodology (FBA) was a valid tool for detecting the contingencies maintaining aggressive behaviour, i.e. “resource-guarding”, (b) FBA confirmed the hypothesised function of demand avoidance of resource-guarding, (c) backward-chaining was an efficient procedure to build alternative behaviour, thereby reducing frequency and intensity of aggression, and (d) treatment procedure satisfied the expectations of the owners (i.e. social validity). Despite the social significance of the problem behaviour, no previous behaviour-analytic studies implementing a similar design could be found. Results of the FBA suggested that it is a useful methodology to determine the function of canine problem behaviour; however, they did not support the hypothesised function of demand avoidance of the aggressive responses. FBA data indicated instead that aggressive behaviour was maintained by positive reinforcement (i.e. attention). Implementation of the backward-chaining procedure reduced mild aggressive responses observed in dogs PT01 and D02 to approximately half of the baseline rates and decreased moderate aggression by one third of the baseline rates in PT01 and altogether in D02. Regarding the assessment of social validity, all owners positively valued the procedure as safe and effective. Despite these promising findings, further research with improved experimental control and within- and between-subject replication is warranted to confirm that backward-chaining is effective in building an alternative behavioural repertoire in companion dogs, and whether this desired behaviour change leads to lasting outcomes.

Supervisor: Camilo Hurtado-Parrado.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMasters Dissertation
Number of pages103
Publication statusPublished - 09 Dec 2016

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