Features May 2008 Issue

Modifying Aggressive Dog Behavior

This german Shepherd dog can be very reactive around other dogs. Here, he begins to respond aggressively to another dog's unexpected approach. Note that his owner was caught unaware, and doesn't have his leash in an effective position to control his response.

Modifying Aggressive Dog Behavior

That loud buzz you hear is the sound of the dog behavior and training community discussing a controversial new approach to modifying aggressive behavior in dogs. The developers of "Constructional Aggression Treatment" (CAT) claim that the shaping-based operant protocol produces stronger and much faster results than the classical counter-conditioning process widely used by training and behavior professionals today. CAT was devised and tested by Dr. Jes¨²s Rosales-Ruiz, a behavior analyst and associate professor of behavior analysis at the University of North Texas, and Kellie Snider, a board-certified associate behavior analyst. Snider completed her MS in Behavior Analysis at UNT in 2007 with Dr. Rosales-Ruiz as her graduate research advisor and the CAT procedure as the topic of her thesis research. Canine behavior experts frequently use classical conditioning techniques (including counter-conditioning) to help change how dogs feel about and respond to the stimuli that triggers their aggressive behavior. In other words, classical counter-conditioning changes the dog's emotions in order to change his behavior. In contrast, CAT utilizes "operant conditioning," where the goal is changing the dog's behavior in a way that will likely produce a subsequent emotional change.

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