From Fierce or Fearful to Friendly:

A Shaping Program for Dogs, Cats, Horses and Beyond

Fearful and aggressive behaviors are generally regarded as respondent behaviors. That is, they are considered natural reactions to certain triggers. However, pet owners find it problematic when their animals engage in excessively fierce or fearful behaviors. To address these behaviors, trainers often rely on respondent conditioning techniques, such as desensitization or counterconditioning. The focus of these procedures is on changing the animal’s emotional state to the trigger. Other common procedures try to directly shape a calm response using food or other positive reinforcers.

Alternatively, fearful and aggressive behaviors may also be seen as successful operants that are captured and maintained by negative reinforcement. That is, engaging in the behavior leads to distance from or the removal of something that the animal finds aversive. For example, a dog learns that when he growls, strangers go away and leave him alone. This view offers an alternative approach to treatment.

 

This presentation will show how distance can be used as a reinforcer to shape friendly behaviors that replace fearful or aggressive behaviors.