Descriptive Analysis of Contingencies Maintaining Problem Behavior in Shelter Dogs

Shelter dogs with problem behavior may have trouble getting adopted or may be euthanized. However, there are few studies that have used behavioral assessment and treatments for problem behavior of shelter dogs. Some studies have used functional analyses to determine function of behavior with nonhuman animals, including dogs. However, it is unclear whether the functions tested in those functional analyses approximate the natural contingencies in the environment that the animals live. This study conducted a descriptive analysis to identify environmental variables that occur with problem behavior of shelter dogs. Six dogs housed at a local animal shelter participated in the study. The observations were analyzed and used to determine the temporal proximity of stimuli to problem behavior. Results demonstrated that descriptive analyses are useful in identifying stimuli occurring in the natural environment that are not otherwise used in typical functional analysis conditions. Possible limitations and future research are discussed.