ABA and Dog Training

If you can grasp the basics of training animals, it will help you understand human behavior objectively. ABA is the science that all behaviors follow certain rules and can be universally observed and changed. Prior to studying ABA, I trained dogs for years, and have helped people train their dogs. As I got deeper into ABA and people, the science made more sense and relating principles and interventions became easier. The picture below is of one of my dogs. I trained him the old school way of having him go everywhere allowable with me and using strict training methods. Including ABA principles that I didn’t realize were core ABA principles. The link provided is a great article for helping someone understand this relationship between dogs and humans.

I trained my dog using the following methods:

  • Reward behaviors I wanted to see increase
    • (Positive reinforcement)
  • Give consistent and frequent prompts, then reducing as behavior becomes more fluent.
    • (Prompt fading)
  • Provide reinforcers after every occurrence of desired behaviors, then reduce frequency of reinforcer delivery.
    • (Reinforcement fading)
  • Find the triggers of problem behaviors and what he got from the behaviors
    • (ABC Data Collection and Function Analysis)
  • After finding out what he got out of behaviors, teach a better behavior to achieve the goal.
    • (Behavior extinction and replacement)

ABA and Man’s Best Friend: From Dog Training with ABA, to the Companion and Service Animal Movement – Posted on May 24, 2018

A quick summary of the article’s highlights, but I recommend a full read for a more complete understanding.

Dog have historically been an important part of human life, both as work and personal companions. Initially they were trained using negative reinforcement*, but today they are trained using more developed ABA methods. Due to this focus on implementing ABA principles with dog training, we can now reliably use dogs for roles as service animals, therapy animals, companion animals, and a wife variety of medical, emotional, and physical needs.

* Note – The use of negative reinforcement described in this article is more lay terminology. It is used to describe physically aversive (abusive) responses to inappropriate behaviors. This would mean the adding of an aversive stimuli to decrease the future possibility of a particular behavior. Which, in the world of ABA, would be Positive Punishment.

Training dogs, in my humble opinion, is sincerely the best way to tell if you would like a future in ABA. Especially since you can practice behavioral principles without worrying about affecting another person’s life. Also, you get to learn if you can handle the consistency needed to create effective changes in behavior. Because honestly, if you can’t be consistent enough with your interventions to train a dog, you won’t be consistent enough with people. Especially once you factor in the ability to control, and account for, extraneous variables which will affect results of implemented interventions.

For example, if designing a program for learning to eat appropriate foods (like a specific diet) …

One can control all other foods available for them, making the food you provide more reinforcing. You can also account for what responses lead to food delivery, making both habit learning and behavior extinction much quicker.

People (typically functioning)
One has no control of other foods available to the person. Although they may have influence, you cannot account for what’s available when they are away or in different environments. You can make sure a person keeps healthy foods, or diet specific foods, in the home, but they’ll eventually have to go to work or drive past fast food places. Additionally, you can’t account for what responses they emit that result in food offers/options. This makes it much more difficult to develop the eating habit desired, as reinforcement and extinction takes much longer.


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