Improving in-kennel presentation of shelter dogs through response-dependent and response-independent treat delivery

J Appl Behav Anal. 2015 Sep;48(3):590-601. doi: 10.1002/jaba.217. Epub 2015 May 20.


In a sequence of studies, we evaluated 2 behavioral interventions designed to decrease undesirable in-kennel behaviors of shelter dogs. In Experiment 1, we compared the efficacy of a simple pairing of person with food (response-independent treat delivery) to an increasing interval differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior (DRO) procedure and a control condition. Both procedures decreased the median percentage of undesirable behavior from baseline (88.13%, interquartile range [IQR] = 52.78% and 66.43%, IQR = 89.06% respectively), and the control condition increased behavior by 15.13% (IQR = 32.08%), H(2) = 6.49, p = .039. In Experiment 2, we assessed the efficacy of a response-independent procedure on the whole shelter population. We found a 68% decrease from baseline in the number of dogs that behaved undesirably (U = -4.16, p < .001). Our results suggest that a response-independent procedure is equivalent in efficacy to a DRO procedure to decrease undesirable in-kennel behavior of shelter dogs.

Keywords: adoption; animal behavior; animal welfare; shelter dogs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*