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Does Positive Reinforcement Training Reduce Inter-Dog Reactivity in an Animal Shelter Setting?

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Name: Ellison Zupan
Major: Biology
Advisors: Dr. Jennifer Ison and Dr. Stephanie Strand
Second Reader: Dr. Hilary Edgington

It has previously been shown that positive reinforcement training can be used to reduce inter-dog aggression and reactivity in dogs living in an animal shelter after multiple, long training sessions. However, animal shelters often have limited financial resources and manpower to be able to do this training. One goal of this study was to see if positive reinforcement training could be used by volunteers or staff for a shorter amount of time and still show signs of effectiveness. The other goal was to see if a dog’s physical characteristics such as breed, sex and age played a role in whether the positive reinforcement training worked for them. Over the course of training most dogs showed pre-and post-treatment scores that were the same, however female dogs did seem to be more receptive to training than male dogs. This study shows that on a short-term training schedule positive reinforcement may not be as effective for training. Future studies may be needed to see if there are ways to shorten the amount of training sessions but still have the training modify the dog’s behavior. This was an interesting and exciting project for me because I have volunteered and worked with dogs at the Cleveland Animal Protective League in Cleveland, Ohio for almost 10years now and this was the perfect opportunity to combine my love for shelter dogs with my academics.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.


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