Before I was a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant, I started promoting companion bird education while volunteering at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at Nevins Farm in Methuen, Mass.. When I began volunteering back in 2010, I was told that January was Bird Adoption Month. I was so enthusiastic about promoting companion birds that I knew I wanted to get involved as soon as possible! In January 2011, I started my first education table at the MSPCA Nevins Farm. Each weekend in that month, I assisted with questions and answers from the public.
The way a behavior consultant approaches a case is dependent on their education and background. As an applied behavior analyst, I approach my work as a behavior consultant with a bias toward that science. I want to understand the antecedent-behavior-consequence sequence at work. I want to understand what the behavior means to the animal. To unpack what this looks like, I’m going to present you with three case studies.
Playgroups are undoubtedly a beneficial practice in shelters and rescue groups, and over the past few years they have increased in popularity. As with most tools, though, playgroups can be implemented with varying degrees of skill, or misapplied altogether.
This issue, we talked to Lauren Robinson, recent PhD graduate from the University of Edinburgh. Lauren’s work focuses on how we measure personality and welfare, and how these two areas interact. She has worked with many different species, from puppies to penguins, but has focused on understanding the welfare of captive primates.
The basic goal of animal training is to control another individual’s behavior. Cooperation is the ideal outcome, but when aversive training methods are used the animal’s cooperation is compulsory, not voluntary. Worse yet, aversive control can evoke unwanted resistance and oppositional responses. As a horse behaviorist, the severe behavior problems I’m called in to see surprise me less than how readily horses give in to aversive control.
The unique dog-human relationship has led to the dog’s integral place within our society. As well as being our companions, dogs’ adaptation to our lifestyle has resulted in their exceptional ability to work in a wide variety of roles, such as military dogs, police dogs, assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs. Regardless of career, all service dog agencies face the challenge of maximising the effectiveness of their dogs within a continuously changing environment. In addition to optimising training, agencies must source or breed healthy dogs with a temperament suited to their careers.
Concerns about litigation can potentially limit dialogue about issues such as fear aggression. For example, if my dog is uneasy near strangers, I may be counseled not to talk openly about the dog's bite risk or put a "Do Not Pet" sign on the dog's harness, because to do so might increase my liability should my dog bite someone.