Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Tricia Skoler

Second Advisor

Dr. Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere

Academic Program Adviser

Karolina Czech


Almost 700,000 dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year (ASPCA, 2017). In order to increase their adoptability, this study examined the use of positive reinforcement and shaping to train dogs to spend time in proximity to people. The experimenter selected 45 subjects who remained at the back of their kennels when she approached them. Fifteen of the subjects were trained with the use of a clicker marker and 15 without the use of any marker. Fifteen subjects were simply exposed to the presence of the experimenter. It was found that training significantly increased the number of dogs that reached proximity to the experimenter and decreased the average distance between them. Further, the number of dogs that reached proximity to the experimenter and the number that reached proximity to a novel person were identical, indicating that the trained behavior generalized. However, the use of a clicker did not increase the number of subjects that reached proximity or decrease the average distance between the dog and the person. These results indicate that a simple procedure that incorporates shaping and positive reinforcement can be utilized in a shelter setting to increase the number of dogs that will spend time in proximity to potential adopters.



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