Date of Award

Fall 12-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere

Second Advisor

Shelly Volsche

Academic Program Adviser

Diana Reiss



The current study examined relationships between operant conditioning derived dog training techniques and aggression, fear, and dog-owner relationship. Participants (N = 326) completed two online surveys; 1) a survey created for this study measuring the frequency of use of 14 common dog training techniques, which were grouped into four categories based upon operant conditioning: positive reinforcement, negative punishment, positive punishment, and negative reinforcement and 2) the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), which measured several factors related to dog behavior. There were no statistically significant results related to the use of positive reinforcement or positive punishment. However, dog owners who reported frequent use of negative reinforcement also reported significantly higher scores for stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, dog-directed fear, and attachment/attention seeking. Additionally, owners who reported frequent use of negative punishment reported significantly less familiar and unfamiliar- dog directed aggression. The findings of the present study support those of previous research in which owners who reported frequent use of positive punishment and negative reinforcement also reported higher risk of aggression towards familiar and unfamiliar people. However, unlike previous studies, the present research uncovered inconsistencies with the theory of operant conditioning and how it appears to be understood by dog owners. Future research should address these inconsistencies.



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