The ABC behaviour change – how, where and when to change behaviour

It is not possible to change behaviour directly.  But by knowing the ABC behaviour change we can change behaviour by changing the environment, triggers or events that precede a behaviour and/or the consequences that result from the dog performing that behaviour.

The behaviour chain of any behaviour is:

A Antecedents

B Behaviour

C Consequences

Susan Friedman has written instructional guides and articles on Functional Behaviour Analysis, including step by step guides to addressing behaviour chains through functional analysis.

When a dog is showing problematic or dangerous behaviour, its difficult to distance ourselves from the relationship we have with our dog to look at that behaviour chain through functional analysis, rather than see it as a trait of that individual.

But the way that we, and any other animal, behaves at at one time is a function not only of our personality, but also of prior learning and experience, the environment, and our mood and emotional state at that moment in time (themselves influenced by the previous factors).

Functional assessment involves understanding what the environmental factors are that contribute to a dog showing a particular behaviour and how the consequences of the behaviour may increase or decrease the probability of the dog performing it under the same environmental factors in future.

Behaviours are generally performed to fulfil a function.  Sometimes its appropriate to change the underlying emotions that cause the dog to want that outcome (e.g. snapping at someone to get them to move away), and sometimes we need to recognise that the desire of the dog e.g. for attention, space, affection or stimulation is a normal, healthy need that they need our help in fulfilling in which case we need to make sure we fulfil those needs and give them more appropriate ways of expressing their desires.

This is one of the principles behind teaching dogs to sit to greet people.  Instead of jumping up (a normal, natural doggy greeting behaviour) we teach them a replacement behaviour that we prefer and will get the same outcome (to be greeted) for the dog.

Key points that Susan makes:

Focus on what you would like the dog to DO, not what they shouldn’t be doing

Make the problem behaviour irrelevant, inefficient and ineffective, while the alternative behaviour is made easy by the preceding antecedents and rewarding by its consequences.

Follow the Humane Hierarchy in any behaviour-change procedure

About cambridgedogs

Dog training and behaviour in Cambridgeshire
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