Animal behaviour therapy: the mis-understood application of ABA

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Publication details

McBride, EA, Redhead, E & Bizo, LA 2006, 'Animal behaviour therapy – the mis-understood application of ABA', paper presented to the 32nd Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Atlanta, Georgia, 27-29 May.


Animal Behaviour Therapy is an expanding applied area that is rapidly gaining recognition as a distinct field of professional development. It refers to animals kept as companions or as working animals, in homes, zoological collections or laboratories. It relates to the prevention and resolution of behaviours that are deemed problematical. Problem behaviours can have a variety of causes and associated motivations. They may have been learned or deliberately trained. They may be related to species specific behaviours and aspects of the animal’s ethology. Their prevention and resolution will always involve modification of, human behaviour. Animal Behaviour Therapy is by its nature multidisciplinary. However, the field has evolved from several backgrounds, most of whom have little academic or practical overlap. These include Ethologists and Psychologists, the former having a wealth of knowledge of species behaviour and function, the latter an in depth understanding of the role of learning, functional analysis and ABA. However, much animal behaviour therapy is undertaken by those with a purely non-theoretical animal training background. The current paper will seek to illustrate how the skills and knowledge from these different research and practical areas can be unified to produce a coherent approach to Animal Behaviour Therapy.