Improving Training with Evidence with Dr Erica Feuerbacher

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Episode - 23  January 2021

Host: Barbara Heidenreich

Guests: Dr Erica Feuerbacher PhD, BCBA-D, CAAB, CPDT-KA

Are you absolutely convinced your dog loves it when you talk to him? My special guest is behavior analyst Dr Erica Feuerbacher. She explores questions like this and more. Her research has looked at whether dogs prefer petting over praise and what consequences function best as reinforcers. In this fun interview we discuss the many things that have been learned from studying dog behavior. We also discuss the questions that remain to be answered. We touch on belief systems that can cloud our thinking and help remind us why behavior science is such an invaluable tool for getting to the heart of why behavior is occurring. This episode is super educational, and Dr Erica makes the science accessible.  You will definitely want to check out the episode webpage to read the articles mentioned and watch the Columban Simulation video clips. You will never look at your dog, a pigeon or maybe yourself in the same way again.

Dr Erica Feuerbacher Website

Links and Resources:


The Columban Simulations mentioned in the podcast. A must watch!  Drs Robert Epstein and B.F. Skinner demonstrate how some behaviors we think of as highly complex or specific to complex thinking are like other behaviors, a product of reinforcement history.

The Columban Simulations Part 1 and 2. Watch pigeons Jack and Jill have a conversation and demonstrate "insight". Also discover how behavior can be learned by watching others. 

In Part 2 the famous "Mirror Test" that has been used to demonstrate if an organism has self awareness is put to the test. Also "spontaneous" problem solving is shown to be a product of reinforcement history.

Guest Bio:

Dr Erica Feuerbacher PhD, BCBA-D, CAAB, CPDT-KA

Dr. Erica Feuerbacher is an Assistant Professor in Animal & Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech and director of the Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare Lab, where she works with dogs and horses. She also coordinates the online Master’s program in Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare at Virginia Tech. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Florida in the UF Canine Cognition and Behavior Lab and her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas in the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies with Animals. She is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Her research and publications focus on understanding domestic animal behavior and learning from a behavior analytic perspective, using applied behavior analysis to solve behavioral issues in dogs and horses, and identifying interventions that improve shelter dog welfare. She is passionate about humane, effective animal training, and working with owners, trainers, and shelter staff to improve our interactions with animals.

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