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Resolving, Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties: A Manual for Professionals

Resolving, Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties: A Manual for Professionals

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Resolving, Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties: A Manual for Professionals

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Lançado em:
May 15, 2018


Resolving Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties: An Errorless Differential Reinforcement Approach is a manual for behaviorologists and animal behavior technologists in applying errorless differential added reinforcement to resolve escape-functional behavior in dogs (or other species). It provides a foundational treatment of basic principles of behavior and outlines the rationale for utilizing errorless differential reinforcement, particularly with DRO in the initial phase of the intervention, transitioning to DRI or DRA in later phases. It provides detailed instructions for applying errorless differential added reinforcement to actual cases.

Lançado em:
May 15, 2018

Sobre o autor

James O’Heare earned his Doctoral Certificate in Behaviorology from The International Behaviorology Institute and is a practicing behaviorologist. He has been an helping companion animal owners resolve problem behaviors since the 1990s and has writing about and teaching behaviorology for over 16 years.

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Resolving, Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties - James O'Heare

Resolving Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties:

An Errorless Differential Reinforcement


A Manual for Professionals

James O’Heare

BehaveTech Publishing

Ottawa, Canada

Copyright © 2018 by James O’Heare. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

Title: Resolving Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties: An Errorless

Differential Reinforcement Approach

Publisher: BehaveTech Publishing, Ottawa, Canada,


Author: James O’Heare

Cover art and book design: James O’Heare

Proof-reading: Kamrin MacKnight

Limits of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty:

The author shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages or loss in connection with, or arising out of, the furnishing, performance, or use of the instructions or suggestions contained in this book. This book provides information of a general nature. Working with dogs IS risky.

ISBN 978-1-927744-17-8

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Introduction to the Basic Principles of Behavior


Types of Behavior

Causes of Behavior

The Three-Term Contingency (aka the ABCs of Behaviorology)


The Three-Term Contingency in Detail

Antecedent Stimulus (A)

Behavior (B)

Consequence (C)

Operant Conditioning

How Conditioning Occurs

Types of Operant Conditioning Processes


Added Reinforcement

Subtracted Reinforcement


Added Punishment

Subtracted Punishment

Extinction—The Sixth Principle of Behavior


Schedules of Added Reinforcement

Motivating Operations

Respondent Conditioning

Chapter 2. The Problem with Aversive Strategies and Procedures

What is Aversive Stimulation

Problematic Side-Effects of Aversive Stimulation

Respondent Side-Effects: Aversive Emotional Arousal and Conditioning

Operant Side-effects: Escape Behavior

Chapter 3. Functional Assessment


Functional Assessment Interview

Direct Observation

Functional Analysis

Contingency Analysis

Functional Diagnostic Categories

Chapter 4. Constructing a Behavior Change Plan


The Behavior Replacement Model

Errorless Training

Defining the Behavior Objective

Chapter 5. Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO)


Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors

Definition and Procedural Considerations

Changing Emotional Reactions as a Byproduct of DRO

Why DRO for Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties?

Chapter 6. Adapting and Applying the Behavior Change Plan to Specific Cases



Replacement Behaviors

Added Reinforcers

Devising the Errorless Approach

Carrying Out Exposures

Transitioning to DRI or DRA

Common Escape Contingency Scenarios

Cowering/Flight or Panic

Aggressive Behaviors

Thunder/Fireworks Phobias


Separation Anxiety

Summary of Errorless Differential Added Reinforcement Beginning with DRO Steps

Planning Stage

Implementation Stage (Acquisition and Fluency Stages)

Maintenance Stage




This small book elaborates a powerful intervention strategy used by behaviorologists and professional animal behavior technologists in resolving problematic behaviors associated with direct and socially mediated escape contingencies, the kinds of situations that might evoke the words fears, phobias, panic, or anxieties, by laypeople. This book is written for professionals, but care has been taken to keep it as accessible as possible. A separate companion book is available for animal guardians. Professionals may recommend it or provide it as a part of their consultation services when they anticipate applying the procedures described herein. This will help ensure a higher degree of fidelity with regard to client participation.

The emphasis will be placed on dogs in examples because this is the most common species for which people seek to resolve such problems, but the principles, tactics, strategies, and procedures outlined here are applicable to any species of animal, including humans.

There are other procedures available, some of which are also highly effective, but differential added reinforcement is the least aversive/intrusive because it does not rely on presenting the stimulus at an intensity that is aversive. It is also the safest set of procedures, primarily for the same reason.

The principles and procedures outlined here are based on solid behaviorological natural science and not fads or one-true-way systems. Controversial topics (e.g., respondent counterconditioning) will be identified as such to ensure clarity on that point and argumentation presented for peer scrutiny.

Behaviorologists have been utilizing differential added reinforcement for a great many years and it has emerged as the most effective and least aversive solution for many problems. Other types of differential reinforcement, namely differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviors (DRI) and differential reinforcement of alternative behaviors (DRA), have been particularly popular because they condition specific behaviors, but DRO allows for a high rate of added reinforcement, which more readily facilitates respondent counterconditioning and beneficial changes in the subject’s emotional reaction to aversive stimuli. Here, DRO will be the initial procedure relied upon, but a transition to DRI or DRA is common once these benefits have been realized.


What are fears, phobias, and anxieties? These are colloquial terms that rather imprecisely refer to certain emotional behaviors, the relevant after-effect feelings, and the operant behaviors influenced by them. These circumstances reflect escape contingencies—that is, behaviors maintain by subtracted reinforcement. In other words, we are talking about circumstances in which a behavior functions to forestall, reduce, or eliminate some aversive experience. In dogs, and indeed many species, there are two general tendencies in escaping aversive stimuli. One tendency is to cower, freeze, or to flee. The other tendency is to exhibit aggressive behaviors.

Aggressive behaviors can function to access added reinforcers or to escape subtracted reinforcers and the latter function is by far the most common. These aggressive behaviors might not always seem to function as escape because the behaviors look offensive rather than defensive and because the aggressor engages the target rather than disengaging. However, in escape-functional aggressive behaviors, the outcome of the blustery and aggressive display is to make the target of such behavior cease what they are doing or retreat in some way, and as such, it is also escape-functional. Along with such flight or fight operant behaviors, certain emotional behaviors and feelings commonly occur, making the experience unpleasant for the dog.

Errorless differential added reinforcement is a powerful set of procedures for resolving all such behavioral circumstances, regardless of whether the actual behaviors exhibited are freezing, fighting, or fleeing. The major benefit of errorless differential added reinforcement over some other popular procedures is that it does not require aversive stimulation in order to be effective, it is easy to carry out, and it is highly effective. Aside from resolving potentially harmful behaviors, errorless differential added reinforcement, particularly DRO, sets the conditioning occasion for changing aversive emotional reactions, making escape behavior irrelevant/moot/unnecessary, and providing the dog with a life composed of a greater number of pleasant experiences rather than unpleasant ones.

Chapter 1. Introduction to the Basic Principles of Behavior


This very basic introduction to the foundational principles of behavior will help put errorless differential added reinforcement procedures in context and provide a review of concepts that professionals should already be familiar with and which arise in discussion of applying errorless differential added reinforcement to cases.

Types of Behavior

There are two fundamentally distinct kinds of behavior. Operant behaviors are behaviors maintained by the consequences they generate.

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