The role of environmental and owner-provided consequences in canine stereotypy and compulsive behavior

Nathaniel J. Hall, Alexandra Protopopova, Clive D.L. Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The present study evaluated whether environmental variables can reinforce and maintain canine stereotypic behavior and whether the removal of these variables can reduce the rate of the behavior. We first present an online survey in which the owners were asked to report the environmental antecedent and consequent events related to stereotypic behavior in their dogs. The survey results indicated that stereotypic behavior, as reported by the owners, was not restricted to specific antecedents. Principal component analysis identified 4 ways that the owners usually responded to stereotypic behavior. In a case study of 5 dogs, functional analysis methodology was used to evaluate whether environmental or owner-provided consequences maintained stereotypic behavior. We demonstrate that owner-provided consequences maintained circling and licking in 2 of the dogs, light movement alone maintained light chasing in 2 of the dogs, and 1 dog showed little-to-no response during sessions preventing further analysis. We subsequently manipulated the consequences of the stereotypic behavior thought to maintain the behavior for 3 of the case study dogs, which led to a reduction in the behavior for all 3 dogs. This study provides evidence that the consequences of stereotypic behavior, such as attention from the owner, can reinforce and maintain high rates of the behavior. Our results suggest that the specific owner-dog dynamic might be an important influence on canine stereotypic behaviors, and that manipulating the relevant reinforcer found to maintain these behaviors leads to a reduction in the behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Canine
  • Domestic dogs
  • Stereotypic behavior
  • Stereotypy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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