Development of Operant Device to Measure Canine Self-Control
When given the choice been a larger, delayed reward and a smaller, immediate reward, behavioral literature defines self-control as the selection of the larger, delayed reward and impulsivity as the selection of the smaller, immediate reward (Ainslie, 1974; Logue, 1981; Rachlin & Green, 1972). Our research is aimed at establishing an operant procedure for measuring self-control in canines. We developed an operant conditioning device that consisted of two touchpads, one which delivered the smaller, immediate reward and the other which delivered the larger, delayed reward. The device was counterbalanced to control for potential confounds. Nine of the Anthrozoology program dogs participated in this study and were tested through four sets of trials during four different points of the academic year based on the hypothesis that training would increase self-control. To teach the dogs to use the device, the dogs were taught to “target” the touchpad by touching it with their nose and run through both forced and choice trials. Analysis of initial findings suggests that the dogs showed an increasingly significant preference for the smaller, immediate reward the further into their training they were in the academic year. To address this, we are planning on conducting a follow-up study in order to improve the accuracy of our operant procedure by differentiating the rewards by quality rather than quantity based on previous literature that suggests that animals have a preference for higher quality rewards over larger quantity rewards (Schwing, Weber, Bugnyar, 2017).