Murray State Theses and Dissertations


Contrary to popular belief, pet overpopulation is caused more by owners failing to keep their dog than with accidental or intentional breeding (Moulton et al., 1991). Factors related to relinquishment have been researched, and concluded that behavioral problems are the most reoccurring reasons observed (Bailey, 1992; Miller at al., 1996; Patronek et al., 1996; Serpell, 1966; Salman et al., 1998, 2000; Scarlett et al, 1999; New et al., 2000; Shore et al., 2003, 2005; Mondelli 2004, Blackwell et al., 2008). When animals are relinquished to the shelter, the likelihood of the animal being euthanized increases. The purpose of this research was to observe if utilizing reward-based training on a select sample of dogs, by teaching them three basic cues, would improve their behavioral assessment results. Behavioral assessments are performed in shelters to determine the dog's behavior which can affect its adoptability, and served as an instrument of measurement for this research. The cues were unrelated to the behavioral assessment and consisted of "leave it", "place", and "sit". The researcher compared the pre and post test item numbers and the total numbers of each dog from the initial assessment to the final assessment. The mean of the total scores of each dog from the initial assessment was 13.66 (SD = 3.44). The mean of the total scores of each dog from the final assessment was 10.33 (SD = 2.07). The results of a dependent paired samples t-test were statistically significant at the .05 alpha level, t(5) = 2.599, p = 0.04. The Cohen's D measure of effect size was 1.035435, which corresponds to a large effect. Due to the results, the null hypothesis is rejected, thus indicating statistical significance in both the initial and final assessment scores. Practical significance was also indicated. The application of reward-based training to the pet dog improves behavioral assessment scores, which improves adoptability and retention in the home, and decreases risk of euthanasia.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

Behavior, Canine, Training

Thesis Advisor

Anna Vaughn-Doom

Committee Chair

Terry Canerdy

Committee Member

Laura Ken Hoffman

Committee Member

Barbie Papajeski

Committee Member

Alyx Shultz

Document Type