AABP Position Statement: On Social Dominance and Other Redundant Constructs

Last updated: June 2014


One of the three pillar principles on which the AABP is founded and based on is that AABP members utilize a behaviorological orientation. These principles are elaborated upon here. This is a natural science of behavior perspective. This fundamentally distinct from psychology and ethology. Behaviorology, as with all natural sciences, studies real events only and does not study non-real, redundant, or hypothetical constructs such as the “mind” or “dominance.”

It is the position of the AABP and its members that reference to such redundant constructs is counterproductive, establishing an adversarial social relationship and distracting from the actual causes of behavior, and is inconsistent with the natural science discipline on which the AABP is based. AABP members do not interpret or explain behavior with such constructs as the so-called “mind" or social dominance and do not base how social relations are, or ought to be, arranged on such notions. 

Specifically, AABP members do not utilize notions of social dominance or equivalent constructs in interpreting or explaining companion animal behavior. Nor do they base training or social interaction approaches on such constructs. This is now principle 1.05 in the Professional Practice Guidelines.

On the Use of Aversive Stimulation in Animal Behavior Technology

Last updated: September 2016

The AABP's position on the use of aversive stimulation in animal training and behavior technology is reflected in the appropriate sections of the Professional Practice Guidelines and in the article on the MACMP Policy. These documents are linked to below:

AABP Professional Practice Guidelines

The AABP is dedicated to NON-COERCIVE methods!

Relationship between AABP and other professional associations and certifying bodies

Last updated: November 24, 2012

The AABP seeks to be supportive, cooperative and complimentary with other professional associations and certifying bodies it considers to be credible organizations. See the AABP Approved Certifying Bodies page for a list of such organizations.

AABP Position Statement: On Theoretical Orientation

Last updated: July, 2020


The AABP is a behaviorological association. That is, it is founded specifically on the philosophical position of radical behaviorism as elucidated by B.F. Skinner and embodied in the discipline of behaviorology, which is the completely independent natural science of behavior. (Behavior analysis is a branch of psychology rather than being an independent discipline and so is not independent of psychology, which is not a natural science and is not equivalent to behaviorology). Radical behaviorism is a natural science philosophy and emphasizes the functional relationship between stimuli and behaviors. Behaviorologically oriented professionals emphasize the assessment of contingencies of reinforcement over applying structural/topographic diagnostic labels (medical model), exploring natural selection of heritable traits over generations (ethology), our postulating mystical forces and other fictitious constructs that cannot be measured and observed (psychology). While there are many eclectic organizations and forums available for those with no particular foundational theoretical orientation, there are very few resources available to the behaviorologically oriented professional animal behavior technologist. The AABP is dedicated to supporting behaviorologically oriented professional animal behavior technologists. 

For more information on a behaviorological approach the Companion Animal Sciences Institute provides courses in functional assessment and behavior change programming and procedures and the Living and Learning with Animals course is an excellent way to expand your repertoire of behavior with respect to behavior analysis too. 


For more on behaviorology, see the web site for The International Behaviorology Institute at: http://www.behaviorology.org

See also excellent books like these:

Ledoux, S. F. (2017). What Causes Human Behavior—Stars, Selves, or Contingencies. Ottawa, Canada: BehaveTech Publishing

Ledoux, S. F. (2016). Running Out of Time. Ottawa, Canada: BehaveTech Publishing

Fraley (2008). General Behavioralology: The Natural Science of Human Behavior. Canton: ABCs of Canton.

Ledoux, S. F. (Ed.). (2002). Origins and Components of Behaviorology (Second ed.). Canton: ABC's of Canton.

O’Heare, J. (2016). Problem Animal Behavior: Functional Assessment and Constructional Contingency Management Planning.  Ottawa, Canada: BehaveTech Publishing


The Model Matters 

by Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D., PABC

Professionals and clients alike are often confused about where to turn for sound, science information with which to prevent and solve behavior problems. This is in part due to the fact that there are many different disciplines that investigate behavior, each in their own way. Ask the same question about the cause of a problem behavior to an ethologist, veterinarian and behavior analyst and you will likely get 3 very different answers.

The ethologist is likely to explain a problem behavior in terms of an evolution model, with natural selection as the primary causal agent. The ethologist might reframe the question by asking, "What survival function could this behavior have in the wild?" The veterinarian is likely to explain a problem behavior in terms of the medical model, with disease or physical dysfunction as the primary causal agent. The veterinarian might reframe the question by asking, "What underlying disease process accounts for this behavioral symptom? The behavior analyst is likely to explain a problem behavior in term of the behavioral model, accounting for the behavior by identifying the environmental conditions which signal the behavior (antecedents) and give it  function (consequences).

Note that with both the ethological and medical models,the primary source of behavior problems is in the animal. However, with the behavioral model, the primary source of behavior problems is in the environment. As discussed by O'Neill, Horner, et.al (1997), when the problem is believed to be in the animal, the focus is on curing the animal; but, when the problem is in the environment, the focus is on changing the conditions in which the animal behaves. Thus the model an animal trainer and behavior consultant adheres to matters in terms of the way behavior questions are framed, the way behavior is described, and in the methods used to solve behavior problems.

(c) 2008 Susan G. Friedman. Draft for a future publication. All rights reserved.