Operant Counterconditioning/CAT-H


I will probably start referring to the work I do with unhandled or reactive horses as Operant Counterconditioning, instead of CAT-H, to avoid any misunderstanding of my stance on how it functions.

I personally no longer refer to CAT-H as Negative Reinforcement, but Operant Counterconditioning, which, from my understanding, is how the originators of CAT, Rosales-Ruiz and Snider, referred to it?

CAT, Constructional Aggression Treatment, was originally used for reactivity in dogs. When we adapted it for reactivity in horses as CAT-H, Constructional Approach Training for Horses, it seems that it began to be labeled under the umbrella of Negative Reinforcement, which is unfortunate, as it has been resultingly eschewed in many circles, until just recently, where we have seen a renewed interest.

More than likely, this label is a result of us confusing the ‘pressure’ of a perceived aversive, present during Habituation and Counterconditioning, with an absolute aversive stimulus, present during Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment.

There are those, including myself when I first started, who have viewed CAT-H as a version of Negative Reinforcement, because we have focused on the observation of behavior being reinforced by the removal of a stimulus, instead of the emotionality that is happening with the Counterconditioning, and the fact that when that Counterconditioning occurs, the stimulus no longer functions as an aversive antecedent, meaning it can no longer fall under the umbrella of Negative Reinforcement.

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