Dr. Erica Feuerbacher

Dr. Erica Feuerbacher

Associate Professor of Applied Animal Welfare and Behavior in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA

Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis at the University of Florida, in the Canine Cognition & Behavior Lab


I am an Associate Professor at Virginia Tech focusing on on scientific and humane animal training, and improving animal welfare. I run the Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare lab. I am also the area coordinator for our online Master’s program in Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare, which is designed to provide behavior professionals with the scientific grounding for their practice and to broaden their understanding of behavior. The curriculum focuses on the fields of behavior analysis and ethology, which underpin applied animal behavior, and how we can apply those to make our behavioral interventions more humane and more effective.


My research focuses on what maintains the human-dog relationship, how dogs learn, and how best we can train them.



I earned my Ph.D. in Psychology (Behavior Analysis) at the University of Florida, in the Canine Cognition & Behavior Lab, under the tutelage of Dr. Clive Wynne. My dissertation focused on dogs' preferences for types of human interaction, the special relationship between owners and their dogs, and what human interactions function as reinforcers for dog behavior.



I earned my Masters in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas under the guidance of Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and his lab the Organization for Reinforcement Contingencies with Animals. My thesis investigated concept formation in domestic dogs in the natural environment.



I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and have worked as an animal behaviorist at the Peninsula Human Society & SPCA in San Mateo, CA.



I share my home with my three dogs, Aegis (Belgian malinois), Hawks Hunt Iorek (German shepherd), and Ninja (mix breed), and three feline leukemia positive cats, Banksy, Omar, and Calamity Jane.

I also have a clicker-trained Appaloosa/Percheron horse, Magic.


Topic 1 - Desensitization & counterconditioning: A common technique but what is really going on?

Topic 2 - Social interaction as a reinforcer for dogs: When can we use it and what type of social interaction is effective?