The Story of Applied Behavior Analysis and Land Mine Detection


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Brent Jones has an article in The Behavior Analyst chronicling his experiences working with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).  GICHD is a nonprofit organization tasked with a multitude of duties related to mine and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) clearance operations.  These duties represent an enormous humanitarian problem present in approx. 70 countries worldwide.  UXO is a deadly remnant of war that kill scores of innocent people every year. Moreover, vast swaths of land suspected of harboring UXO are closed off to the public, and the process of clearing such lands is very arduous to say the least.

A primary tool of the trade is the use of bomb-sniffing dogs.  This is where Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) enters the picture.   Jones describes his experience working with another behavior analyst training 10 dogs in Remote Explosive Scent Training, or REST for short.  The training consisted of two sessions per day in which the dogs were presented with a variety of scent samples, only some of which contained explosive compounds.  Jone’s team trained the dogs to sit when they discovered explosive elements using clickers paired with food.  False positives were met with time out.

Jones goes on to describe the process of convincing his superiors of the utility of Applied Behavior Analysis in REST training.  He then linked his training protocols to the seven dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis developed by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968).

For many more details about Jones’ work, you can access the full article for free at the hyperlink above.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at

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  1. Or the more than ten years of federally funded research by Johnston, Waggoner, Wililams and others at Auburn University begun in the mid-1990s on canine olfactory detection of explosives, including funding by DARPA on land mine detection. This project continues today as an operational dog breeding and dog and handler training program at Ft. McClellan in Anniston, AL.

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