Just like us, dogs are emotional beings that experience fear, anxiety, aggression and over-excitability. It would be fair to say these emotions can be the cause of considerable concern or frustration for owners. But these emotions can be changed though specialty training that implements desensitization, classical conditioning and counter conditioning. So if you have a dog with these types of issues take heart they can be greatly improved. Read on to understand what desensitization, counter conditioning and classical conditioning entails.
Changing a dog’s emotions requires working the dog a distance from stimuli that is so great that the dog can eat, relax and not be concerned about the stimuli it previously has reacted to. Ideally the distance is such that the dog does not display any negative emotional reaction. Once numerous successful responses have been obtained at this level of training the dog will be moved closer to the upsetting stimuli.
Counter conditioning is a process in which an undesirable response is replaced with a desirable response. When we are working to change a dog’s emotions the undesirable response would be fear, aggression, anxiety, or even over-excitability while the desirable response would be relaxation. Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we put the dog under conditions in which it can relax while we reward relaxation.
As dogs experience their environment they form positive, negative or neutral associations based on their experience. Things in the dog’s environment are neutral, safe and enjoyable forming positive associations or dangerous and unpleasant forming negative associations. Dogs are always forming associations of this “is safe for me”, “dangerous for me” or neutral. These associations influence the dog’s decisions and are the basis for how the dog reacts to things in the environment.
An Example of A Dogs Association
Most dogs get really excited when the owner gets out their leash. This is because the dog has learned the leash means an enjoyable activity is going to take place. That could be going on a walk or a trip in the car. The dog associates the leash with the fun activity.
Humane, Positive Tools
Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we use tools that never elicit pain, discomfort, fear or startle the dog. We have to convince the dog that we love, enjoy and are happy about the same thing it finds upsetting. This is why I ask each owner to never use a chock, pinch or shock collar. It is important that owners not scold, reprimand or even show despair over their dog’s behavior.
If you have a dog with emotion based issues and would like to implement this type of training to improve quality of life for you and your dog check out our Changing Dog Emotions program for training and of course feel free to give me a call @ 541-603-686 if you have any questions.