Have you heard of Counter Conditioning? Lauren is going to break this down for us and give us the information we will need to use this technique with our pups when we are preparing to leave on vacation.

What is counter-conditioning for?

Negative feelings have a nasty habit of deepening.  So that a mild concern, over time, can become a real fear or phobia.

Counter conditioning is a process that aims to change those negative feelings your dog may have about something in his life, to avoid phobias developing or even reverse them

Fearful Stimuli For Dogs

To understand how counter conditioning works, and when we might use it, we first need to look at what we are seeing before and after the counter-conditioning process takes place

In each case the event itself consists of a scary stimulus (one of our many ‘things’) followed by a response from the dog.

Remember the scariness of the stimulus is not defined by the stimulus, it is defined by the fact that it provokes a fearful reaction in the dog.

We’ve already looked briefly at the potential stimuli.

Let’s look a bit closer at the response

Fear Responses In Dogs

The fearful dog reacts to the stimulus.  His reaction enables us to determine that he is fearful. But fear responses can vary widely.

A frightened dog may freeze, or he may try and escape the fearful stimulus.  He may react with aggression towards the stimulus or towards those around him.

Or he may display only very subtle evidence of his fear, by using calming signals and altering his demeanour in minor ways.

What Does Counter Conditioning Do?

Counter conditioning replaces the fear response entirely.  It is not just about changing the way that the dog behaves.  It is about changing the way that the dog feels.

Successful counter conditioning will enable the dog to be happy and relaxed in the presence of the previously fearful stimulus.