Dogs and fireworks (30+ proven techniques to eliminate noise phobia)

Is your dog afraid of fireworks? How about thunder?

Keep reading, this blog post contains everything you need to know. This post was last updated on Dec 20th, 2018 – look for the “revised” signs in the post to find the changes.

Is your dog not fearful of fireworks, thunder or other loud noise?

Keep reading anyway. That may change, and you should be prepared.

fearful dogs fireworks
It’s the combination of different techniques that produce the best effect (Crowell-Davis et al., 2003: 93%). Nobody’s tried using all the techniques suggested in this blog post, as far as I know.

Continue reading “Dogs and fireworks (30+ proven techniques to eliminate noise phobia)”

Systematic desensitization – essential to reducing fear

I’ve posted a few blog posts recently about ways of reducing fear in animals. Today’s topic is fundamental in that tool box: systematic desensitization.

I know, ten syllables. And yet, it’s one of the most important tools in animal training, so… let me explain it, and perhaps it will be easier to digest. Let’s call it SD for short. Continue reading “Systematic desensitization – essential to reducing fear”

4 reasons why habituation is not a good choice of technique to reduce fear at the vet’s

If you’ve read my other posts in this series, you know I’ve been promoting counterconditioning (or re-learning) as one of the best techniques to reduce fear in the veterinary clinic.

You might be thinking: “Aaaaw, that’s too much of a hassle, there’s no time. Why not just grab the animal, do what needs to be done, and with time, the animal will get used to it? It will habituate.”

There are four reasons why I don’t think that’s a good idea:

  • If it works, it’s a slow process
  • Meanwhile, you risk injury in staff handling the animal and difficulty in diagnosis.
  • You run the risk of sensitization (the animal becoming successively more fearful)
  • You risk confusing it with learned helplessness (animals giving up; a potentially pathological reaction)

Continue reading “4 reasons why habituation is not a good choice of technique to reduce fear at the vet’s”

One of the 5 most important words in animal training: counterconditioning

I collaborate with a vet who claims that many of the dogs that visit her facility are so eager to get inside the door that they pull their owners by the leash all the way from the parking lot.

Her secret?



Six syllables. I know, most people tune out beyond four. But I still think you should learn this particular term. Why?

Because it’s one of the most important techniques in animal training (arguably top five). It may be the difference between your dog eagerly pulling to get to the vet’s, or shaking like a leaf on the examination table. Continue reading “One of the 5 most important words in animal training: counterconditioning”

Why vets shouldn’t avoid treat feeding in the clinic

The first blog post – or wait! My very first attempt at a blog post was actually as an invited guest, although I never told my host that…! I recently wrote a scientific paper about my current obsession in the field of animal behaviour management and was asked to present it to the readers of Dr. Sophia Yin’s blog.

My current obsession, thanks for asking, is ways of preventing and reducing fear in animals visiting the veterinary practice. One such tool is to simply feed delicious treats to animals before, during, and after procedures, both as a distraction and to promote desired learning, or re-learning. Rather than learning that nasty things happen at the vet’s, the animal learns that you get wonderful treats – this is called counterconditioning.

My problem was that vets I consulted with wouldn’t dare use this technique in case they needed to sedate animals at any point. They would rather stay away from treats altogether – rather safe than sorry, as it were. From my horizon, it was a choice between two rather terrible options, or so it would seem. On the one hand: successful counterconditioning – contented animals that risk dying from complications associated with anesthesia. On the other hand: miserable and potentially dangerous animals that run no particular increased risk when sedated. Continue reading “Why vets shouldn’t avoid treat feeding in the clinic”