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

Revised September 2022.

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).

Counterconditioning may be the difference between your dog eagerly pulling to get to the vet’s, or shaking like a leaf on the examination table.

Simply put, conditioning means learning and counter means opposite.

So, re-learning might be another way of putting it. That’s just three syllables.

Practically speaking, it’s about changing someone’s learned associations.

An example!

Let’s say we have a dog, who’s started trembling and panting whenever she arrives to the vet’s office.

She has probably learned to associate the vet’s office with aversive events.

Strange sounds and smells.

Unfamiliar people looming.

Needles poking.

A string of events that ends up with something painful – most animals will learn these predictors. This is one type of classical conditioning, learning that certain events predict things the animal would rather avoid (just like Pavlov’s dogs drooled when they learned that bells predicted things they really wanted).

Some animals may start showing behaviours indicative of a fear response at the first stimulus in such a predictive chain, and some even resort to defensive aggression in their attempts to escape the situation – which could be very risky for all parties involved.

Counterconditioning (CC) is about re-learning. Typically, rather than predicting pain, the animal learns that certain events predict outstanding free delicacies, delivered right under your nose.

Let’s go back to our example. Through counterconditioning, the dog now re-learns that:

Strange sounds and smells – but followed by fabulous treats.

Unfamiliar people looming – and then you get something that smells just wonderful!

Needles poking – is that chicken liver? (or, if you’re a cat: whaaaat – Tuna?!)

counter conditioning
Counterconditioning (CC) is learning new associations, so that the animal starts looking forward to the sounds, smells, people and procedures since they precede fabulous goodies.

Studies have shown that CC may reduce the risk of defensive aggression in just a few training sessions.

For example, one dog’s aggressive behaviours towards a stranger at the door (charging, lunging, barking, and biting) diminished from 88% of 30-second intervals before training to 3% after CC training.

How to perform counterconditioning

How do you do it, then?

In theory, it’s easy.

  • Start by identifying some fabulous treat – something that the animal really likes.

Something spectacular.

  • Then feed small mouthfuls to the animal as soon as it has been exposed to a potentially scary stimulus.

The fear-inducing stimulus should predict the arrival of something fabuluous.

  • After a few pairings (scary thing – fab food) the animal learns that one leads to the other.

She re-learns that the potentially scary thing is actually not scary but a predictor of something spectacularly good.

Take a look at dr Sophia Yin counterconditioning a dog to actually enjoying something he initially thought aversive. She discusses – and dismisses – the common assumption that giving treats to animals while or after they’re aggressive inadvertently rewards, or reinforces, the behaviour.

Note that the animal doesn’t have to DO anything. In classical counterconditioning, the potentially scary thing precedes the wonderful treat – regardless of what the animal is doing.

In theory, counterconditioning is easy.

In practice, unless you know what you’re doing, counterconditioning is quite difficult.

Actually, there are at least four ways in which counterconditioning can go wrong.

Problem one: choosing the wrong procedure

We sometimes mistake hyper arousal and happy-excited emotional states for fear.

In such cases, presenting a stimulus that’s not scary, and then treats, might have little to no effect on the animal’s behaviour – or even increase arousal. Such procedures might inadvertently reinforce whatever behaviour is being shown, and solutions other than counterconditioning are called for.

Second problem: exposure above conflict threshold

Let’s walk through this procedure.

The animal is exposed to something potentially scary (and it might be more scary than you think). Step one.

The animal is then exposed to something nice (and it might be less nice than you think). Step two.

Through repeated pairings (step one-step two), the animal learns that the potentially scary thing is actually not scary at all but a predictor of nice things.

So, two questions:

  • How scary is the scary thing?
  • And how nice is the nice thing?

The answers to those two questions are likely going to determine your success in counterconditioning.

If the scary thing is not so scary, and the nice thing is fabulous, counterconditioning will likely be successful. If the scary thing is really scary, and the nice thing is fabulous, the animal will be in conflict. If the scary thing is really scary, and the nice thing is not exactly spectacular, counterconditioning wont work.

The contrast between the scariness and fabulousness of the two respective stimuli will determine the outcome.

  • If the scary thing isn’t that bad, you can probably get away with less-than-fabulous treats and still countercondition successfully.
  • At the other extreme, if the scary thing is scary enough, you won’t be able to countercondition successfully regardless of how faboulous your treats are.
  • At some intermediate level, the animal gets into conflict. The scary thing is really scary, but the treats are really fabulous too, so the animal may eat the treats – but remain fearful.

The thing is to ensure that the level of scariness is below the conflict threshold – we don’t want the animal to overcome his fear, we want him to re-learn: the potentially scary thing should become  a predictor of great things.

Now, we might overestimate fabulousness, but I’d say that the main problem is that we often grossly underestimate scariness. This boils down to two things:

  • We fail to see or interpret the subtle signs of fearful body language in our animals.
  • We’re not afraid of whatever the animal is afraid of, so it doesn’t even occur to us that they might be fearful.

Animals are more easily frightened than people: they often react fearfully to novel stimuli or things that we can’t even perceive (smells or sounds, for instance).

Or they might respond fearfully to things we wouldn’t ever consider scary – so we might dismiss their fears.

The thing is, if they are too fearful, they’ll either get into conflict, or they won’t take treats – and CC alone won’t work.

I’ll get back to what to do about that below, but first, another important obstacle:

Problem three – asking for behaviour too soon

As one of my readers pointed out, an additional problem is that people tend to use operant counterconditioning rather than classical counterconditioning – and that’s risky if the animal is too fearful.

Oh no, even more syllables? Hang in there, I’ll explain! 🙂

In classical counterconditioning, the animal doesn’t have to do anything in particular, step one precedes step two (scary thing – treat) regardless of behaviour. As we saw in Sophia Yin’s film, the air-in-the-face stimulus preceded the treat. And meanwhile, what was the animal doing?

He was raising his lip, giving a warning signal. At least initially.

Many people might think: “I don’t want to reward that. I’m going to wait until he stops. When the lip goes down, that’s when I’ll present the food”.

But that’s operant training, folks. That’s requiring the animal to perform a behaviour in order to get reinforcement.

Sophia Yin didn’t do that in her video, though. She just got the treat to him as soon as possible – despite his raised lip.

Counterconditioning is primarily about re-learning predictors, its main purpose is not about re-learning behaviour. The dog isn’t learning that “if-I-behave-politely-despite-air-in-the-face-I-get-treats”, he’s learning that “air-in-the-face-precedes-treats”.

He’s learning a predictor. One stimulus predicting another – regardless of behaviour. Classical conditioning. Or in this case, classical counterconditioning.

Technically, Sophia didn’t use the treat as a reinforcer for desired behaviour, she used it as an unconditioned stimulus (the air-in-the-face being the intended conditioned stimulus).

The purpose of the exercise was not to get polite behaviour, but to change the emotional state related to air-in-the-face. And once the emotional state changed, the behavioural manifestations changed too. So those warning signals disappeared, since the animal no longer feared air-in-the-face – he’s learned that it predicted treats!

The dog stopped giving warning signals, because his emotional response to air-in-the-face changed.

Classical counterconditioning.

But what does operant counterconditioning look like then, and why is it risky?

It’s asking the animal to do something, show some behaviour, in the presence of something potentially scary – and get rewarded for it.

It might be “sit” on cue. Touch a target. Perform some trick. In an environment containing stimuli that might be aversive.

This is often done later in the counterconditioning procedure. Once classical counterconditioning is achieved, we may ask the animal to perform a behaviour in the presence of the previously scary thing, to ensure that it is, in fact, no longer scary, and the animal feels confident enough to respond to the trainer’s cues in its presence. Failure to respond to such cues may indicate that there’s some residual anxiety, perhaps.

So, classical counterconditioning procedures are sometimes followed by operant counterconditioning.

The problem occurs when people start doing operant counterconditioning too soon. They might require that the animal *not* balk, rear, vocalize, or lift the lip in warning. So they might present the scary thing, and when the animal balks, they withhold the treat, hoping that he’ll stop soon so they can deliver the treat.

And if the animal keeps balking or showing other unwanted behaviour, the treat doesn’t appear at all.

So, rather than learning that the scary-thing-predicts-treats, the animal learns that in-this-context-scary-things-happen.

And so, he might sensitize, and escalate the undesirable behaviour. After all, if he’s experiencing the scary thing as potentially dangerous, he will likely show behaviours out of his fight / flight repertoire, and those are seldom behaviours that we’re looking for in our animals.

Another thing while we’re on this subject. You might think that asking for an already learned behaviour that is on cue would solve the problem. “I’ll just ask him to sit, he knows that really well”. But the thing is, in a high state of arousal the animal likely won’t remember any cues. Performance and operant learning is really badly affected by stress, as shown below.

The Yerkes-Dodson graph. Notice that at some point, increasing arousal will lead to a deterioration of performance.

This effect on arousal on learning is the main reason why we need to reduce arousal first, before we can ask for any behaviour.

And now, for the final problem:

Problem four: not realizing that the order of events actually matters.

Say you’re out walking your reactive dog, and you see another dog at a distance – and you know that other dog is going to be a trigger to your dog.

Quick, you need to make a split-second decision! Should you:

  • immediately chuck some tasty chicken at your dog before he sees the other dog, or
  • wait until your dog has spotted the other dog, and then chuck him some chicken?

The answer to that question is crucial for what the animal will learn. In counterconditioning, the animal is learning about predictors. So, looking at these two alternatives, the animal will either learn that:

  • chicken predicts scary dogs, or
  • scary dogs predict chicken.

How will these two scenarios impact your dog’s learning and behaviour? Let’s look at what happens in this nifty little video that I recorded.

sidestepping the problems

What to do then?

Well, with regards to the four problems listed here:

  • 1 – only use this procedure when the animal is having a negative emotional reaction to a stimulus, not a positive one
  • 2 – combine counterconditioning with Systematic Desensititization (SD); this is about gradually introducing the scary thing. The combination of counterconditioning and systematic desensitization is called SD/CC and is potentially the most powerful tool available in reducing or eliminating fear – in people as well as in animals.
  • 3 – keep doing classical counterconditioning until you see a Conditioned Emotional Response (CER), the animal perking up in happy expectation when the previously scary thing is presented. Many people would actually use that perking up behaviour as the operant behaviour to reinforce when switching to operant counterconditioning..! 😉
  • 4 – ensure that you get the order of stimuli right, the potentially scary thing should happen before (predict) the fabulous thing.

Also, if you present the potentially scary thing, and the animal shows some unwanted fear-related behaviour:

  • deliver the treat regardless (so that he still learns that scary-things-predict-treats)
  • in the next repetition, reduce the exposure of the scary thing below the conflict threshold (so that he doesn’t show any detectable signs of unease)

Note that the procedure of creating a positive association with the veterinary visit is best done even before animals develop fears.

Strictly speaking it might not even be “counter” conditioning or re-learning if the animal isn’t afraid to begin with, just “plain” classical conditioning (Pavlov’s drooling dogs again) – but such preventive learning is very powerful in buffering against later fears developing.

The vet should be able to offer a vast assortment of fabulous treats, in order to bring about this important learning. And there’s no scientific support for the old adage “the animal must fast before sedation, so we can’t feed treats in case we need to sedate the animal” – in fact, it might be more risky not to feed. 

Many modern animal trainers actually expand this procedure to include giving the animal the option of giving the go-ahead, effectively communicating “yes I’m ready to be exposed to the scary thing”.  Giving the animal control, as it were.

… On a side note, all you nerd trainers out there: which are the five most important words (or expressions/concepts) in animal training, according to YOU? Take a moment to give us your thoughts in the comment section below!


I give online courses about getting happy, reasonably well-behaved animals that thrive with people. Wanna learn more, and get information about when they’re available (and also get info about new blogposts and free webinars)? Sign up below and I’ll keep you posted!


Savage, K. E., 2010. A Comparison of Classical Counterconditioning and Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior on Aggressive Behavior in Dogs.

69 Replies to “One of the 5 most important words in animal training: counterconditioning”

  1. Taysha used to love going to the vet for her first 2 years, then Covid happened and I wasn’t allowed in with her for her annual visit.
    I don’t know what happened at that visit but she would not go near the building after the visit. I started by walking past and playing Find It ( I toss treat on ground) with high value treats , keeping the sessions very short and we are now at the front door with my hand on the door handle. Its a slow process and even though I would like to progress quicker, I am guided by Taysha’s response. I was thinking that if she is still not comfortable entering the vet office/consult room in the next month or so I will visit another vet and build a positive experience for her there, because her next annual visit is in August. I will also continue with the counter conditioning at the previous vet . Is this a good plan?

    1. Susy, sounds like a great plan! If she’s developed such a strong negative connotation to the place, then there are two solutions: attempt to work through it (and perhaps also ask for some premedication that helps calm her down before the next visit) – or change vets. Sometimes the latter is the better choice (and I would try to find one who is fear-free certified if possible).

      1. Thx Karolina,
        for Taysha’s comfort I will try and find a fear free vet and start with short visits and lots of hv treats, but will continue to work at getting her comfortable with the local vet……no rush there.

          1. Update:
            Visited the new vet 12 times, played games and rewarded with high value treats, eventually playing games on the consult table. Taysha loves going to the vet. At her annual checkup visit, Taysha got her injection and didn’t even notice…still loves visiting the vet. Well worth spending the time to get her comfortable with the environment and the staff.

  2. “The animal is always right”
    The thing with too early CC reminds me to a blog post of Peter Giljam from Zoospensive, where he wrote we should count behaviours, as motivation is going down after a not well performed reaction to a cue, followed by no reinforcer, so that it is important to lead the animal to success after the next behaviour to keep motivation high/avoid frustration.

  3. Can you explain how you can help a dog where she is intensely anxious and the fearful stimulus is unpredictable and out of my control?

    Two of my dogs have developed a severe phobia of gunfire as a result of regular shooting near our house plus bird scarers going off unpredictably.

    Playing a tape of gunfire doesn’t mimic the actual sound and one of them is so scared she is at risk of injuring herself, the other sits shaking and panting, too scared to move. One of the dogs is currently on an anxiolytic medication but this only helps when the shooting is fairly quiet.

    I have tried giving a treat each time I hear a shot, but this is all day, at least three or four days a week and it’s not possible to do it all the time as I have to work and walk the other dogs.

    I really don’t know how to help them with this fear when they are exposed to the noise all the time and I can’t “present” the noise or ensure a time when they aren’t exposed to it so they can recover.

    1. Hi Catherine, that must be so challenging for you – and your dogs! I would probably seek help from a veterinarian to help get meds to lower the overall sensitivity to triggers even more – if they’re as fearful as you describe then they’re not in a good space for learning. Perhaps also try mood-lifting activities to help shift them out of such a vigilant state; nose work I hear works wonders. That might help bring them to a point where they hear the noise but don’t care enough to get worked up about it.

  4. Hi Karolina,

    I believe that the Constructional Approach are a better way of dealing with fear responses and aggressive behavior.
    Have you explored this science?

    1. Oh hi Annette! Absolutely – and yes, very effective! 🙂 there will still be a matter of doing some type of pairing procedure, though..! 🙂

  5. Where could I get a copy of Eva Beodfaldt’s book Follow Me. I tried looking for it and could not find it on Amazon or at Dogwise.

  6. Great stuff!

    Can you provide some information or resources about how counterconditioning and/or classical conditioning can work on reducing a dog’s arousal when it is not fear oriented?

    I am working on changing my dog’s response to a stimuli that makes her want to dash off into the woods on a hike. I am working on changing that response and having her report it to me by looking at me and coming over to me.

    So far, I keep her on a long line to prevent her from running off and currently click when she alerts to something. Typically she looks back and returns to me to get her treat after the click. And we are at the point where she often alerts and then voluntarily looks back at me before I can click. I follow-up with a click for the voluntary check in, then she returns to me for the treat.

    I also try to identify when she is getting so aroused that she will not hear the click and proactively get her closer to me before that occurs, walk on a short leash and/or do some parkour or other behaviors to get her to focus and lower her arousal by thinking.

    I want to teach her that when something arouses her the appropriate response is to check in with me (i.e. report it), not run after it. I’d be open to teaching her another response, such as Sit when something arouses her or to point, if that makes more sense. Although I like that she would default to returning to me so that the distance between us is reduced. Thanks!

    1. Sounds like you’re teaching her some type of “tattling”! My friend Eva Bodfäldt wrote a chapter about it in her book Follow Me:


      I’d also investigate the concept of Premack reinforcers, that can be construed as a type of classical conditioning, for sure!

    2. Thank you for your response. That web link for Follow Me did not work. Can you spossibly send it a different way? Thanks

    3. Hi! I recently saw a talk by Simone Mueller whose focus is modifying behaviour around the prey drive. Here books on predation substitute training look helpful:
      Hunting Together: Harnessing Predatory Chasing in Family Dogs through Motivation-Based Training
      Rocket Recall: Unleash Your Dog’s Desire to Return to You through Motivation-Based Training: 2 (Predation Subsitute Training)

  7. Hello. I almost finished watching Your first video but must admit I dont know the terms R+ R – and so on. Could you explain it please ?
    Im really enjoying Your course so far!

    Thank you

    Best regards

    1. Absolutely, My!

      First: plus means added, minus means removed – and reinforcement leads to more behaviour, and punishment to less behaviour.

      So positive reinforcement, R+, means that the animal does something that he gets rewarded for, so he does it again (to get more rewards, or reinforcers). An example would be sitting to get treats.
      Negative reinforcement, R-, is when the animal does a behaviour that stops something unpleasant, so the next time around he will show that behaviour again in the same context to avoid the discomfort. An example would be sitting to avoid pressure on the rump.
      Negative punishment, P-, is when the animal does a behaviour that causes something pleasant to disappear, so the next time around he’ll avoid doing that particular behaviour in that context. An example would be if a dog jumps up in greeting on a person – the person turns his back and walks away. The dog will then stop jumping on that person in the future.
      Positive punishment, P+, is when the animal does a behaviour that causes something unpleasant to happen – so he’ll avoid doing that in the future. For instance, the dog gets smacked on the nose for jumping up on people – he will then stop jumping on those people.

      These are the main functions that are interesting for us when teaching animals. Hope it makes sense!

  8. Karolina
    I have used SD/CC when I have been training my horses. I was experimenting and didn’t know what it was called but now I do. It was a very successful way of training.

  9. Karolina,

    I can’t tell you what a game changer this is for me. I have used CC successfully on many occasions, but I did not have this level of understanding of the process or its usefulness. I have been working with a very hyper-reactive young horse who I KNEW I was stressing out with OC. I was making some progress and able to reduce her reactive behavior but her overall excitement level was still too high. For example, she’d see me coming and start vocalizing like crazy! After reading this article I switched to CC and after two sessions, VOILA’! Her energy dropped 80% and her impulse control has improved tremendously. Touching her front legs was very likely to trigger rearing behavior, and now no rear and we’re touching back legs too with no sign of distress. Thanks again so much and please thank Sophia Yin. Her video was the icing on the cake.

  10. Lovely article Karolina! I knew the terms but to be honest it is now that I have red this article that I fully understand the differences between the classical and operant (counter) conditioning. And why using CC and SD is such a good combination and OCC is more tricky. I will make a new plan for trailer travelling based on this and for meeting cows as one of my ponies is very afraid of cows. If I fully understand if you use CCC you also do not use a bridge signal?

    1. Correct! When using CCC you’re simply teaching the animal that “first this slightly scary thing happens, and immediately after that other fabulously fun thing happens, regardless of what you’re doing”- classical conditioning. When you’re using a bridge, or a marker, you’re teaching the animal “when you do that behaviour, the marker signal occurs, and then the fabulously fun thing” – operant conditioning. May be combined later on, for sure..!

  11. Excellent article! Thanks so much!! Do you have any advice or suggestions for counter conditioning a dog who isn’t at all food motivated? He also quickly loses interest in any one toy. I’ve had some success with praise but run into the issue of the praise being a distraction for both of us.

    1. Theoretically, anything that gives him a pleasant emotional reaction can be used to countercondition the aversive stimulus. Treats, toys, scratches in the right place by the right person, chasing squirrels…

      If he’s not that food motivated it could be that he’s learned that food-predicts-scary-things rather than the other way around, or that you simply haven’t found a food that he’s interested enough in..? I’m not a dog trainer myself so can’t advice any specifics, but I’d try a variety of different things that dogs usually like (and that are reasonably nutritious) and do a preference test. And perhaps choose to do the training session during a time of day when he’s likely to be hungrier, so not straight after breakfast… Best of luck! 🙂

      1. My heeler was also not food motivated. Until we discovered dried beef liver cubes. At the local vet’s office. It was a game changer. Try those and when he is hungry and maybe that will do the trick. Good luck to ya!

  12. My current list of important words in training:

    – Learning theory (there are thousands of trainers out there who still don’t know what it is about!)

    – planning training with only R+ (how many trainers know about learning theory but still think it’s ok to intentionally use P+, P-, R-?)

    – the animal is always right (an animal is not naughty or lazy, it just shows behaviour that it has learned and that is worth performing, maybe it can’t do something because of pain)

    – emotions (I can train technically perfect behaviour with R+ and still my horse could be unhappy performing it 🙁 )

    – self control (Or rather learned behaviour on the trainer’s side: How many of us are lucky enough to never have used aversives in the past? How many of R+ trainers who in the past used R-, P-, P+ have enough self control not to mix those methods to some degree?)

    1. Thanks for sharing your list! 🙂 “the animal is always right” is such a useful expression, really pointing out how the animal’s behaviour reflects learning history..!

  13. I re-read this article now that fall weather is upin us and the change of seasons has got my horse a bit spooky and hyper alert to the general environment. I occasionally have a hard time determining where her threshold is but I think if I observe very carefully, her fear and apprehension begin once her herd is out of sight. Not a problem in nice weather but new conditions change everything.
    Interestingly, even in the summer one of the scariest places has been roadside on the lawn but late summer this is also an apple orchatd so we made a point of munching some apples when we go that way and she no longer spooks there.
    It makes me think I may need to increase the value of my food reinforcer and be very very observant and try to nip this weather thing in the bud.

    1. Good observation about the importance of contexts such as weather! That would have gone beneath the radar for many, I think. Best of luck! 🙂

  14. I am currently running and training my 4 year old BC for agility. He is very high arousal by character, which when training and competing can be a huge draw back. Training wise, you cannot have food or a toy visible as his arousal levels go through the roof, even more so with his toy.
    So what I have found is that when I have rewarded him, it has been best for me to jump around like an idiot and display loads of verbal praise and pat him and let him jump up at me. I will see lots of trainers cringe at this, but it works and keeps arousal an intermediate status. On a big jackpot where he gets his toy, afterwards I have found putting the toy in my pocket and lowering myself down to his level and just lowering my voice tone and gentle stroking him, then brings him back down to that comfortable learning stage of arousal in order for training to work successfully, f you don’t do this he will attack the equipment like turbo speed in order to get the reinforcement again i.e. the toy and then you are back on a long downward spiral trying to work against extremely high arousal again.

    Competing he is like a fizzy bottle of pop just waiting to explode, but again by working him in calmly, with lots of hands on massage and prep work and a low tone voice it brings his arousal down to a just above workable one again. He is just in his first year of competing and is doing himself proud to date.

  15. I found the video one of the best examples of showing Postive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement and the + & – Punishments.
    I recall one of my previous dogs, Cody would get very highly aroused when I took her out in the car. When we arrived at a destination she would vocalise and act aggressive. It sounded like I’d shut her tail in door (hadn’t even opened it). I found it useful to wait a few minutes til she calmed before letting her out of vehicle.
    I have also noticed when giving my dogs their main meals they tend to get aroused. The older dogs into the happy state. The younger ones into highly excited so when asked for a behaviour eg sit (something they learn as babies) they often can not think how to do it and that it will lead to their meal. I recall asking Cody for a sit one night, she offered Spin, Speak, shake (paw), but no sit. She was overly aroused.
    I am working with all four of my aussies on ‘sitting on your mat’ before dinner. One at a time is released to their dinner – sometimes after a trick (another behaviour) is asked and completed to engage their minds. To think when highly aroused. Even the now 10mnth pup will race to her ‘bed’ and remain until released, quivering in expectation. She is thinking whilst in high arousal. As she matures I expect she will, like the other three older dogs, become more calm (threshold will lower at this time).
    After watching just the first video I’m going to counter condition one of my older dogs (8yr) by having very high rewards available to people to toss into a crate for her no matter what she is doing. I’ll start when arriving at dog training facility by me giving a high value reward just for being there and progress from there. Thank you.

  16. I’ve totally experienced that animals get kind of stupid when they’re either afraid or excited. Especially my horse I had for 22 years, when excited out hacking even though he was old and knew better would not behave as wanted or when afraid of something it was similar. But usually when I remained calm and showed him there was nothing to be afraid of or just enjoyed his happiness with him he calmed down after a while and started to behave and listen again. So I can relate to this, great to hear again though as a reminder for my new dog, that I should behave like I’ve done with all my other animals since it’s been a success. Thank you for your video.

  17. That video was very helpful, remarkable to see the difference in the dogs mind set and body language. As a trainer, I use operant conditioning for the most part as I train puppies basic manners. I do currently have a 9 week old puppy that is showing resource guarding already to a specific bone. I am working with her to “take it” and “leave it ” . The first time I tried to remove the bone while she was chewing, she growled at me and gave me the death glare. I promptly put her in a time out and she came out of the bathroom still engaging with me which I was grateful. We had our second session today and she only growled once and I said a forceful “No” and she did unfortunately give me a bite on the finger , it happened so fast I could barely react. I am now using two of the same bones , asking her to leave one and when she does she gets the other. Would you have a better way of teaching her this so she doesn’t start to guard anything else. She will leave other toys when I ask her, but not these high value bones. Thank you for this education . I enjoy the graphs and you explain all of this in a manner that is easy to understand.

    1. Hi Natalie, I’m glad you found this post useful! I would suggest a completely different approach to your dog’s guarding behaviour. Rather than punishing it (time outs, no’s – which could escalate the situation), I would change her emotional state regarding the resource so that she no longer feels the need to guard it. Here’s a protocol to deal with that, and a video illustrating some steps.

      best of luck! 🙂

  18. Karolina thanks for this mini course. I always love the clarity of your explanation. I however have a question about positive reinforcement. I’m partway through another course which is stating Skinners pure version of +r. And the theory is that any stimulus that causes a behaviour to increase is a +r including aversive stimuli. Please can you enlarge on this perhaps with an example to help me understand the concept. Many thanks Sarah x

    1. What is your definition of “aversive stimulus”? In my world, an aversive stimulus is a stimulus an animal will work to get away from, so it cannot be a reinforcer in and of itself. HOwever, what’s aversive to one animal may be reinforcing to another, and under some conditions animals may work simply to make changes in the environment, to excercise control, so to speak – even if that entails the addition of aversive stimululi that the animal would, under other circumstances, work to get away from.

  19. Loved it!
    Can’t wait until the next installment. 🙂
    My dog Nano is an absolute blessing but as a Sighthound (Whippet), he loves to engage in his favourite past time, zoomies!!
    This is the only time he shuts off from me, and a recall is pretty pointless as the sheer pleasure of running at speeds of 35mph is the reward. I can’t compete with that!! 😀
    He practices his zoomies in safe places, beaches, and fields.

  20. My dog was ok with the wet, but after having to stay behind for nutrition directly into the veins (?) she didn’t wanted to cross the road to that building. We have then spent 3 days, after hours, progressing into the yard. Played games and done tricks. Just recently we entered the building, scary but not more scary than it was easier the day after. Did tricks inside too and the wet gave her treats too. Not without hesitation but a huge step forward

  21. Hi!
    Great post! As a vet that just graduated, I would like to work more with positive reinforcement in the clinic!
    One problem with the feeding of dogs or cats before sedation I encountered when I started working this summer: it’s well established in the vet community and more problematic – among the owners, that you shouldn’t feed the animal before sedation. Leading to it being very risky for us to go against that. If the animal, even though unlikely, should get aspiration pneumonia we could get in a lot of trouble.

  22. This is a great video I love how she explains that she focuses on changing the dogs emotional state in order to change his behaviour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *