Counterconditioning

Behaviour modification

Counterconditioning is similar to Classical conditioning and is used to modify conditioned behaviour and often referred to as reciprocal inhibition.

How to use counterconditioning

Simply give your GSD a treat that he/she goes crazy over every time the scary/strange object appears within your GSDs sight.

REALLY, it is that SIMPLE!

It is incredibly important to give the reward as soon as your GSD sees the scary thing. Then simply repeat the process over and over again until your GSD exhibits signs of happy excitement at the sight of what was previously was frightening to them. To help you understand when your GSD is happy or fearful read about Reading Canine Body Language.

Counterconditioning example:
Your GSD is scared of your hair dryer. This is how we use counterconditioning to modify this behaviour.

  • Take the hair dryer out and as soon as your GSD sees it give him/her that REALLY special treat. Repeat this until your GSD demonstrates that he/she happy when he/she sees the hair dryer because as he/she anticipates receiving the treat.
  • Have someone else turn on the hair dryer on in a different room and as soon as you both hear the hair dryer go on give him/her the treat. Repeat this until your GSD demonstrates that he/she happy when he/she sees the hair dryer because as he/she anticipates receiving that treat.
  • Turn the hair dryer on while in the same room with your GSD. Try to muffle the sound by keeping it under a towel. Reward your GSD with a treat every time you turn it on and continually him/her treats while the hair dryer is on. Once you turn the hair dryer off the the treats stop too. Repeat this until your GSD demonstrates that he/she happy and comfortable when he/she sees and hears the hair
  • Now repeat the above with the hair dryer in plain view initially starting with the hair dryer set to low and gradually increasing the setting to high as your GSD slowly gets used to it and stops showing any signs of fear.
  • Gradually reduce the frequency of the rewards/treats your pet food.

Key points to remember

  • The key to counterconditioning is all about timing.
  • The key to systematic desensitisation is to go very slowly.
  • Never punish your fearful dog. This will only increase his/her fear.
  • Never be afraid to seek assistance from a professional dog trainer, particularly if you feel that your GSD may harm you, another person or animal or himself/herself.
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