desensitizing and counter conditioning

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helpmeandmydog
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:47 pm

desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by helpmeandmydog » Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:13 pm

hello
I do not understand how you can use these two methods together but books have told me to. with desensitizing, you must start far away and reward the dog for remaining calm. with counter conditoning, it says to give the dog a treat when it sees what it is scared of regardless of what the dog is doing even acting scared. they learn something positive will happen when the scary thing is around. but how can use both methods together??

WufWuf
Posts: 1371
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 7:53 am

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by WufWuf » Wed Feb 01, 2012 7:14 am

Ok so you don't usually use these techniques for the same problem or at the same time.

Desensitization is normally used where the dogs fear is very very mild, so for example a mild fear for loud noises, you would start off with the noise at a very low level and gradually increase the noise over time untill the dog is able to hear it at normal level without showing any signs of stress.

Counter conditioning is for higher level fear where you need to pair a reward with an event - see/hear scary get tasty treat. This works on the principal of classical conditioning and is more suitable for things the dog finds unpleasant or scary but still must be done with the dog under threshold (able to remain calm).

Hope this helps, if not I'm sure someone will be able to explain it better then I have!
Operant conditioning rocks but classical conditioning rules

ladybug1802
Posts: 1991
Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:39 am
Location: Surrey

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by ladybug1802 » Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:38 am

Ah see I did use these 2 principles together. Dylan had a severe fear of strange people.....so I used desensitisation for when we saw people on walks (so got him at a distance he felt 'safe' and heavily treated, and then introduced the clicker when we were to start to reward more specific behaviour), so this gradually desensitised him to the scary people at a distance.

Then counter conditioning at the same time to change his association with people....so that he would start to association strangers approaching oir being around with yummy treats!

Dont think I have explained it very well actually!

helpmeandmydog
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:47 pm

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by helpmeandmydog » Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:44 pm

the book said you can use them together, I understand it better now, thanks

helpmeandmydog
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:47 pm

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by helpmeandmydog » Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:44 pm

the book said you can use them together, I understand it better now, thanks

WufWuf
Posts: 1371
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 7:53 am

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by WufWuf » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:34 am

Sorry I wasn't thinking about this properly yesterday :oops: . You can use them together or seperately depending on what you're working on.

For example if you were working on desensetizing a dog to a sound (eg fireworks) by gradually exposing them to the sound at a very low level, working up to a normal level of sound and while you were doing this you fed your dog lovely treats you would also be using counter conditioning.

This would hold true I guess in lots of training situations where you only expose a dog to scary thing at a distance and work up to getting closer while also rewarding them for seeing scary thing. (As Ladybug1802 did with Dylan and his fear of people).

Hope I haven't confused you too much.
Operant conditioning rocks but classical conditioning rules

jacksdad
Posts: 4885
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: desensitizing and counter conditioning

Post by jacksdad » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:18 pm

Hopefully this will help as well.....

From Jean Donaldson's Fight, A Practical guide to The Treatment of Dog-Dog Aggression [2004]

Desensitization - Refers to a careful manipulation of the intensity of the fear-evoking thing, in this case the other dog, so that it doesn't generate a fear response. Jean goes on to say; No matter what one is afraid of, there is likely a version of it - smaller, very far way, very carefully controlled - that won't trigger the fear. (summarized from page 62)

So basically if your dog is afraid of dogs, if it reacts at 10 feet away in some clear fear based response, tucking it's tail, trying to leave, whining, trying to get small etc on one hand or barking, baring teeth, lunging, growling...basically trying to look super scary to drive the other dog away... you would then keep your dog away from other dogs at say 20 feet and let your dog see, smell, hear, or otherwise know other dogs are around, but keep them at a safe distance so there is no fear reaction. as your dog gets used to it's fear trigger in safe doses, you reduce the distance slowly until you are able to say pass the other dog on the side walk without a fear response.

Oh and if you hear the term threshold, this is the technical term for the "line" when crossed that causes your dog to go from calm to no longer calm and reacting. in the above example 10 feet from scary is the threshold line. while you are over 10 feet (i.e 11, 12, 15, 20, 1 mile) you are considered "under threshold". The close you get to the threshold, the more stressed you dog will become. Soon as you cross the 10 foot line you are now "over threshold" and expect your dog to react accordingly and go into whatever fearful behavior it has found to work to meet it's emotional needs.

Counter Conditioning - (She goes on to say)....Right after this much less intense version of the scary dog is presented, a pleasant thing - The counter conditioning stimulus - is presented, to build a new association. (summarized from page 62)

So while remaining under threshold as much as possible, you introduce something your dog finds very pleasant such as food or special toy. when this something pleasant is available to your dog, particularly when under threshold, your dog can focus on this wonderful thing and those happy/feel good feelings become the new feelings your dog associates with the "scary" thing. With time suddenly scary isn't so scary after all because your dog feels good when it's around. their previous conditioned response (fear) has been counter conditioned to something new, calm and feeling good.

so yes, they are used together.

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