Treatment Plans for Behavioral Regressions

willie in wonderland 2011

Or, alternative title: Adventures in the Willie Wonka Fear Factory. If you're cocking your head in confusion, this is about Willie's recent (and relatively new) fear of men. To review briefly: As a puppy he was pathologically afraid of other dogs, exceptionally sound sensitive and, in some contexts, quick to anger. But he adored people, loved everyone. As an adolescent, like many dogs, he developed new fears, and became cautious around unfamiliar men, but it was easily handled by having guys throw balls for him. I always knew I'd need to manage it and that I could never completely close the book on his fears, but it was easily handled and he usually appeared to be thrilled to meet unfamiliar men after about 4-5 months of counter conditioning. And then, three weeks or so ago, he barked Read More

Counter Classical or Counter Operant?

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My last post started a good discussion about the use of the term "counter conditioning," (and its use in treating Separation Anxiety) and one of the comments in particular reminded me that the term is often used differently by different people. For years I've always specified "counter classical conditioning" when talking about treatment for SA, for example, when one links something that elicits a positive emotion (like food) with something that elicits a negative one (like fear). But I noticed I've started being lazy and using the term "counter conditioning" when I mean counter classical conditioning. I suspect that's because I don't tend to use the term "counter operant conditioning." Rather, I talk about "training an incompatible behavior" which is basically the same thing. So, to be Read More

New Info about Treatment for SA? Yes and No.

Willie 2 snow blue KM

A study came out recently in Applied Animal  Behavior Science that suggests that Counter Conditioning (CC)  is not an effective way to treat Separation Anxiety. Since I've been advising the use of this method for many years, my ears pricked up in hopes I'd learn something important about how better to treat this serious behavioral problem.  The study, by Butler, Sargisson & Eliffe, concluded that Desensitizing (DS) was the successful element in the treatment of SA in the 8 dogs in the study, while CC and "behavioral advice" was not. We got the article, and I read through it carefully. And then I read it again. And yup, one more time. And then I emailed some of my colleagues and asked "Am I crazy?" I thought I might be losing my mind because try as I might, I could not match the Read More