When potential clients call me because they're having problems with their dog, they usually try to convince me that their dog is actually really smart. The thing is, I never doubt the intelligence of the dog, because almost all of them are extremely clever and eager to learn new things. Learning, however, isn't the dog's problem. Dogs with behavioral issues (as judged by the human) usually have a limited capacity to deal with stress. Therefore, I'm not concerned with the dog's ability to learn their obedience commands, what I want to know is: How can we increase their emotional capacity?
Increasing emotional capacity is just another way of saying: building tolerance to stress. This approach takes patience, sensitivity, an understanding of the dog's nervous system, and the ability to titrate the amount of pressure or stress you present to your dog. In this way, we use a homeopathic approach to our training, which means we cure stress with small amounts of stress. That way, your dog's window of tolerance slowly expands and they grow emotionally resilient one small step at a time.
This technique would be the opposite of "flooding." Flooding is a type of exposure therapy that has the potential to create further trauma and keep your dog in a state of hyper- or hypo-arousal. I think many people who are attempting desensitization or counter-conditioning techniques with their dogs are unknowingly "flooding" the dog and making the problem worse instead of better.
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