Flooding Therapy for Dog Behavior Issues
Flooding may not be the best way to ease a dog's fear
Flooding is a full immersion training technique applied both in humans and animal psychology. It consists of forcefully exposing the dog to the stimuli that triggers its fear and provoked the original trauma. This method of behavior therapy may bring fast results, but it may be traumatic and may come with some risks.
In a recent episode, Cesar Millan treated Kane, a Great Dane who was terrified of walking on shiny surfaces after slipping on a shiny floor and hitting himself on a glass door. The pet parents were desperate to ease this dog's fears but could not find a way to make him gain confidence again. Cesar, pointed out that nurturing the dog when it displayed fear was only making matters worse. Instead, he takes Kane by the leash and walks him with confidence over the shiny floor. Kane, appears disoriented, but in a few minutes he is back to walking normally on the shiny surface. This is an example of flooding used with success (if the dog healed completely), but watch the dog's many stress signals. Was it really worth it?
In the human world, flooding is used to treat fears and phobias. A good example, is launching a child scared of water in a pool. While, this may not appear to be the best approach, it appeared to work when the children's instinctive survival skills kicked in and they swam across the pool to get out. It is also used when psychologists bombard their patients with detailed descriptions of the situations they fear until they end up losing their fear of those situations.
In flooding, the dog cannot escape from the situation until it is released. This makes it a highly stressful situation. However, eventually, the dog's arousal level will diminish and the dog's reactive state may shut down. While this may look like success, it is only by looking at the long term results that this can be determined. And not always will flooding techniques be successful long term.
When is flooding commonly used in dogs? Hunting dogs fearful of gunshots may be placed close to a firing range. Farm dogs fearful of horses may benefit from being put his dog in a horse stable for hours. Dogs fearful of thunder may be exposed to prolonged recordings of thunderstorm put at high volume.
While flooding may help some dogs, when it does not, the dog may turn into an emotional wreck and be prone to sensitization, which causes an increase in fear. There are, therefore, far better approaches granting higher rates of success.. Desensitation for instance, may take longer but it provides far more reliable results. Instead of forcefully exposing the dog for prolonged periods of time to the stimuli causing the dog's fear, the dog is gradually exposed to its fear and therefore there are higher chances of putting the dog up for success.
Patience and gradual exposure is a preferable method. Trouble is, not everybody has time and patience and want fast results. However, despite its many risks, sometimes flooding may help speed up the process. An example? Dogs fearful of water just as humans may at times progress after being tossed into the water. Doing so provides a ''full immersion'' experience and dogs may forget all about their previous fears.
For further reading
- Evaluating Cesar Millan's Dog Rehabilitation Methods
Dog Whisperer dog rehabilitation methods evaluation. Pros and cons of Cesar Millan's training methods.
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Do you own a dog that startles at the minimum noise? Is your dog fearfully reactive, barking and lunging at every sudden noise? Does your dog take cover when it hears the vacuum, the phone ring, a car pass by, the doorbell, or voices? If yes, your..
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