Counter-Conditioning and Desensitization (CC&D) – Whole Dog Journal

Counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D) entails altering your canine’s affiliation with an aversive or arousing stimulus – on this case, one other animal – from unfavorable to constructive. 

The best method to give most canine a constructive affiliation with one thing is with very high-value, actually yummy treats. I like to make use of hen – frozen strips (thawed), canned, baked, or boiled, since most canine love hen and it’s a nutritious, low-fat meals. 

Here’s how you’d use the CC&D course of to alter your canine’s affiliation with an animal he discovered aversive or arousing. Make positive the opposite animal is in a cage, crate, or on a leash, so you may management his motion. 

Let’s think about that we’re working with a canine and a cat in a service. 

1. Determine the gap at which your leashed canine could be alert and even cautious within the presence of the cat however not extraordinarily fearful or aroused. This known as the “threshold distance.” 

2. With you holding your canine’s leash, have a helper current the cat within the service at your canine’s threshold distance. The instantaneous your canine sees the cat, begin feeding bits of hen to your canine. Pause, let him take a look at the cat once more, feed him once more. Repeat so long as the cat is current.

3. Continue alternating the pausing and feeding bits of hen to your canine. After a number of seconds, have your helper take away the cat. As quickly because the cat is out of your canine’s view, cease feeding him the treats.

4. Keep repeating steps 1 via Three till the presentation/look of the cat at your canine’s unique threshold distance constantly causes your canine to take a look at you with a contented smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is what we name a conditioned emotional response (CER); your canine’s affiliation with the cat at his unique threshold distance (let’s name it “X”) is now constructive as a substitute of unfavorable.

5. In the subsequent few steps, you might want to improve completely different points of the depth of the stimulus, ensuring to get and/or preserve the specified CER from the canine at lowering distances. What?! How do you improve the depth of a cat?

For a canine who’s aroused by the sight of a cat, the least intense presentation of a cat is what you’ve been utilizing thus far: a single cat in a service. To improve how stimulated your canine is by the cat, you would possibly open and shut the door of the cat’s service, so your canine can see the cat extra clearly. You may additionally usher in one other cat in one other service. If your cat is assured and gained’t instantly attempt to depart the scene, you might let her out of the service – or, to take this to a stimulating excessive, have your helper invite the cat to play with a toy. Each of this stuff shall be a extra intense stimulus on your canine.

Back at your canine’s unique threshold distance, begin rising the depth of one side of the cat’s presentation when you lower the gap between your canine and cat in small increments. Achieve the specified CER (with a contented “Where’s my chicken?” expression) at every distance, till your canine is calm very close to the cat, maybe even sniffing or focusing on (touching together with his nostril on cue) the cat’s service. Then transfer away from the cat. 

If your canine begins to get overstimulated, fixated on the cat, not taking your treats (or taking them with a “hard” mouth), you’re shifting too quick. Increase the gap between the cat and the canine, and/or lower the depth of the cat (again into the service!). 

6. Return to your canine’s unique threshold distance and improve the depth of the cat in some completely different approach, steadily lowering the gap between your canine and the cat and attaining the specified CER alongside the way in which, till your canine is delighted to have the cat in comparatively shut proximity. A free cat, a enjoying cat, a meowing cat, two cats . . . Keep working till your canine maintains his relaxed, pleased, “Where’s my chicken?” look all through every of those cat shows, even at a detailed vary to the cat. He ought to now consider the cat as an excellent factor – a dependable predictor of very yummy treats.

7. If acceptable, you may steadily work as much as precise interplay with the cat or cats at this stage. If not acceptable, don’t! Don’t push your canine “over threshold” – the purpose at which the cat (or different animal) is just too thrilling for him and he loses his composure. The rule for efficient CC&D is “Go slow – and then slow down!”

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