Understanding This Behaviour

Phobias are a class of problems that we treat very commonly. The most common are thunder/gun/cracker phobias; however other fears can include agro phobia, claustrophobia, and mal-socialization towards people and other dogs. Fear of travel is also a common issue. Phobias commonly manifest as hyperventilation, salivation, hiding, dilated pupils, and increased heart rate (an adrenalin-induced state). Don’t be fooled – very few people can treat these effectively – you need a good knowledge of applied animal psychology to do so.

Sound phobias are normally trauma-induced, although a lack of systematic exposure to noisy-stimuli during the formative period of 2-4 months can also contribute. The main issue with dogs suffering from phobias is that they are not in a learning state when they are manifesting phobic symptoms.

Treating This Behaviour

The two main clinical techniques we use are desensitization and counter conditioning, as well as flooding. To make an effective diagnosis we need to carefully identify the stimuli that the dogs are fearful of, and then order them from least-fear inducing to most-fear inducing. Then in a systematic fashion we expose dogs to these fear-inducing stimuli whilst switching them into a learning state. The main tool we use for this training is clicker training. The techniques need to be understood in depth and applied appropriately to be effective. With serious cases we treat these in clinic, with less difficult cases we will teach you what to do.

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