You can’t reinforce fear- dog training

Here is Patricia Mcconnell’s article- You Can’t Reinforce Fear: Dogs and Thunderstorms

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Thank you for watching!



  1. // Reply

    When my dog reacts I tend to instinctively get in front of her, hug her and calm her down with my voice. It does seem to help her (sometimes she snuggles her head under my arm and "hides" but she eventually relaxes). I also give her a treat when she focuses back onto me instead of her trigger – my sister keeps telling me not to give her a treat after she reacts – but I guess it's ok to do so?

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    From the comments I've read, it seems to comes down to the energy you're working with when your dog is in a feardul state. It's okay to comfort by being calm, but don't encourage the fear like WalkWithMeCanine suggests.

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    Heya, The best dog training that I have ever had was with Billy barking problem (i found it on google) Without a doubt the most helpful dog training course that I have ever tried.

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    Excellent video!!! Today I picked my dog up when he was experiencing separation anxiety. I never do this because I bought in to the "reinforce fear" crap". To my surprise he calmed down substantially after about 15 seconds of holding him!!!!

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    Great video, I just adopted a 6 months puppy (border collie) and she is scared of the noises of the street and people. I am trying to work this problem from the beggining, but it is not easy… Could you make more videos about fearful dogs? Thank you

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    hey hey! Have you thought about – Carkerakita Hound Master (Have a quick look on google cant remember the place now)? Ive heard some interesting things about it from my buddy who got cool obedience results with their dog.

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    Nonsense.. you're statement with regards to reinforcement is incorrect. One can easily go from apoplectic to catatonic with the continued presence of an aversive stimulus. IE we have fear reinforced. As well, the behaviors perpetuated by fear, those that the dog externalizes, the shaking the biting the shut down, the drooling can all certainly be and are reinforced by attempting to soothe or comfort (both acts that require a rational that dogs do not possess) the animal. The animal then learns that such behaviors glean him a certain type of attention and the behaviors are reinforced. Equally flawed is the erroneous statement that an aversive cannot be reinforced. There are a great many explanations as to why this is incorrect but one easily identifiable example will be clear to anyone who exercises. The adage "no pain, no gain" refers to the reinforcing qualities of aversives.

    Dogs are simple creatures that humans too often use substitutes for their lack of ability to connect with other humans. This is a disservice to the dog, who is a magnificent creature in its own right. There is certainly nothing negative about R+ training, however the attempts of the R+ community to discredit science in an effort to deny the effectiveness other three quarters of the quadrants is disingenuous to the community and very damaging to the dogs.

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    Great video, and my personal experience with my dog has shown that you are right!

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    it may not make the dog more fearful, but you would only be harnessing the fear and never desensitising the dog to it. Many owners feel that comforting their dog is a good thing and that it helps. But what they don't know is no, you can't reinforce fear, but you can encourage it. I have been studying this for a while, and you can not explain to a dog that what you are doing is supporting them. To them, the very factor that you are comforting them, shows that there is something wrong in the first place. If the dog was at a very early stage of fear, and looked at you but you were continuing your every day activities, then i reckon the dog wouldn't make a fuss either. I believe that you can't reinforce fear, but at an early stage, if you do not make a fuss… then neither will the dog. 

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    Dont you reinforce relaxation in your "capturing calmness" videos? Maybe calmness is not technically an emotion.

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    This is only partly true. You can obviously NOT reinforce fear. But you can however reinforce fearful behaviour…just like any other behaviour.This differentiation is important, because while dogs will not be fearful in that case – they may be seen as being fearful because they have learned this will get them attention or treats or whatever.I have seen this happen.Having said that, it might be of secondary importance providing we notice it is happening.It is more important to get rid of fear.

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    Thanks. I agree that disproving pack theory was a relevant step forward, its just that I always saw it as a superficial tool to get people to believe/use the techniques (after all, no one really wants to punish their animal). At the end of the day abstract theories about what a dog is literally thinking are all just conjecture anyway, so what's left is the method itself. I think that's what we should focus on. Let's move past pack theory and learn something new to help our dogs be even happier.

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    Good points and well said. Maybe I misspoke about the pack mentality – I have seen people "Alpha roll" a dog at the dog park because Caesar taught them that this is what the leader of the pack must do.

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    Cesar's methods are bad, but NOT because pack theory was disproven! The scientifically "wrong" part of his approach is the aversive methods. In fact the pack leader principle, if not taken literally, does make sense. Its purpose is to get people to take responsibility, be calm, and not let a dog be rewarded for bad behavior (3 things most people fail in). There is nothing wrong there. What matters is how you achieve those things: R+ rewards for good behavior while Cesar punishes bad behavior.

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    Why we walked away when he tried climbing us was he was very forceful and was hurting us in the fearful state. If he just laid by our feet we would pet him and massage but never talked. I know that the aggression has started will happen more frequently and not a good thing with a powerful pit.

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    What to do when my fearful pit turns to aggression?. He is terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms and recently started lashing out with aggression. Has bit my husband and myself. We usually just leave him alone and he works through it. Sometimes he will get up and try to climb on us. Before the bites happened he was very insistent on climbing on us. We would get up and walk away. If we try to get up and walk away now the aggression starts.

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