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The ABCs of treating reactive behaviors
Help owners treat their dog's reactive behaviors-whether the dog is exhibiting aggression, fear, or unruly behavior-by recommending they follow these ABCs.
Owners should manage their dogs and the environment so that the dogs have little or no opportunity to perform the undesirable behaviors. Avoidance keeps situations safe and prevents the problem from worsening.
Owners should review obedience training, set social boundaries, and institute a nothing-in-life-is-free program to maintain more control over an aggressive or unruly dog. Putting the owners in control takes the weight off the shoulders of the fearful dog because it learns its owners control social situations and it does not need to assert control.
Condition desirable behavior
Replace problem behaviors with acceptable behaviors by using desensitization, counterconditioning, and operant training methods that emphasize positive methods and avoid aversive ones.
Desensitization. The process of diminishing responsiveness to a stimulus through repeated exposure to it at a low enough level that no or minimal response is seen.
Counterconditioning. The replacement of an unwanted behavior or response to a stimulus with a desirable behavior or response by associating something positive with the stimulus.
Operant conditioning. A method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for a behavior. Through these rewards and punishments, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior, causing the behavior to either increase or decrease in frequency. It is sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning.
Resources for these behavior modification techniques
> Bowen J, Heath S. Learning theory and behaviour modification. In: Behaviour problems in small animals. Edinburgh, Scotland: Elsevier, 2005;37-48.
> Lindsay SR. Handbook of applied dog behavior and training. Vol. 1-3. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 2000, 2001, 2005.
> Mills DS. Training and learning protocols. In: Horwitz DF, Mills DS, ed. BSAVA manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. 2nd ed. Gloucester, UK: BSAVA, 2009;49–64.
> Pryor K. Don't shoot the dog. The new art of dog training. Gloucester: Ringpress, 2002.
> Pryor K. Reaching the animal mind: clicker training and what it teaches us about all animals. New York: Scribner, 2009.
> Reid P. Excel-erated leaning. Explaining in plain English how dogs learn and how best to teach them. Oakland, California: James and Kenneth Publishers, 1996.