Team handout: Desensitization and counterconditioning training worksheet


Conditioned responses (like the dog that panics at the sight of a syringe) can make treatment difficult, unpleasant or just plain impossible for both pet owners and veterinary professionals. Use this free training worksheet to develop and stick to a plan for fixing behavior problems in your practice.

Have you ever had a dog attempt to run away upon spying a bottle of ear cleaner? The bottle itself isn't terrifying, but because the dog has come to associate it with an unpleasant process, it provokes a fear response. 

Such conditioned responses can make treatment difficult, unpleasant or just plain impossible for both pet owners and veterinary professionals, but it's not a hopeless situation. Read more about conditioned responses and how they can be addressed using desensitization and classical counterconditioning here, and then circle back to nab the free downloadable worksheet below.

Putting the plan into practice

Keeping a training worksheet is a helpful way to track progress and maintain consistency from session to session, and sending a copy of the sheet home with the client each visit helps with continuity of care.

For conditioning appointments, I allow 60 minutes for the first visit and 15 to 30 minutes for subsequent visits. Most of this time is spent educating the client about the conditioning process and plan, with a small period of time devoted to actually working with the patient on the conditioning plan. Short, frequent sessions are generally more helpful than long, infrequent ones. When clients do homework between visits, the conditioning process is generally shorter and more successful.

Click here or on the worksheet image to download a free copy.

You can also see an example sheet completely filled out here.

Monique Feyrecilde is a certified veterinary technician specialist in behavior and the former president of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians. She is a Fetch dvm360 conference educator and the co-author of Cooperative Veterinary Care. You can learn more about Feyrecilde and her behavior consultation services at

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