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Pet tips
April 08, 2013, 05:00 AM By Scott Delucchi

We recently heard from an owner whose dog was hit by a car. While the dog's physical issues were resolved with surgery and physical therapy (she limps occasionally, but gets around very well), she no longer goes on walks, something she absolutely loved before her accident. She will get as far as the sidewalk, and then put on the brakes. Her digging in at this physical barrier also seems to be associated with a car driving past the house. The good news is that this can be turned around. Odds are, the initial accident was very traumatic and now she associates every walk outside with potential car accidents. A dog could have a similar association with stormy, rainy weather or even with car rides, if her last and only ride was a trip to the vet. I knew a dog -- a typical water-loving breed -- who feared water. When she was young, she was running in the small strip of patio between a pool and hot tub and slid into the pool. The technique used to help dogs overcome these fears is desensitization and counterconditioning. The idea is to expose your dog to that which scares them at a very low level, one that doesn't trigger the negative response and then you can teach a new response. Take the first example. Maybe that dog wouldn't react negatively if she saw the car from 100 feet away. Or, for the dog who fears stormy weather and won't go outside to pee or poop when it's raining, you can take her out during a light sprinkle. If the dog remains calm with this level of exposure, you up the ante. The key to desensitization is introducing a counterconditioning element, a new positive association. Food or treats are wonderful tools for this, but they work best if they are special treats, not the daily treats or biscuits.

Scott oversees PHS/SPCA's Customer Service, Behavior and Training, Education, Outreach, Field Services, Cruelty Investigation, Volunteer and Media/PR program areas and staff. His companion, Murray, oversees him.



Tags: physical, treats,

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