Behavior modification for dogs involves altering an animal’s behavioral and emotional responses rather than simply training specific behaviors, like sitting politely or walking without pulling. Behavior modification may be used to treat fear and anxiety, aggression, separation anxiety and other conditions which have negative outcomes for your pet or family members. A professional can create a behavior modification plan and coach you through its implementation – this may involve desensitization, counterconditioning, response substitution and shaping techniques.
First step of behavior modification is understanding what causes it, so that you can address it appropriately. Ask yourself and/or your pet’s owner questions regarding when and where the aggressive behavior occurs; what happened prior, during, and post event; other factors present at that time; who was affected most directly; as this will help clarify the situation and help predict when your pet might act out aggressively again.
Anxiety is often at the root of behavioral issues in pets. Although you might not be able to prevent an aggressive response caused by extreme anxiety, you can work toward alleviating their excessive fear so they do not act in ways which compromise the safety and wellbeing of you or your family.
Desensitization and counterconditioning can help your pet’s anxiety. Desensitization involves gradually exposing him or her to things that normally frighten it in order to decrease its response, while counterconditioning aims at associating negative stimuli with something positive, like being petted.
Extinction is another behavior modification technique. Extinction occurs when an unwanted response stops because its reward no longer comes. For instance, if a dog repeatedly jumps on people to get attention from people, ignoring it may eventually stop this behavior; though since their dog will likely continue expecting attention in future interactions from those same people this may take some time before its completely gone away.
Resistance to extinction may also occur when responses are triggered by intruders. For instance, if a dog has been trained to jump up on visitors but continues to do so even when people ignore it, its behavior could eventually become resistant to extinction since the animal will come to learn that jumping is good when people pet it.
Punishment may not be an ideal method for behavior modification, but when done properly it can be effective. To be most effective punishment must occur as soon as the undesired behavior begins and be administered consistently and forcefully enough to stop it; failing that, any punishment that does not reach its desired intensity level could make pets even more afraid and defeat its purpose entirely. Environmental punishment or booby traps designed to restrict entry should be avoided due to possible pain and excessive fearful reactions from pets.