View Full Version : Re: wats up with my dog? Counterconditioning and Desensitization - Debra F. Horwitz DVM, Diplomate ACVB

July 5th 07, 04:42 PM

On Jul 4, 6:33 pm, doglinks > wrote:
> On Jul 4, 1:46 pm, mira > wrote:
> > every 4th of july, my dog seraphina [sar-a-feen-a],
> > freaks out wen fireworks and gun shoot off.
> One resource is the link below: right hand column near the middlehttp://www.doglinks.co.nz/training/training.htm
> /Natalie

I have read the essay by Veterinarian D.F. Horwitz.
She should stick to working with disease and injury,
she would fail Psych 101.

The behaviorist THEORY of learning is that a conditional reflex is
formed when a behavior results in a positive
reinforcement, a reward. However, too frequent a reward,
or too consistent a reward, or the absence of an expected
reward can result in deranged behavior.

As Breland and Breland stated in their classic essay,
THE MISBEHAVIOR OF ORGANISMS, you have to be guided by the
evolutionary history of the animal you are trying
to teach, the nature of its species, the personal history
of the animal, and you have to be very cautious in using
direct reinforcement. If you are training a pig, you'd better include
rooting in the routine, if its a chicken include pecking and
scratching, or else. If its a puppy then you must include pack
behavior, affection and pack loyalty.

NEGATIVE means NO! Freshmen frequently make the error
that negative reinforcement is aversive reinforcement,
no, its NO reinforcement.

Aversive reinforcement includes choking, kicking,
biting, shocking, abrading, alpha rolling and other
sadistic behaviors. AVERSIVE reinforcement always
deranges behavior.

Neither paramecia nor dogs ever forget.

I do strongly urge that the Vet read "THE MISBEHAVIOR
OF ORGANISMS" and the entire book SCHEDULES OF

The most important rule that we learned from Pavlov's half a century
career, and that of his last student,
Sam Corson, is that love is not naive, but is the
basis of good training of all dogs.

George von Hilsheimer, Ph.D., F.R.S.H.
you may find my credentials in Who's Who in America,
as well as WW in Medicine and Health Care; in WW in
Science and Technology; and in WW in the World, all
Marquis publications, you can't buy your way in.

P.S. you'd think that Dr. Horwitz had my last name,
and I had hers.

Counterconditioning and Desensitization
Debra F. Horwitz DVM, Diplomate ACVB
Veterinary Behavior Consultations
St. Louis, Missouri

Counterconditioning and desensitization are the cornerstones to
treatment of fears and anxieties. Yet the treatment of these
conditions can be difficult. First, it is important to accurately
identify the fearful or anxiety producing stimulus. Then, it is
important to break the stimulus down into discrete units. Progress
with treatment may be slow and animals may not generalize from the
treatment sessions to real experiences. In order to be successful in
modifying behavior in dogs and cats a good understanding of learning,
reinforcers and punishers is necessary.

What is learning? Learning is the relationship between behavior and
consequence, between making a response and the outcome of that
behavior. The results obtained affect later behaviors by either
increasing or decreasing the likelihood of future similar responses.
What is important is to realize that behavior is something that occurs
all the time. Therefore, when you remove a behavior from an animal's
repertoire, it will be replaced with something else. The goal of
behavior therapy is to structure that replacement behavior in the
correct way.

Since behavior is the result of behavior-consequence relationships
understanding how they function is helpful. Generally speaking there
are four types of behavior-consequence relations. First, behavior can
result in positive consequences. This is positive reinforcement and
will produce an increase in the behavior that resulted in the positive
event. Second, behavior can result in negative consequences. This is
punishment, and should result in a decrease in the behavior that
caused it. Third, the behavior can result in the removal of something
unpleasant. This is negative reinforcement or escape and will increase
the likelihood that the preceding behavior will occur again. Lastly,
there are behaviors that result in the elimination of something
pleasant, and this is called omission. 1 Learning occurs best when
there is a clear relationship between the timing of the two events
(behavior and consequence) and the predictiveness of the consequences.

Learning principles and behavior modification techniques
The previous discussion showed that behavior is controlled by its
consequences-either pleasant ones or unpleasant ones.

Reinforcement is a positive relationship between behavior and outcome.
The more you do, the more you get, and what you get is good. In other
words, behavior will be repeated. There can be positive reinforcement,
often called a reward. Positive reinforcement and rewards are often
used synonymously, but that is not always true. It is easy to see a
food treat or a pat on the head as a reward for the dog. However, it
is often more difficult to determine why some behaviors still exist
because the reward is not clear. For example, what it the reward for a
dog when it barks at the mailperson? The reinforcement comes from the
mailperson leaving, and therefore the dog will continue to bark. The
dog has erroneously assumed that the barking behavior made the person
leave, and therefore will engage in the behavior again.

Negative reinforcement is the removal of something unpleasant that
increases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated. In this
situation there is a negative relationship between behavior and
outcome. One way to look at this relationship is to realize the more
an animal engages in the behavior, the less negative outcome is
obtained. The easiest example of negative reinforcement to understand
is escape behavior. If an animal is anticipating an aversive outcome,
perhaps a reprimand from the owner, if the animal can escape, or not
be caught, then the aversive outcome will not occur.

Punishment is a situation where there is a positive relationship
between behavior and outcome, but the outcome is negative. In other
words, the more of a behavior an animal does, the more of a negative
outcome is obtained. This is a situation that should make behavior
decrease. This is an extremely important component of punishment. When
punishment is used to change behavior, there should be a decrease in
the target behavior in very few applications of the aversive event. If
not, then either the punishment is not being appropriately applied, or
applied to the incorrect behavior. Punishment also has the possibility
of causing anxiety, fear and aggression and is not the recommended
means of changing behavior.

Schedule of reinforcement
The way the both reinforcement and punishment are used can greatly
influence their effectiveness. This is often termed the "schedule of
reinforcement". How behaviors are rewarded can be powerful
determinants of future behavior. Schedules of reinforcement can be
based either on time (intervals) or amount of work, or number of
responses (ratio). Schedules can be fixed, meaning that after so much
time or a set number of responses reinforcement is given.
Alternatively, behavior can be reinforced on a variable schedule,
meaning that a period of time or a number of responses must take
place, but that period varies from reinforcer to reinforcer, with an
average time or number of responses. Reinforcement given on a variable
schedule results in strong acquisition of the response. This means
that the rewards are given intermittently, and the animal is not
exactly sure when the reinforcement or the punishment will occur. The
outcome also must be closely associated in time with the behavior for
best results.

Extinction is a procedure used to end a behavior. Extinction occurs
when behavior is no longer reinforced. When this occurs, eventually
the behavior will stop. However, it is very common, especially if the
behavior has been maintained on a variable ratio of reinforcement, for
the behavior to temporarily increase and this is called an extinction
burst. When trying to get a behavior to extinguish it is extremely
important to identify ALL reinforcers and eliminate them.

Habituation is a process by which a stimulus no longer evokes a
response. Usually this occurs with repeated presentation of a stimulus
and the animal learning that it does not signal anything important.

Flooding is used to treat fears of harmless stimuli by forcing the
animal to stay in the presence of the stimuli until the fear is

Classical conditioning is the pairing of an unconditioned stimulus,
with a neutral stimulus that results in a conditioned stimulus and a
conditioned response. Classical conditioning can occur in both
positive and negative ways. The timing of the presentation of the
stimulus, the saliency of the stimulus and the predictability of the
stimulus and the reinforcement influence the conditioning process.

Conditioned emotional response refers to establishing fears through a
classical conditioning paradigm. This entails the association of a
fear-producing stimulus with a previously neutral object. This type of
learning can be very powerful and hard to extinguish.

Operant conditioning is learning how ones actions result in
consequences; i.e. the individual causes the results. This is a
stimulus-response/response-consequence relationship. In other words,
what the animal does is critical to what happens next and those
results dictate if the behavior will occur again. Behavior becomes
more likely if it is reinforced, less likely if it is punished.

Counterconditioning is teaching a behavior that is incompatible with
the previous response. An example is to teach a dog to sit and stay
instead of lunging. What is wanted is that the response be
behaviorally and physiologically different from the previous response.
Therefore, facial _expressions, body postures, respiratory rate etc.
are all-important components in the response. The goal is to change
the association with the stimulus. Classical counterconditioning
occurs when you pair a previous stimulus with some unconditioned
response such as food.

Systematic Desensitization is gradually exposing an animal to stimuli
at a low level so as not to evoke an undesirable response and
conditioning relaxation responses instead. Paired with
counterconditioning, this allows animals to learn to behavior properly
to stimuli that caused fear, aggression or other problem behaviors.
The stimuli must be presented on a gradient from low to high without
evoking the inappropriate or unwanted response. Therefore, the
arrangement of the stimuli becomes very important.

Obstacles to treatment success in counterconditioning and
desensitization (CCDS)
Generally there are five obstacles to treatment success. First is
stimulus discrimination, the ability of the animal to distinguish the
stimulus. In addition, the stimuli presented must be relevant and
control the behavior or the animal does not learn the appropriate
response. Then the animal must learn what to do in the presence of the
stimulus. Second, transfer of learning must take place for CCDS to
work. The animal must learn to pay attention to the relevant stimulus
and ignore irrelevant stimuli. Third, the animal must learn to
generalize from the learning situation to the real world. This
requires the behaviorist to know what stimuli are controlling the
response. Fourth, inappropriate rewards may allow the animal to
discriminate improperly and learn a different stimulus-response
relationship than what was intended. Finally, the animal can be come
more sensitive rather than less sensitive to the stimulus.

To overcome these obstacles, accurate history taking, good
observational skills and appropriately set up treatment plans are
important. The behaviorist and the owner must be willing to proceed
slowly and set up the animal to succeed. Finally, the animal must be
exposed to a variety of stimuli once the behavior is learned.

Changing behavior takes a good history, a realistic treatment plan and
good supervision and cooperation between behaviorist and pet owner as
well as a complete understanding of learning and behavior modification