How To Use Counterconditioning to Stop Your Dog from Reacting to Loud Noises

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: August 28, 2017

Diego is a -year-old Border Collie mix who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. His guardian set up a dog behavior training session with us to help Diego overcome his reactivity to noises and gain leadership in the house.

As you can see in the video above, by not petting Diego when he was jumping up helped him quickly realize that jumping up on people wouldn’t help him get attention so he quickly sat down. I rewarded him by petting him; this is what we call Petting with a Purpose. When I sat down to chat with his guardians they told me that Diego did have some rules in place, but his stubbornness allowed him to get away with breaking the rules at times. By breaking the rules for stubborn dogs, we teach them to be more persistent over time because eventually we will give in.

One of the main dog behavior concerns the guardians had was getting Diego to stop barking at sounds. To stop reactivity I used the counterconditioning method, where we reward Diego for being in a calm state while we slowly increase the loudness of sounds he reacts to. One of the things that Diego would react to was the sound of opening a trash bag. Watch the video below to see how we got Diego to stop reacting to the sound of the trash bag.

As you can see in the video above, we didn’t give Diego the chance to start barking. We wanted to progress very slowly with slow movements and quiet noises to eventually making faster movements and louder sounds. We also made sure to use counterconditioning for the things surrounding the trash bag such as taking the trash can out first as this could be a trigger for Diego.

By the end of the session Diego was looking to his guardians for leadership and direction and gaining self control when listening to loud sounds. It will be important for the guardians to continue to work on the Leadership Exercise and use the Escalating Consequences to disagree with unwanted behaviors. We wrapped up this session with Diego’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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