How to Use Counterconditioning to Stop a Dog From Reacting to Sounds

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 20, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with a super smart 3 year-old Border Collie named Posa who gets worked up when she hears certain sounds and is not a big fan of little kids.

I could tell right away that Posa was a highly intelligent dog. I could also see she had a lot of energy by the way she circled the room.

I started out by going over the importance of exercise for a high energy breed like a Border Collie. Her guardians had been doing a better job of that than 90% of my clients, but there were still some room for improvement. I explained that when she got excited or into trouble, her guardians should interpret that as a request to go play fetch or a walk.

Next on the agenda was making a few suggestions about changes to the living space. The dog bed was positioned in an adjoining room and it would be better if that was near where the humans hang out. I also suggested changes to the windows to prevent Posa from visually patrolling the front yard by looking out onto it.

After going over the importance of rules and structure for a hearing breed, I went over how to Pet with a Purpose, reward desired behaviors through passive training, how to enforce rules and some scent games that will help exercise Posa’s brain, I was ready to address her more peculiar behaviors.

One of the dog behavior problems the guardians didn’t know how to fix was Posa’s reactive behavior to certain sounds like the coffee grinder, leaf blower, etc. Posa got worked up and animated when she hears specific sounds; jumping up, barking and running around the room.

I pulled out some high value training treats so I could demonstrate how to use counterconditioning to stop a dog from reacting to unknown sounds.

I wish I had shot a before video so that we could see the difference as Posa did amazing. Stopping a dog from reacting to sounds this way is easy, it just takes some practice and repetition at progressively more realistic / intense exposures to the stimulus.

We wrapped things up by going over some dog behavior tips to help Posa develop more self control such as adding in breaks between fetches or asking her to wait before getting permission to do things she really likes. Teaching her an ignore command and how to hand target will help her guardians keep her out of trouble or give them the ability to redirect her.

Although the guardians took a ton of notes, we wrapped things up by filming a roadmap to success video summarizing all the dog behavior tips and secrets I shared with her guardians during this in home dog training session.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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