a photo of a husky dog at a beach barking as a representation for a blog post about using counter conditioning for dog training by fearless pet

What is Counter Conditioning?

Counter conditioning is a powerful technique in dog training. It involves changing a dog's emotional response to a specific stimulus. In reactive dog training, we utilize high-value reinforcements (such as cooked chicken) that are introduced when a trigger appears. Triggers can vary depending on the dog.

I'll walk you through an example:

1. You have a reactive dog and decide you want to start helping them to change the behaviors of barking and lunging at dogs.

2. You prepare high value rewards in advance and make time for "set ups". Set ups are training sessions where you find a suitable place to work with your dog and you plan to see triggers (other dogs) - but at a safe distance. A safe distance is any amount of space that your dog does not feel the need to react. This is also different for very dog but, if you have a reactive dog, you probably know what distance this is. My best advice, start FAR away, you can always move closer when your dog is ready.

3. Choose a wide, quiet space where there is a chance dogs will become present. A nice big park is a great start. Relax with your dog and try not to worry (I know, easier said than done). The MOMENT you see a dog, watch your dog carefully and the moment they notice the dog present the chicken and feed them every time they look at the dog without reacting. (Avoid prompting your dog or pointing out the other dog, it's more powerful when it happens naturally). If your dog reacts, it's ok! It's a process and that provides data that we can use for training - just note that you may need even more distance from the trigger. For this I would recommend you bring a friend, if possible, so they can keep an eye our behind you and to the sides so you don't have any surprises during training.

4. By consistently offering high value rewards when your dog is around other dogs, you can help improve their emotional state. This can transform the presence of dogs from a trigger into a positive stimulus for your furry friend!

If you need help or want to view live demonstrations of the process check out my Reactive Dog Training Program.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.