Flooding Therapy for Dog Behavior Issues

Updated on July 31, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

What Is Flooding in Dogs?

Flooding is a full immersion training technique applied both in humans and animal psychology. It consists of forcefully exposing the dog to the stimuli that triggers its fear and caused the original trauma. This method of behavior therapy may bring fast results, but it may be traumatic and may come with some risks.

In a recent episode, Cesar Millan treated Kane, a Great Dane who was terrified of walking on shiny surfaces after slipping on a shiny floor and hitting himself on a glass door. The pet parents were desperate to ease this dog's fears but could not find a way to make him gain confidence again. Cesar pointed out that nurturing the dog when it displayed fear was only making matters worse. Instead, he takes Kane by the leash and walks him with confidence over the shiny floor. Kane, appears disoriented, but in a few minutes, he is back to walking normally on the shiny surface. This is an example of flooding used with success (if the dog healed completely), but watch the dog's many stress signals. Was it really worth it?

In the human world, flooding is used to treat fears and phobias. A good example is when psychologists bombard their patients with detailed descriptions of the situations they fear until they end up losing their fear of those situations.

Flooding in Dogs: A Risky Procedure

In flooding, the dog cannot escape from the situation until it is released. This makes it a highly stressful situation. However, the belief is that eventually, the dog's arousal level will diminish and the dog's reactive state may shut down. While this may look like success, it is only by looking at the long term results that this can be determined. Quick fixes might work in fixing a sink but are not common in solving dog behavior. And flooding techniques will not always be successful long term.

When is flooding commonly used in dogs?

Hunting dogs fearful of gunshots may be placed close to a firing range. Farm dogs fearful of horses may be placed in a horse stable for hours. Dogs fearful of thunder may be exposed to prolonged recordings of thunderstorm put at high volume.

While flooding may help in some mild cases, when it does not, the dog may turn into an emotional wreck and be prone to sensitization, which causes an increase in fear. There are, therefore, far better approaches granting higher rates of success.

Desensitization

Desensitization, for instance, may take longer but it provides far more reliable results. Instead of forcefully exposing the dog for prolonged periods of time to the stimuli causing the dog's unnecessary fear, the dog is gradually exposed to its fear, and therefore there are higher chances of putting the dog up for success. Gradual exposure may encompass exposing to triggers from a distance or recordings of noises played at a low volume.

Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning, applied along with desensitization, further increases the chances for success, considering that positive associations with triggers are created so to change the dog's emotional response.

Patience and gradual exposure focused on creating positive associations is, therefore, a much preferable method.

The use of flooding is almost always inappropriate . . . exposing a fearful or fearfully aggressive dog to a stimulus of which he is afraid of but cannot escape, will make the fear worse.

— Karen Overall

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago

      Thank you MarieLB, I am happy to hear you enjoyed the read! Best regards, Adrienne

    • MarieLB profile image

      MarieLB 

      4 years ago from YAMBA NSW

      Thank you so much for sharing your deep knowledge of dogs with us, who also love dogs very much. It is a great article and in time I shall be reading other articles and learning from you.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great article, so many dogs suffer from anxiety these days but it is hard to find a cure. Our blue heeler was okay until he had a tooth removed. Now when in car he trembles non stop.

      And when we stop he goes and does his business and races back to get in the car dragging me with him. He has enormous strength even pulls my husband over and he's not little. Our vet put him on 50mg of Endep and still does not slow him down. We try to be patient with him. thanks for sharing this idea with us great hub

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      alexadry~ I personally do not favor the flooding technique. It seems better suited for a prisoner of war camp than for a healing session for your dog. You make a wonderful option availabe to your readers when advising;

      "Desensitation for instance, may take longer but it provides far more reliable results. Instead of forcefully exposing the dog for prolonged periods of time to the stimuli causing the dog's fear, the dog is gradually exposed to its fear and therefore there are higher chances of putting the dog up for success."

      My personal feeling is this technique provides for a better relationship with the dog and his alpha human in the long run with less chance of a 'snap' back to the fearful place due to PTSD that may be lingering behind the behavior modification.

      Outstanding work and advice here, I offer my respect to you for a well done and dog friendly hub! UP and awesome.

      K9

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)