Counter Conditioning & Desensitization: Is Everything Old New Again?

Instructors: Daniel Estep, Ph.D., CAAB and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., CAAB
with special guest contributor Ms. Lindsay Wood, M.A., ACAAB

Counter conditioning and desensitization are two of the mainstay, or “go to” behavior modification techniques used to resolve a variety of behavior problems in companion animals. From complex problems like aggression, fears, and phobias to a simple behavior change of having a dog sit rather than jump on visitors at the door, these two techniques have the potential to be very successful at modifying behavior. The procedures are commonly used quite effectively for people as well, to treat a variety of fearful and phobic behaviors.

Failing to use them correctly also results in failure to change behavior. Food is commonly used with dogs to elicit either an alternative behavior or emotional state. BUT – have you ever heard a client report – or had the experience yourself if you are a dog owner – that “all that treat stuff doesn’t work!” Or dog owners complain they really don’t want to carry a bag of treats with them indefinitely?

IF these procedures are implemented correctly, using a primary reinforcer such as food on an occasional basis should be sufficient. But do you know how to successfully transition to that stage? And some counter conditioning techniques don’t require the use of food at all – do you know how to make that assessment?

The mantra to keep the dog “under threshold” can sometimes be next to impossible to comply with. What happens then? How important is it to elicit an alternative behavior, while preventing the problem response, versus letting the pet “figure it out” on his own?

We’ll take a look at Ms. Lindsay Wood’s great protocol for food guarding and how it illustrates the interplay between classical and operant counter conditioning.

After completing this two session webinar course, not only will your ability to use these techniques correctly improve, but you’ll have a much sounder understanding of the scientific origins of the techniques, allowing you to better trouble shoot their use AND critically evaluate claims made about their effectiveness.

In this 2 session webinar course you’ll discover:

  • The scientific research that provides the foundation for counter condition and desensitization techniques.
  • Efforts to use “science based” training are more important than ever, but how familiar are you with the primary research about these procedures that dates back to the 1950s?
  • The significance of cross motivational transfer to these techniques
  • A step by step plan – and a template – for developing desensitization hierarchies, including the most common aspects of the stimulus or complex of stimuli that will require them. If your gradations focus on irrelevant aspects of the provoking stimulus, it’s wasted effort
  • The timing and implementation differences between classical and operant counter conditioning, AND also why they aren’t the completely separate processes you’ve been led to believe
  • A look at some newer protocols making use of these techniques, and how they fit into the traditional framework
  • The five most common implementation mistakes that will undermine yours and your clients’ succes


Course has been approved through CCPDT for 1 CEUs for trainers and 2 CEUs for behavior consultants

You can purchase this course On Demand, including class notes and references by clicking the link below.

The course is a member benefit at no additional charge for members of Behavior Education Network. Current BEN members: register for the sessions from within BEN.

$59 Purchase now using the Paypal button below.

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