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A Holiday From Fear

Anxious Dogs

A Holiday From Fear

The term everything evolves around is “conditioned emotional response” (CER) or, in her case, “conditioned fear response”.

Pavlov and his bell experiment make the life of a dog like Stella tough.

She is very scared of me (and humans in general). When I walk into the room, I don’t even have to do something scary – her brain has associated the pure presence of a human with an enormous reaction of fear. The brain can only learn when the level of stress is low enough.

Because Stella is so stressed, she cannot make positive connections (“Steffi was kind to me”), but instead only remembers the fear, which is repeated the next time she sees me. Not an easy cycle to break.

How to change this CER? Basically, she needs a holiday from fear. At this point that means walking around on eggshells in the house. I throw a lot of high-value treats at her from far away, and I am using canine calming signals whenever I “meet” her in the house.

A Holiday From Fear

She can now walk past me to go to the bathroom outside, and we have a little food throwing game that we play where she is in the kitchen, and I toss food from the hallway.

Baby steps, and a holiday from fear.

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