• Michael D'Abruzzo

    October 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for the great troubleshooting! Helps a lot when someone understands how to use the system! Looks like you are moving in the right direction.

    First I will tell you a bit about extinction vs. flooding – because sometimes there is a gray area between the two. We are dealing with flooding mostly with fears. There are almost always better ways then flooding – although it can serve its purpose for certain situations. most of the “bad” behaviors such as biting we see with flooding are the result of “fight and flight” behavior. The dog isn’t making much of a choice with flooding – sort of like some people may notice a spider crawling on their arm and without thinking they may swat it off – where other people may not be as scared and not automatically swat it off and make a decision to swat it off. That is where extinction comes in “with regards to biting behavior”.

    With extinction the behavior is usually a learned behavior, the dog has the power of making a choice, and something that reinforces the behavior must be identified in order to use it.

    When we use extinction we simply are not reinforcing the learned behavior which was reinforced in the past- in this case the biting.

    I DO NOT regularly use the techniques in the video below for food aggression anymore – but in this video below you will see three different examples of extinction (no reinforcement for the biting) paired with positive reinforcement for the correct behavior of not showing the aggression. I have gotten many comments on this video in the past from youtube users calling it “flooding” – where in reality it is better classified as extinction since the dogs are making the choice to bite and it is not the result of a “fight or flight” response.


    In this video with Darren – I called it flooding because the dog is very fearful and I believe the biting was caused more by a “fight or flight” response. If he was not on a leash he would run away if you tried to touch him. If we want to get technical the dog is also receiving counter-conditioning because the touch that may have meant something bad in the past is being used to massage him in the video and I am also praising him which is a conditioned reinforcer for him (so I’m also using positive reinforcement for his act of not biting). So the video is more than pure flooding.


    There is a gray area with flooding vs extinction with these types of things when it is questionable if the dog is making an almost reflexive decision based on overwhelming fear or making a choice.

    I have found that it is rarely good to use positive punishment (correct) for aggression that has a fear base to it – such as food aggression. I believe most resource guarding is more fear related than dominance related. The most submissive dog in a pack may resource guard something in their possession toward any member of the pack. Aggression related toward resources are more dominance based when it involves a resource that no one has yet. For instance, you are walking down the street and there is a moldy hot dog on the sidewalk and you go to pick it up and your dog rushes to bite you before you can get it – this is better treated with positive punishment (if proper leadership and safety concerns are in place).

    Again, there are gray areas… the more “dominant prone” personality your dog has – resource guarding can be more intense, etc..

    It is better to treat resource guarding as a fear. You can “correct” for obedience associated with the management and guidance you give the dog – for instance sending him to a “place”. But, you wouldn’t want to correct for the fear manifesting. You would NEVER want to correct a growl. If the dog growls during treatment it is our mistake not the dog’s. The dog is doing everything in their power to communicate that they do not want to bite.

    Calming behaviors are the polar opposite of the threats. These are behaviors like the dog yawning, licking its nose, turning its head away, etc.. these are behaviors that dogs may use to diffuse a situation without using threats. But, in order for them to work the dog cannot feel overly threatened AND they need to know that it will work. For instance, you are touching your dog’s paw and he licks his nose – so you let go, or give him treat, or reinforce in some other way (even praise).

    As far as the food bowl goes, if he was my dog I would slow down. Unless, he looks very relaxed while he is eating I wouldn’t have him eat food between my legs. To me it sounds kind of “dominating” on our part. where you are looking for him to feel secure and protected by you. Dogs just dont do stuff like that to eachother so its going to make no sense to him – especially if he is genetically prone to resource guarding. You are better off doing more gradual desensitizing to you being near and possibly counter-conditioning by tossing something good in his bowl when you are near.

    you can even do things near his EMPTY bowl by putting him on a place near the empty bowl, then gently brushing your body against him – then praising and throwing a treat in the bowl. WAY later you can combine things like that just after he finished eating, and then possibly while he is eating. But, don’t feel any need to rush and don’t get frustrated if you don’t get 100% results. Steady improvement with his behavior and your relationship is what you are looking for.

    You will always know your dog the best – so the more you know of different techniques the better. All his aggression seems very defensive (amplified by his confidence to defend himself)- so getting to the heart of why he feels defensive is the direction of the best plan. Trying to knock down his confidence level to defend himself will make him potentially more defensive – especially with others that he think he can take on (like your fiance).

    keep in touch with your troubleshooting and thoughts!