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Is your dog drowning and are you the one making them?

First of all what on earth am I talking about? Well, flooding is a training technique often used by balanced trainers. When I say balanced, I mean trainers that use punishment techniques to train dogs, often using verbal and physical corrections.

So what is flooding? It’s basically throwing a dog into a situation they aren’t comfortable with. For example, if your dog is scared of other dogs, you would take them to a park with lots of dogs running around, coming up to your dog, wanting to interact. They cannot escape, they cannot move away. You hold them there, with the lead tight, so they can’t bite or lunge towards the approaching dogs. Your dog may want to cower away, trying to flee but you stop them from doing this.

Giving you a human example, imagine you are scared of spiders so I lock you in a room full of them. Just imagine how you would feel? Terrified, anxious, vulnerable. Now think about how you would feel about me. I’ve damaged your trust. You are likely to have a negative feeling towards me and in all honesty, I wouldn’t blame you!

If you do this to a person it would be abuse, so why is it acceptable for ‘trainers’ to do this to dogs? It’s believed you get quick wins. The dog stops reacting. However, you aren’t fixing the problem or changing how the dog feels.

Does the dog stop reacting? Potentially after long enough exposure, the dog stops barking and lunging at the other dogs but at what cost? These dogs are shut down, they learn that trying to get away doesn’t work. The danger of this is it suppresses how the dog feels. This can cause aggressive outbursts and redirected aggression onto the handler, causing serious bites. To me a dog ‘trained’ using flooding is emotionally damaged and a potential bite risk.

Flooding causes

1. Emotional distress: Forcing a dog to face their fears with no escape routes causes severe anxiety, building stress levels. High stress levels lead to unpredictable, extreme behaviour.

2. Increases stress: High stress levels are detrimental, not only to a dog’s mental health but also to their physical well-being. We all know that chronic stress leads to health problems and can shorten our lives. Dogs are no different. This may also lead to self-soothing behaviours such as chewing on inappropriate items.

3. Damages relationships: Why would your dog trust you or look to you when you place them in scary situations? This can have a knock on effect on your dog’s behaviour. Making it more difficult to handle your dog in potentially worrying handling procedures and causing issues with your recall and other training.

4. Doesn’t change feelings: It doesn’t change how your dog feels about the object. The dog is still scared of it, they have learned that reacting to it no longer works.

5. Increases aggression: Dogs that are trained using punishment have increased stress levels, these dogs are shut down and we all know what happens in these situations, at some point they snap. With aggression directed towards the threatening object or towards the handler preventing them from getting away.

For me, flooding is simply not ethical. It causes physical and emotional damage. We have other ways and means to change a dog’s emotional response to a trigger. Using counter conditioning and desensitisation to change how the dog feels.

For me anyone using flooding to train a dog either doesn’t have the knowledge and practical skills to use other, more ethical training techniques, can’t be bothered to put in the time and effort, or simply gets a kick out of having power over another more vulnerable being.

I will never ‘train’ a dog using any form of pain, flooding, verbal or physical corrections. That is not to say I don’t have boundaries and my dogs can be whatever they wish. I am just fair and do it in a manner that teaches the dog what I do want, rather than simply punishing the behaviour. I have taken the time and spent a lot of money to educate myself using more ethical and proven behaviour modification.

If one of my own dogs, or a client's dog is worried by something, I take the time and knowledge I have amassed to reassure that dog, build their confidence, and change how they feel about that scary object.

If you would like to learn how to really change your dog’s behaviour using ethical techniques, then why not book a free discovery call to chat things through? You can do this via our website -

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