Flooding dogs

Flooding dogs

3rd April 2023


Two separate things in this post....but certainly connected.
I believe you can certainly do this inadvertently too, I realise people will say flooding is a seperate issue and is deliberate but when you are helping a dog through fear or reactivity, often the second part of flooding.....the inescapable part will come into it.
No escape is what I want to focus on and how working on this and giving options can help a fearful or reactive dog.

Flooding..... the purposeful and deliberate exposure to an inescapable negatively conditioned stimuli and it is at a strength that elicits the utmost emotional response. This is to things that the dog thinks are scary, aversive, unpleasant, frightening or painful (negatively conditioned stimuli).

It can be very damaging.
The opposite of systematic desensitisation.

They cannot escape. Either they are on a lead, a gate, a crate, a room.....there is no escape from what they are terrified or scared of, they must face it.
Flooding is terrifying for a dog.

If you look at the inescapable part of flooding we can look at how that relates to how actions we take can inadvertently "flood" a dog.
* A lead/leash is enough to make some dogs feel they have no escape, especially when faced with a fear....leash reactivity is very common and a really good walking technique focusing on releasing the leash pressure can really help leash reactive dogs. Some will appreciate a longer line for walks.
*Pass the puppy....I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have heard of this at puppy school and how damaging this can be, it can be the beginning of a life long fear and distrust of others....yes puppies need to be touched by others but sitting in a circle and passing the puppies around for others to hold can be absolutely terrifying for them.....flooding....absolutely.
*Dog parks, for some this may be a great option, for most dogs.... dog parks are inescapable places of fear, overwhelming and very flooding....all in the name of attempting (and with good intentions) socialisation.
*Taking puppies or dogs to places before they are ready...pet stores for example or large hardware stores that allow dogs.....little and often is far better than going from 0 to 100. The lights the sounds, smells.....other dogs and puppies....and your dog (if frightened) cannot escape. So people ....with all the best of intentions go back again and again in the hope MORE exposure will help.
*Some pack walks and Day Care.....exposing your dog to other dogs in a pack may lead to a lifetime of reactivity. They may be fine (or seem fine) on these walks but outside of these walks they can become more reactive to dogs. Their behaviour on these walks or in day care changes and fear is often suppressed, they may look at others in the pack to deal with issues that may occur....and when they face those issues on their own, they react.
A well run daycare or packwalk can be a good option for a small amount of dogs....others will become reactive outside of the group.
*Walking and allowing others to touch and interact with your dog, again this gives the dog no option but to accept touch.....the dog may respond with fear so MORE of this is encouraged in a well meaning (but damaging) attempt to help this dog.

So if your dog or puppy is fearful, look at why.....is there an escape problem, is this adding to the issue?
More of the fearful stimuli is needed BUT there should be slow introductions, desensitisation and little and often exposure is often far more productive and helpful for your dog.
Look at how to incorporate a lead/leash walking technique that encourages a LOOSE lead....that is often a real game changer.
Look at other ways to give your dog options of "escape", if you have visitors to your house and your dog is scared of people....put your dog away in a seperate room and perhaps leave the doors open so the dog can choose to interact, but has an option.

So flooding is deliberate....but we can often inadvertently "flood" dogs.
Look into how you can add more choice for a particularly fearful dog.

For help with all of this and more, feel free to contact us.