After I wrote my post the other day on ” I’m not him” I have been asked the question what is flooding in the dog training world? So here is my answer for ya!
Ever since ,“The Dog Whisperer”, Cesar Millan became popular on television several years ago I have noticed a trend in popular dog training literature to discredit all his techniques to the degree of even rewriting and twisting commonly known facts to fit their arguments – including the technique of flooding.
Before I go on defending or condeming Cesar Millan, let it be said that I mostly consider him good entertainment. With the “attention getting” kicks, neck jabs, rolls, etc… He is more physical and hasty than I like to see – but like I said, it is meant for entertainment, and is a show that is made to get ratings. But, just because a bull fighter can handle themselves around a bull, doesn’t necessarily mean that is the best, safest, and most humane way for farmers to control them. That is probably the best analogy I can make with Cesar – with respect to the fact that he is honestly trying to help the dogs instead of killing them as the bull fighters kill bulls! That is why there is a disclaimer about it being for entertainment purposes only – which many people forget.
Anyhow, Mr. Cesar Millan does commonly use one technique called flooding to help dogs that need to “face their fears”.
The concept behind flooding is simple – force the dog to encounter a stimulus that would generally elicit a flight or fight response, but prevent the dog from using those two coping mechanisms to deal with the stress. The hope is that when the dog experiences that nothing scary happens from the encounter – they will learn that the flight or fight response isn’t necessary and will therefore put them on the path of a more normal behavior for that situation.
Does flooding stress the dog out? Yes.
Does flooding work? It depends if our expectations are reasonable for the individual dog.
Are there better ways to do things? Usually, but sometimes it does have its uses.
Think of dogs that are forced to take a bath and then seem to enjoy the attention and massaging of the experience once they stop squirming, or the person who throws there scared retriever into a lake for the first time and then they can’t get him to stop jumping in himself.
There are tons of examples and lots of grey areas, but needless to say there aren’t as many “evil” techniques out in the dog training world as one would think – only those who misuse and don’t understand them.
There are many, many, MANY dogs that die every year because all options are not considered for training before a professional of some sort says there are no more humane options.