Are You Unintentionally Reinforcing Your Pet's Fears?

One contributing factor to the phobia of a pet could be non-intentional reinforcement over a significant period of time. An animal’s instinct when he is frightened is to flee or fight. A dog who is frightened could choose to hide and run away as the most ideal way to address his fear. If a dog successfully removes himself away from the stimulus, the fear of the specific stimulus will be reinforced. A dog may also learn a unique aggressive behavior towards the stimulus if he is successful in removing that stimulus while doing so. 

Pet owners could also unknowingly take a significant role in reinforcing their pet’s fearful behavior. Comforting your pet could be one contributor to reinforcing his fears. While this comforting gesture, such as extra attention and offering food, is well-meaning, it can adversely affect your dog’s behavior because it shows that the fear response he just showed is perfectly fine. This reinforcement could make the situation worse. 

If you have concerns about your pet’s behavior, talk to your veterinarian Glen Ellyn, IL.


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