Flooding A Nervous Dog

Flooding a dog is an old technique that was used by Neanderthals to make a nervous dog give up. In a nut shell what flooding means is, the trainer would constantly harass the dog unmercifully until that animal accepts it’s fate of death (In their mind, anyway) and gives up. Or to put it another way the dog trainer would make the nervous dog so nervous that the dogs brain would finally shut down.

When some people see the immediate result that the trainer accomplishes with this type of behavior modification method, they are impressed. They are impressed because they don’t know any better and it may seem to them a miracle that their dog didn’t bite the trainer.

This is probably without a doubt the absolutely stupidest way to deal with a nervous dog. The most common responses you will see in a dog when he meets new people after he’s gone through the flooding treatment are, (1) he will make sure he acts like a bigger maniac the next time someone tries to come near him. or (2) he will slink away from everybody.

In either case the dog will pretty much be miserable.

If you would like to see what flooding looks like, take a look at the following video link. Please pay close attention to the dogs emotional state at the end of the video. nationalgeographic.com
This is no way to train a dog.

The Spirit Dog

Copyright © 2009 A.S.Papszycki
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12 Responses

  1. [...] The Spirit Dog, “Flooding A Nervous Dog,” The Spirit Dog (blog), March 1, 2009. [...]

  2. I must admit I was a fan of Cesar Milan a few years ago. But that was before I began my degree in Canine Behaviour and Training. Now that I am learning correct information about canine development, psychology and behaviour, I realise just how wrong his theories and techniques are. While I do believe he loves dogs, his information and methods are light years behind what modern dog trainers are doing now and trying to achieve. This video is very powerful and quite upsetting to watch. What I ask people to do is to watch the show and mute the volume-that make it easier to see what the dogs are actually going through and how broken so many of them seem at the end of a session. All dogs deserve to be treated kindly and with repect, especially those who have “issues”. When the cameras stop rolling, these dogs are the worse off for it.

  3. No, my dog was not that severe, and if she had been we wouldn’t have done it. I agree, what Cesar did was not appropriate in this particular video–but just because some people abuse flooding doesn’t mean it is always harassment or wrong. Again, this will depend on your definition of flooding. I do some dog training, but do not consider myself ‘expert’ ye–in the process ;)

  4. Lisa, I’m guessing you gotta be a dog trainer. Your definition deals with humans going through the process, in which case they can stop the therapy session if it gets too intense. I don’t think the dog in that video had the same opportunity. Do you ? And did you freak your dog out that much ? I’m guessing no.
    My definition of flooding, by the way is what happens after a lot of rain.

  5. What is your definition of flooding then? You didn’t clearly illustrate it in your article. The field of psychology defines it as “a form of desensitization for treating phobias and anxieties by repeated exposure to highly distressing stimuli until the lack of reinforcement of the anxiety response causes its extinction” (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/flooding). In which case, yes, we did flood my dog. We put her in the situation that scared her and waited until she was no longer afraid.

  6. Lisa, what you did was not flood your dog, you simply gave her time to relax by herself.

  7. I think it is ridiculous to claim that flooding is a harrassment to the dog–if done right it can be a good technique for certain problems. It isn’t a ‘black-and-white’ issue. My dog was terrified of pet stores and under the direction of a talented trainer we went into the store and sat in a quiet spot and let her acclimate herself. She was ‘flooded’ by the store, but it only took a short amount of time of just sitting there calmly before she began to realize that there was nothing scary about the store. The problem is, if a dog is afraid they have to go through certain emotional stages before they can be confident and it can be nailbiting to watch. I admit, if my dog had not recovered in a reasonable amount of time the flooding would’ve had made things worse, not better. As it turned out, she got better.

  8. Can’t wait to see the Spirit Dog videos, wishing there was more people like him helping dogs and owners in this world.

  9. The problem is your boy, just like many others in the animal behavior field fail to truly understand animal behavior and what’s needed to relax the fear aggressive dog. These type’s of behaviors are the number one reason dog owners seek out professional dog training help for their dogs. And yet he constantly refers to these dogs with fear aggression as aggressive dogs.
    Quite frankly the only thing Cesar “the dog whisperer” Millan has going for him is he’s not afraid of dogs and he knows how to dominate them.

    By the way, spirit dog videos will be coming this year.

  10. Do you have any concept of the natural principles of animal behavior and pack mentality that Cesar bases his technique upon? Have you bothered to read his book or seek out additional information explaining why he does what he does or are you content with your emotional and irrational response to something that you don’t seem to understand? I would like to see video evidence of your experience in teaching people about dog behavior with legitimate proof of canine rehabilitation.

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