Flooding is a branch of psychology that gives behavior therapy through the process of respondent conditioning. This therapy works by exposing the person or animal to a stimulus that is likely to trigger the adrenaline release or initiate a fear response in a manner that there is no such physical consequence. The patient or animal then panic soon subsides after being overly exposed to the phobia without a memory of a bad thing happening. Some researchers have termed this method as prolonged exposure therapy. Flooding technique was invented by Thomas Stampfl, a psychologist who worked closely with the behavior of the mind under prolonged exposure to different stimuli.

Flooding is quick and can offer an excellent solution to most fears faced by pets like dogs. In the past, dog flooding has been used to treat post-traumatic stress and proven positive results in treating anxiety disorders. However, flooding can worsen the perception of the dog towards that particular stimuli, increasing the flight or fear response. In worse cases, the dog can result to fight response making the dog react wildly and could lead to serious injuries. Fear and post-traumatic response may recur again if this process is not under appropriate conduction.

How it Works

Flooding desensitizes one from fears and phobias. In dog flooding psychology, the psychologist places the dog in a situation where it faces its fear at its worst. The psychologist then uses proven relaxation techniques in the reassuring and calming the dog from the fear response. Keeping all factors constant, the dog should then assume relaxation through the biological homeostasis, maintenance of a constant internal environment. This conditions the dog newly and frees it from that particular fear as the dog no longer associates that situation with the original psychopathologies but the later relaxation.

Flooding has been helping dogs for a significantly extended period. It is one of the man’s earliest methods of containing and controlling the way a dog behaves. This technique ensures that a dog experiences a stimulus that brings the unwanted response in the dog at a proximity for a significantly extended period. Through prolonged exposure therapy, the dog then realizes there are no actual threats. The dog, therefore, becomes calm and no longer associates the negative response to that stimulus in future.

Respondent conditioning is the method through which classical conditioning works. It employs a vivo exposure method whereby there is direct exposure or confrontation to the situation that is triggering the response to the stimulus. This theory believes that a dog can persevere a stimulus for a long time. The dog is taken through this to overcome the anxiety phase of that experience until emotional changes reoccur. This state of mind is the point of homeostasis which occurs because adrenaline acts for a short time in bursts. The dog then calms down upon the realization that there is nothing to be afraid of at the moment. The procedure is a therapy that was primarily for the human’s treatment for anxiety.


  • For instance, a dog may be having fear or phobia of riding in a car due to many reasons such as bad memory with cars, primitivity, lack of exposure, engine sound, etc. A good psychotherapist will bring the dog into a car and make it face its fear directly. Consequently, the dog’s body response will trigger flight or fight which can be controlled under reassurance. When the dog is in the car, it initially experiences a profound fear from the inside. When reassured, he relates cars with the relaxation that has been reinforced to replace the fear. As a result, the flooding technique helps the dog through its utmost fear, riding in the car.
  • In another instance, getting a dog used to popping balloons can work on a dog that stays with them. For a dog that has limited or no exposure to balloons, popping balloons can be traumatizing and can make the or more stressful. In this scenario, it can lead to bigger issues. In other situations, therapists result to counter conditioning. In this method, they combine techniques by reassuring the dog and then slowly introducing the stimulus that the dog fears while assuring him. The sudden emotional changes can be a dangerous procedure, and the dog may react violently. The dog may seem to learn but may respond with violence when exposed to some overwhelming level of this stimulus.


Flooding uses classical conditioning technique. Pavlov, a psychotherapist, argue that people and animal change their behavior in avoidance of negative stimuli. If a dog fears a particular situation, it is because the dog associates it with some feared adverse outcome. There are many types of exposure, such as virtual reality exposure, imagination exposure, and vivo exposure. Classical conditioning uses vivo exposure. The dog gets exposed to a scenario in which the causes of the fear or trauma are deliberately provoked. The person offering the dog behavioral training then uses minute effort to reassure the dog and to initiate her relaxation mechanisms to calm down. Adrenaline release is usually time bound and subsides on its own.

Flooding technique is an excellent therapy of correcting dog psychology. Flooding has been known to bring immediate results as well helping a dog overcome many physical fears such as machinery or walking on slippery surfaces. However, not every therapist agrees to this method. For flooding psychology to work appropriately, several things need attention.


Not every dog will react the same way to the same situation. In other cases, dogs have different levels of anxiety and fear. Consequently, they react differently to these situations. Dog flooding psychology should proceed under carefully maintained circumstances, and reassurance should be the trainer’s goal to avoid instances of bad responses.


Flooding is a full immersion therapy that helps both human and dogs overcome some fears. This method is fast and has a variety of benefits, but could as well lead to many potentially fatal results. In humans, flooding can treat fears and phobias. In dogs, it is a proven method that can be used to control the response in times of anxiety or adrenaline. Many persons have succeeded in dog behavioral training through the use of flooding. For instance, hunters train their dog to cope with many jungle extremities using flooding. However, every dog has a unique flooding procedure. It is important to consult a qualified professional on the best flooding method to use on your dog. Remember that flooding is not an easy task to undertake. It involves some well thought out plan as well as some risk for adverse therapy outcomes.

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