Counter-Act!: The Role of Counter-Conditioning & Desensitization in Treating Dog Aggression

Kathy Sdao, an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB), works regularly with aggressive dogs and the people who love them. Here, she focuses on the strategies of classical counter-conditioning and desensitization in treatment of reactive dogs. You will learn the science underpinning these techniques, their appropriate applications, and their limits in treating dog aggression.

Trainers often overlook the value of classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning in treating situations that trigger a dog's emotional reflexes (e.g., fear and/or aggression). This lecture answers questions such as: What is the role of classical conditioning in these situations? Can a trainer skillfully use classical conditioning alone? What subsequent operant techniques should be combined with classical conditioning techniques? Are these techniques appropriate for my dog?

The content of this lecture is appropriate for anyone interested in dog behavior issues that range from mildly reactive to highly aggressive.

Kathy Sdao

Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviorist. She has spent more than 30 years as a fulltime animal trainer, first with marine mammals and now with dogs and their people. Kathy received a master’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of Hawaii. The United States Navy then hired her to train dolphins for open-ocean tasks. Kathy next worked as a marine-mammal trainer at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Later, Kathy co-created Tacoma’s first dog daycare facility, where she began teaching clicker training classes.

Since 1998, Kathy has owned Bright Spot Dog Training. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs, teaching private lessons, and mentoring professional trainers. Kathy is proud to be an original faculty member at Karen Pryor Clicker Training’s ClickerExpo conferences.

Kathy has traveled extensively across the United States, Canada, and Europe, and to Australia, Israel, Japan, and Mexico, educating students about the science of animal training. Her first book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace was published in 2012.