Desensitisation is a really important aspect of socialising a dog that most people don’t think about. It is basically getting your dog used to different sounds and sights that might be scary or distracting to them. This is so that when they come across these sights or sounds in real life, they can remain focused on you and not be scared or overstimulated.
What is desensitisation?
As I said above desensitisation is essentially getting your dog used to different sounds or sights. So they don’t react to them. In dog training it is described as repeating something over and over until the dog doesn’t care about the situation anymore.
How to desensitise your older dog
The best way to desensitise your dog is to expose them to the sight or sound that triggers them at a very low level so either quietly (for a sound trigger) or in the distance (for a visual trigger). Then slowly increase the volume of decrease the distance. This essentially makes your dog realise that actually the trigger is quite boring and doesn’t justify a reaction.
How to desensitise your puppy
This is exactly the same as with an older dog, but the puppy shouldn’t have any specific sights or sounds that trigger them yet. So, you just need to expose them to as many sights and sounds as you can in a positive way. This means that they associate the sight or sound with nice things whether that be play or food and are not bothered by it.
Why is desensitisation so important?
Basically, desensitisation enables your dog to be calm and happy in all situations. This is important as it will reduce their stress levels and make them a very well-rounded dog. Imagine hearing repeated explosions with flashing lights and not being used to it or knowing what it was. That would be frightening, right? Well, that’s how your dog sees fireworks unless you teach them with desensitization that actually its ok and not scary.
The moral of the story is desensitise, desensitise, desensitise! Please don’t forget or neglect this really important step of socialisation that is often overlooked so your dog understands that the world is not a scary place.