Understanding ‘Flooding’ and How to Support Your Greyhound
July 13, 2023 12:11
Life as a pet is a pretty sweet deal: comfy couches, long walks at the park and ear scratches is a winning combination for dogs. However, for a newly adopted greyhound, all the new sights, sounds and scents that come with pet life can be a lot to take in!
Because we, as the owners, know that our adopted dog’s new environment is safe and comfortable, it is tempting to continue on with our normal routine in the hopes that our dog ‘gets over’ their initial trepidation. This practice is called ‘flooding’.
Being a greyhound parent is a treat-filled adventure, and for our newly adopted greyhounds, it's a whole new world of wagging tails and decadent snacks. Let's not overwhelm them with all the excitement, and instead, let's discover why "flooding" might not be the best approach.
So grab a squeaky toy and join us on this tail-wagging journey!
What is Flooding?
Flooding is a training technique that involves exposing a dog to overwhelming or distressing situations to desensitise them and force them to confront their fears head-on.
This approach is based on the idea that repeated exposure to the feared stimuli will eventually extinguish the fear response. While, this approach can sometimes reduce the outward signs of fear, it does little to change the dog’s underlying emotional state.
What are Scenarios Where a Greyhound Might Require a Different Type of Support?
The typical scenarios that could arise are:
Your greyhound walks into your house for the first time and seems hesitant to walk on the tiled floor
There is a dog that barks at passersby on the way to your normal walking route
You have relatives over every weekend and you’d like your dog to be able to socialise with larger groups of people
Let’s learn more about why flooding may not be a great approach, and what to do instead!
Understanding the Suboptimal Effects of Flooding
Increased Anxiety: Sudden changes to a dog’s environment can cause significant distress. Like many people, greyhounds thrive on predictability, so not knowing what to expect on any given day can cause dogs to be in a permanent state of anxiety.
Lowered Trust: Building trust is crucial when adopting any dog, and greyhounds are no exception. Flooding can erode the trust between the greyhound and their new owner or caretaker. The sudden immersion into overwhelming situations may make them associate fear and discomfort with their new environment, hindering their ability to form a bond with their adoptive family.
Regression in Training: Greyhounds, like any other dog, require positive reinforcement and gradual exposure to new experiences to ensure successful training. Flooding bypasses this essential process and can lead to setbacks in their learning progress. This regression can make it difficult for them to adapt to household routines, follow commands, and develop appropriate social skills.
Recommended Approaches of What to Do Instead
Patience and Gradual Exposure: Taking a patient and gradual approach to introducing adopted greyhounds to new experiences and environments can help them feel secure and confident. Slowly expose them to various situations, allowing them to adjust at their own pace. Celebrate small achievements and reward them with treats, praise, and affection to reinforce positive associations.
Positive Reinforcement Training: Reward your dog for behaving in ways that you like will help your dog to understand a way to consistently access good things (whether that is food, play time or a nice ear scratch). This method focuses on rewarding good behaviour rather than forcing them into stressful situations.
Seek Professional Guidance: GAP’s experienced staff are here to help you set your dog up for success. We have several resources available on recognising your dog’s body language so you can gradually expose them to new things at an intensity that keeps them feeling safe and secure throughout.
If your greyhound appears hesitant to walk on different surfaces, put towels or blankets down so they are able to move around comfortably. From there, you can reward the dog for placing one paw on the novel surface and increase the difficulty over time.
Ready to Meet Your New Best Mate?
At GAP NSW, we are dedicated to finding loving homes for retired greyhounds.