Canine Behavior/Dr. Dunbar


QUESTION: Dear Ms. Connor, you might recall our recent exchange re: my little girl - who has both dog to dog - and dog to human - reactivity. Dr. Dunbar did get back to me himself - with his reply; here it is:
Hi there Steve
Thanks for your email.
Well you just missed my three-day seminar at the LAX Radisson, which would have been a good start.
As long as she hasn't damaged people or other dogs, oodles of classical conditioning and progressive desensitization plus some basic manners should do the trick. Off hand I cannot provide you with a referral (I am out of the country). I would try to track down Nicole Wilde (not Santa Monica but somewhere in the Southland), or read one of her books, for example, the one on Fearful Dogs. I am afraid I do not have her email though. You might be able to access it from The Trainer Search at
Wishing you all the best

Just wanted you to see this Ms. Connor. I'll try to find Nicole Wilde. Reading her book is one thing - but it wouldn't compare to having someone work with my girl hands-on. What does he mean by "progressive
desensitization" ? Thx Ms. Connor. My journey continues !!!!  Steve

ANSWER: Progressive desensitization:  beginning at the lowest level of response to stimuli (which means observing dog's body language closely), redirecting dog to trained behavior he has learned is highly rewarding, and slowly escalating exposure to stimuli while redirecting as said.  Over time, this "counter conditioning" can (not always, can) eliminate a fight/flight or conditioned fear response.

Yes, Nicole Wilde has written at least one book I have recommended:  "Help for your Fearful Dog..."  If she is not within your geographical area, then she can't help you.  You'll need to find a certified applied animal behaviorist.  I suggest you start here:

A dog with a strong fight/flight response (and a conditioned fear response is, essentially, a created fight/flight response) can sometimes benefit from a beta blocker such as Propanolol.  This drug, prescribed for this particular purpose in dogs, truncates the flow of adrenaline thereby giving a small window of time before full flight/fight engages and often reducing the flight/fight mechanism.  A veterinary behaviorist is where you would need to go (by the way, such a person might very well be able to refer you to a CAAB):

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Ms. Connor, I did finally reach Nicole Wilde yesterday. Since she doesn't cover my area, she referred me to a colleague of hers, a Laura Bourhenne who does cover my area. She said to me, "Laura is every bit as good as I am with Behavior work". That's enough for me to go on at this point. I will check in to Propanolol with my vet. I can tell you that my girl has been on an 8mg daily dose of Reconcile for the past 15 months. (she was on Clomicalm before that). Do you feel Propanolol rates over Reconcile ? Ms. Connor, thx much for all of your help. If you hadn't initially recommended Dr. Dunbar, I would be nowhere at this point. With appreciation, Steve

I'm so glad you have referral to a well recommended behaviorist.  I don't much like Reconcile or Clomicalm or other such medications as the dog cannot report side effects and there are side effects, both behavioral and physiological, for any medication (in humans, dogs, cats, horses, etc.)  Propanolol, given according to well defined prescription for behavior problems, has no side effect (behaviorally) other than adjusting the rush of adrenaline.  However, one must never take any dog off any medication without careful supervision by a veterinarian (in this case, perhaps a veterinary behaviorist is the way to go, ask your expert.)

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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