2. Systematic desensitization
This technique consists in presenting a situation repetitively (procedure and habituation), while gradually increasing the intensity of the stimuli which trigger the undesirable response, in a controlled environment, one which minimizes fears, running away, aggressiveness and avoidance of the aforementioned stimuli. This way, the unacceptable response no longer occurs.
This technique works for fears, sensory deprivation, phobias, coming either from an auditory stimulus such as gunfire, fireworks or an electric storm, or a visual one like a car, a person, Dr another animal. This technique is almost always combined to counter-conditioning.
In order to enumerate the learning stages and to clearly identify the objective, it is essential that the starting point be well-defined. As for counter-conditioning, the steps in the systematic approach related to the context of a dog that displays fear when visitors arrive are:
a) Creating a positive association between a stimulus (object, person) and a reward (, affection).
b) Establishing a hierarchy of difficulties (the sound of a car, opening and closing doors, an approaching visitor, a doorbell, a door opening, greeting the visitor, his entrance and exit).
c) Presenting each stimulus gradually: three sessions each comprising 10 attempts, 3 times a day.
d) Varying the content of the presentation as to the trigger elements, the places, the date and the time.
Take care to identify the intensity of the stimulus which doesn't trigger the response, and increase it gradually. Each counter-conditioning and desensitization technique will be elaborated according to the type of problem related to it.