The Startling Science of Fear and Love

A particularly nasty, persuasive and destructive piece of advice that has been passing around the dog world for many years now – is the idea that you should always ignore a frightened dog – because by cuddling and paying attention to him you only reinforce that fear and make it worse!

Can emotions be reinforced?



For many years now – like many other people working in the pet behaviour industry – I’ve been challenging this popular behaviourist dogma, and reassuring worried owners that, on the contrary, it’s really important that you do cuddle and love your dog when they are frightened and upset.

And this idea – that is fine to hug a frightened dog – is underpinned by the principle that – “Only behaviours can be reinforced; you can’t reinforce an emotion!”

I’ve been uncomfortable with the scientific accuracy of this idea for some time now. So in this video blog – I challenge the science and present to you – what I believe is a more accurate and plausible explanation.

What I believe is that – 

FIRSTLY: Emotions can be reinforced – and specifically – the emotion of FEAR can be reinforced in fearful dogs.


SECONDLY: Because of the above, the consequences of ignoring your dog when she’s frightened – is not emotionally neutral – in fact, I believe that it constitutes animal psychological abuse.