This video was posted by Drayton Michaels of his work with his own dog, Beau. This is a wonderful example of our goal when we’re counter conditioning our dogs to things that trigger them to be fearful, aggressive, or over excited.
Dogs learn by association. They see or hear A, and B happens afterwards. For a dog that is fearful of new people, what we will do is form that into “I see people, and mom and dad have a treat party.” After enough repetitions, a dog will think new people mean food, and every dog is happy about food! Scientifically, we will use classical conditioning and desensitization to initially change the dog’s state of mind around new people (via treats), and then later begin rewarding “good” behaviors around new people: being calm, sitting as they walk by, looking away, walking by without fear, etc.