Bentley is a 9-year-old male Great Dane. J. observes that he is frightened by wind, thunder, fireworks, gunshots, cooking noises (specifically sizzling), and the sound of the stove lighting. J. wants to condition Bentley to the sizzling. He has been bothered by sizzling for up to three years.
J. states that Bentley is not afraid of white or brown noise.
Since sizzling is a series of short explosions, sometimes with more than one simultaneously, the best approach to start with an acceptable sound is to use white noise. If that noise is OK, I can use it to mask some sizzling sounds, build a positive response, and gradually remove the mask. I will create a test white noise burst for J. to test.
Test Sound Notes
The test sound was 10 seconds of white noise generated by Audacity, set at gain -11.
Bentley Test Sound 1
There are 10 seconds of silence before the white noise sound. It lasts 10 seconds and has a fade in and out. You will need to feed during the entire 10 seconds. Play the test sound for the first time only after you have performed the protocol to prevent the presence of food from becoming a predictor. Even though this is a “test” sound, it is probably also the first exposure of the series, and the early repetitions of conditioning are super important.
J. states that Bentley was lying head down on his bed, the white noise started, he continued in the same position until he saw the cream cheese, then lifted his head and began eating it, the noise stopped and she walked away with the cream cheese. He had absolutely no reaction to the 10 seconds of white noise. (Hurray!)
J said the food was delayed a few seconds but she can time it better next time to be right next to him when the noise begins.
Eileen says: getting there around the right time is a challenge! I know how hard it can be to do that and “act nonchalant”! The delay didn’t hurt anything. These next ones will be good if you can feed right away, though. Probably around the third or fourth one, he’ll start looking for the food.
Sound Series 1
These sounds all have 10 seconds of silent lead time. Sound 1 has the sizzling at the same time as the white noise, but the sizzling is very, very masked. Then, gradually, I raise the volume on the sizzling. I can’t hear the sizzling at all until about Sound 3 or 4, but Bentley may be able to hear it sooner. So pay super close attention (while you are juggling food and getting the timing right and everything else!) to his response.
Do one trial a day at most, sometimes every two days. One trial means playing the sound only once. I say that because this is so different from the CC we do with husbandry, for example. No multiple reps during a session. The science says that we only have about 25 exposures to get to a strong CER, and the more unexpected they are, the better. So remember to continue to get out the food sometimes without having an exposure.
Sometimes when I do an exposure I get the food out, queue up the sound, but then work at my computer for 10 minutes or so before playing the sound. Do everything you possibly can to make sure you aren’t signaling that a sound is coming.
Be sure and stop progressing if you see any fear and check with me. I can split the gradations finer.
Continuation of Sound Series 1
Hi Jenna, please check in with me before continuing with these next ones!
Sound Series Tech Notes for Eileen
I started with white noise at gain -11 and sizzling at gain -4. Increased the sizzling gain by 1 increment for each sound in the series.
For sounds 6–9, I started reducing the gain on the white noise. Sound 6 is -13, 7 is -15, 8 is -17, and 9 is -18.
For sounds starting at #10, I reduced the white noise incrementally (-19, -20, -21).
For sounds 13–17, white noise reduction was -23, -25, -27, -29. -31
For sounds 18-21, white noise reduction was -33, -35, -36, and muted (sizzle only)
Visualizing the Sounds
Just for fun, here is what Bentley’s sounds look like. The sizzling is the two tracks a the top. It will get louder as the white noise gets quieter.