how long does an extinction burst last in dogs

How Long Does an Extinction Burst Last in Dogs


Dog training is a crucial aspect of pet ownership. It not only teaches a dog how to behave appropriately but also helps them develop specific skills that enhance their quality of life. Unfortunately, even the most well-behaved dogs can exhibit unwanted behaviors from time to time.

One of the most common behaviors is the extinction burst. This brief period can be distressing for pet owners and confusing for their pets. Therefore, it is essential to understand what an extinction burst is, how long it lasts, and how to manage it effectively.

Explanation of what an extinction burst is

An extinction burst usually occurs when a previously reinforced behavior no longer results in positive reinforcement or any other perceived reward. The dog will continue to exhibit the unwanted behavior, but with increased frequency and intensity until they realize that the behavior is futile.

Importance of understanding extinction bursts in dog training

Understanding extinction bursts can help pet owners manage their dog’s behavior effectively. They can identify problematic behaviors early on and develop training strategies that minimize the likelihood of an extinction burst occurring.

Thesis statement

This article explores how long an extinction burst lasts in dogs and how pet owners can identify its signs and manage it effectively.

Understanding Extinction Bursts

Definition of an Extinction Burst

An extinction burst occurs when previously reinforced behavior is no longer rewarded. During this brief period, the dog will continue exhibiting the unwanted behavior with increased intensity or frequency until they no longer associate that behavior with positive reinforcement.

Explanation of how it occurs in dog training

During dog training, many behaviors can be extinguished through different types of punishment or withholding rewards. However, if a previously reinforced behavior is not replaced with a new behavior or adequately discouraged, the dog may resort to an extinction burst.

Examples of extinction bursts

An example of an extinction burst might be a dog that barks excessively when someone rings the doorbell. During training, their owner might teach them that barking is okay by giving them attention. However, after reaching a point where they no longer want the dog to bark, they stop giving attention or offering rewards. If the dog continues to bark without receiving positive reinforcement, they will likely increase the frequency and intensity until they realize that barking is no longer a rewardable behavior.

The Misconceptions About Extinction Bursts

Common misconceptions about extinction bursts and dog training

Many pet owners believe that extinction bursts are tantamount to disobedience or stubbornness. In reality, it is simply an animal’s natural response to a perceived reduction in resources (rewards).

The dangers of misunderstanding extinction bursts

Misunderstanding extinction bursts can have dire consequences for both pet owners and their pets. It can lead to a breakdown in communication between pet owners and their dogs and exacerbate problematic behaviors.

The Duration of an Extinction Burst

Factors that influence the duration of an extinction burst

The factors that influence how long an extinction burst lasts in dogs include the severity of their previous reinforcement, behavior type, inherited traits, environmental factors such as noise levels, and pet owner behavior.

The average duration of an extinction burst

Extinction bursts can last anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks, depending on the factors mentioned above. In general, most typically last around three days.

Case study on the duration of an extinction burst in a dog

Suppose you own a puppy who developed a habit of biting as a result of it being reinforced during playtime. Over time, you decided that biting behavior was harmful and withheld attention when the dog engaged in such behavior. In this case, the dog would likely increase its biting frequencies and intensity for an average of three days before they realized that it no longer leads to rewards.

Identifying an Extinction Burst

Signs that indicate a dog is experiencing an extinction burst

Some signs that indicate a dog is undergoing an extinction burst include increased frequency or intensity of unwanted behavior, vocalization, changes in body posture, and increased anxiety.

How to differentiate an extinction burst from other behaviors

An extinction burst can usually be distinguished from other behaviors by keeping track of when the unwanted behavior occurs and whether there were any rewards associated with it.

Managing an Extinction Burst

Effective ways to manage an extinction burst

Some ways to manage an extinction burst include providing alternative positive reinforcement for good behavior, avoiding triggers that lead to unwanted behavior, remaining consistent in rewarding desirable behavior, and addressing problematic behaviors through training programs.

Importance of consistency in managing an extinction burst

Consistency is essential when managing an extinction burst. Pet owners must make sure they continue rewarding positive behaviors correctly while withholding reinforcement for undesired behaviors.

Case study on effective management of an extinction burst in a dog

Suppose a pet owner successfully applied counter-conditioning techniques on their dog when they expressed aggressive behaviors towards children. Afterward, they stopped reinforcing bad behavior with positive attention. They were consistent in focusing on reinforcing good interactions instead of rewarding undesirable conduct. As a result, their pet understood that aggression did not lead to expected rewards.

Tips for Preventing Extinction Bursts

Strategies for avoiding triggers for an extinction burst

Some strategies to avoid triggers for an extinction burst include positive reinforcement, proper training to individuals, toys, a healthy diet, and proper exercise that help your pet avoid boredom.

Preventive measures for puppy owners

For puppy owners, it’s essential to set routines and positive reinforcement early on so that it becomes part of their habit. Pet owners should also provide an environment where they feel safe and healthy.

The Emotional Impact on the Dog

Overview of the emotional impact on dogs during and after an extinction burst

The emotional impact of an extinction burst can lead to anxiety or confusion. It is vital that pet owners address these concerns by providing attention and positive reinforcement when the dog engages in desirable behavior once again.

What pet owners should do to ensure their pet feels safe after an extinction burst

Pet owners can help ensure their dog feels safe by reinforcing good behavior regularly and addressing unwanted behavior immediately with appropriate training programs.

Common Myths About Extinction Bursts Debunked

Debunking common myths surrounding extinction bursts.

Myths like “extinction bursts indicate disobedience” results from a lack of knowledge about dogs and their behavior. These myths can be harmful because they could influence how pet owners train their pets going forward.

Why it’s important to be aware of these myths during training.

It’s necessary to be aware of myths surrounding dog training. It would help avoid applying counter-productive training methods or actions that discourage dogs with negative consequences.


Understanding “extinction bursts” phenomenon in dogs and knowing ways to manage it are crucial for sustained pet-owner bonding while discouraging bad behavior. By understanding the duration of extinction bursts, identifying them, and managing them effectively through proper training programs, pet owners can help their dogs lead a happy life.

FAQs: How long does an extinction burst last in dogs?

1. What is an extinction burst?

An extinction burst is a temporary increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of a behavior that occurs when a dog no longer receives the reinforcement that previously maintained that behavior.

2. How long does an extinction burst last?

The duration of an extinction burst varies depending on several factors, such as the history of the behavior, the strength of the reinforcement that was removed, and the individual dog’s temperament. Typically, an extinction burst lasts for a few seconds to several minutes.

3. Is an extinction burst harmful to my dog?

An extinction burst is not harmful to your dog; it is a natural response to a change in reinforcement. However, it can be frustrating and confusing for owners who are trying to modify their dog’s behavior, so it is essential to understand what an extinction burst is and how to manage it.

4. How can I prevent an extinction burst in my dog?

  • Gradually reduce the reinforcement over time instead of suddenly removing it.
  • Provide alternative forms of reinforcement for the desired behavior.
  • Maintain consistency in your training approach and avoid giving mixed signals or inconsistent commands.

5. What should I do during an extinction burst?

You should remain calm and patient during an extinction burst and avoid giving in to the undesired behavior. Wait until your dog calms down before providing alternative reinforcement or offering praise and treats for exhibiting the desired behavior.

6. Can I speed up the process of overcoming an extinction burst?

No, you cannot speed up the process of overcoming an extinction burst. It is a natural response to a change in reinforcement, and attempting to rush the process can actually prolong the behavior’s extinction.

7. What are some common behaviors that exhibit extinction bursts?

  • Barking or whining
  • Jumping up on people
  • Pawing or scratching
  • Counter surfing or stealing food
  • Chewing or destructive behavior

keys takeaways

What is an Extinction Burst?

An extinction burst is a temporary increase in the frequency or intensity of a behaviour that typically occurs during the process of behaviour modification.

How long does an Extinction Burst Last in Dogs?

The length of an extinction burst varies depending on many factors such as the dog’s temperament, the severity of the behaviour, and the effectiveness of training methods. However, typically it lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

What to Do During an Extinction Burst?

  • Be patient and consistent with training.
  • Avoid any form of reinforcement for the unwanted behaviour.
  • Stick to positive reinforcement techniques and avoid punishment as it may worsen the situation.

Can Extinction Bursts Be Prevented?

No. However, proper training and consistency in enforcing behaviours can make the extinction burst less severe or not happen at all.

Key Takeaways:

  1. An extinction burst is a temporary increase in unwanted behaviour during training.
  2. The length of an extinction burst varies from a few days to several weeks.
  3. Patient and consistent training is necessary during this period.
  4. Proper training can help prevent or lessen the effect of an extinction burst.