It’s a flood
Flooding as defined by the Webster’s dictionary is; to fill quickly beyond capacity. As you can assume from that, flooding in behavior is the act of overwhelming the organism with until the anxiety/fear/etc subsides. The problem with flooding is it often leads to learned helplessness toward the stimuli. In other words, they just give up, totally.This has been done in labs numerous times, one instance C.P. Richter’s study during which would squeeze rats in his hands until they stopped struggling, he then placed them in water. Rats that had been squeezed would drown within 30 minutes, compared to rats that hadn’t been squeezed which swam for 60 hours. That’s a big difference.
Flooding is often used in traditional methods, people assume because the dog is moving that it’s accepting that it is okay. Dogs that are shocked repeatedly and give up will move around the cage, they know they cannot escape the shock and they give up on trying, they do not necessarily accept the shock as okay however. Dogs who are flooded will often exhibit stress-induced displacement behaviors when confronted by the stimuli that triggered the anxiety/fear/etc. previously. This would lead me (at least) to believe that flooding does not work to do anything other than create a helpless state.
Most dogs that are abused are flooded, the end result is learned helplessness. This is why dogs who’ve been beaten do not react with a bite; the bite has been beaten out.
Displacement behaviors are behaviors that are normal by nature but out of context. For example a dog walking on leash wanting to greet someone would not be expected to yawn, or some other behavior, but many puppies will do this when their handler ushers them away from the person they want to greet. Dogs exhibit displacement behaviors when two or more behaviors are at conflict with each other. The puppy wants to be with his handler, but also wants to greet this new person. It’s fairly common to see puppies plant their rear ends to the earth and scratch their necks or ears or some other self grooming behavior.
Stress-induced displacement behaviors often turn into an obsession. Paw licking to the point of self-mutilation could be a stress-induced displacement behavior gone obsession. There are other reasons for excessive paw licking, such as allergies, boredom and many others. Stress-induced displacement behaviors are not limited to paw licking, some dogs may become destructive in the home or to other parts of their bodies as well. These behaviors are often called stereotypic as they become repetitive.