Strain comparison studies have been critical to the identification of novel genetic and molecular mechanisms in learning and memory. However, even within a single learning paradigm, the behavioral data for the same strain can vary greatly, making it difficult to form meaningful conclusions at both the behavioral and cellular level. In fear conditioning, there is a high level of variability across reports, especially regarding responses to the conditioned stimulus (CS). Here, we compare C57BL/6 and DBA/2 mice using delay fear conditioning, trace fear conditioning, and a nonassociative condition. Our data highlight both the significant strain differences apparent in these fear conditioning paradigms and the significant differences in conditioning type within each strain. We then compare our data to an extensive literature review of delay and trace fear conditioning in these two strains. Finally, we apply a number of commonly used baseline normalization approaches to compare how they alter the reported differences. Our findings highlight three major sources of variability in the fear conditioning literature: CS duration, number of CS presentations, and data normalization to baseline measures.