In this week’s blog I’m diving into the mysterious world of “thresholds” in our pooches. No, I’m not talking about the entrance to your favourite pet-friendly cafe – I’m talking about the invisible line that separates a calm and collected canine from a barking, jumping, furnado of excitement or fear. Buckle up, because understanding this concept is the key to unlocking the wonders of successful dog training.
So, what exactly is a threshold in the doggy dictionary? Well, it’s like the limit of your patience when your pup decides your favourite shoes are chew toys – except in the world of dog training, it’s all about managing your pup’s emotional state rather than managing your own.
Remember in the past I’ve written about training FOR the situation rather than IN the situation? Well, training for the situation helps to keep your furkid under threshold while they practice a new emotional response to a stimuli.
Imagine that your Fido is a soft drink bottle. When they’re relaxed and chill, that’s the fizz inside the bottle staying calm. But as you approach their “threshold,” it’s like shaking the bottle – the fizz starts bubbling, and before you know it, you’ve got a cola explosion on your hands, and not the refreshing kind! It’s messy and hard work to get the household back to equilibrium.
Now, let’s talk training. Positive reinforcement training is like sprinkling treats and praise whenever Fido does something you like – it’s the bacon bits in the salad of life. But here’s the kicker: for any training to work its magic, Fido needs to be below threshold.
Think of it this way: if you’re trying to teach Fido to sit but they’re bouncing off the walls like a ping-pong ball on caffeine, those treats and praises won’t register. They’re too caught up in the excitement, and your well-intentioned training session turns into a canine circus act. Not exactly what we had in mind, right?
So, how do we keep Fido on the right side of the threshold? Picture yourself at a concert – you’re grooving to the music (yes, I know I just aged myself LOL), but if the volume cranks up too much, you cover your ears. Dogs are the same way. When the environment gets too intense, they hit their threshold and may start barking, lunging, or just checking out mentally. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Flight, Fight and Freeze responses. This is your pooch being overwhelmed and having an over threshold experience.
Here’s the scoop: during training, start slow. Find a quiet corner, away from the hustle and bustle of noises, birds, and the neighbour’s cat doing parkour on the fence. Set Fido up for success in a low-distraction zone like your lounge room. When pup responds to your cue, shower them with treats, belly rubs, and an Oscar-worthy performance of “What a good dog?!”
Gradually, as Fido masters cues in the low-stress bubble, you can turn up the difficulty dial. The goal is to keep the training sessions positive and engaging without pushing Fido over their excitement threshold. Short and sweet – no longer than 3 minutes.
Remember, it’s not about being the alpha dog or issuing commands like a drill sergeant (don’t get me started on outdated training methods, grrr). Positive reinforcement training is all about building a trusting and joyful relationship with your furry friend. Keep it light, keep it fun, and always be ready with food, toys or praise!
So, there you have it – the lowdown on thresholds and why they matter in dog training. Keep Fido’s tail wagging, and you’ll be well on your way to having the best-behaved pooch on the block. Until next time, happy training, and may your treats be ever tasty!