Are you working “under threshold” with your dog?

If we are trying to teach our dog something, we have to ensure that the dog is far enough away from anything that may cause the dog to be fearful or anxious. A dog that is fearful or anxious has had the access to the processing parts of his brain closed. You could say that the over reactive amygdala (structure in the brain linked to fear) hogs all the brain’s bandwidth!

Effective training starts with keeping your dog “under threshold” by putting distance between you and any major distractions or fear/anxiety triggers. First, you have to be able to recognize the signs of stress in a dog and then insert enough distance between you and the source so your dog is be able to think again.14206218_1057164741063061_597876748515568182_o

Dog owners often demand actions from their dogs when the dogs are not neurologically capable of doing them. We then brand these dogs as “stubborn” for not complying and then punishment them after we failed to understand what they were communicating to us. This is like being slapped every time you failed to answer a trivia question while you were, at the same time, trying to escape a burning building. You cannot accomplish what is being asked of you, and neither can your dog.

“Flooding” is an unsound behaviour-modification practice in which we force a dog to tolerate the very thing she cannot tolerate. To work and communicate effectively with your dog during training, learn the signs of stress of dogs and always work under threshold.