Has someone ever talked to you about your dog’s “threshold”? What is it and how does it affect training? When it comes to dog training, the term threshold refers to the point at which a dog's behavior changes from calm and relaxed to tense and reactive. Every dog has its own threshold, which is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, past experiences, and current environment. When a dog's threshold is exceeded, it may display a range of behaviors, such as barking, cowering, growling, or any number of other behaviors that we find undesirable, even scary.
It is important for dog owners to be able to recognize their dog's individual threshold and work to keep them below it to prevent aggressive or reactive behavior. This can be done through proper socialization, training, and management techniques.
You don’t want to wait until your dog is over threshold to address the situation! A key component to recognizing when your dog is becoming uncomfortable or uncertain about something is to learn their body language. Generally, dog’s display subtle behaviors well before the “explosion”. Look for things like lip licking, panting out of context, body carriage, dilated pupils, or any change in their body and actions that are different than when your dog is behaving calmly. It is important to note that a still dog is not necessarily a calm dog!
If you dog is over threshold, they are doing things on instinct. They are not thinking. If they are not thinking, they are not able to learn anything. They may not even hear what you are saying and if they do, they are not in a state where they can process it. The best thing you can do for your dog when they are in this state is to change the situation. Once you have done this, it is time to figure out what triggered your dog’s reaction. Then it is time to come up with a plan. This may be something you can do on your own, but if you are not making progress don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for help. These behaviors rarely change on their own. In fact, they frequently get worse!