I want to repost the ladder/examples of communication your dog may show during home alone training and look at it afresh from the point of view of the word ‘threshold’.
We will be using certain words and concepts over and over again here, so I sincerely invite you to download my – rather grandly called – ebook (click here to download for free).
In reality, it is a short pdf with lots of pictures called ‘There is Light at the End of the Tunnel’. Which there is, I promise you.
I wrote it to benefit you and your dogs, to ensure we’re always on the same page about the terms we are using. Why not make use of it?
Threshold is the fine line between your dog having a success (‘I can do this! Wow, I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! ) versus tipping into another fear episode (Help, I can’t cope with this at all! HELP!! HELP!!! H E L P !!!!!!!! 🤯🥵🤯)
Successes build trust and confidence and enable our dog to learn new skills.
On the contrary, we never want our dog to go into a fear episode. Not only is that unethical and cruel, obviously, but it also just makes things worse and worse. It doesn’t take long for those experiences to be traumatising.
That’s why I say repeatedly: the line between de-sensitising fear and re-sensitising it is very fine. If in doubt, reach out for professional help to get started correctly. It is vital to get this right. When you know how, you can proceed on your own.
So – when we are practising the Door is a Bore or doing absence training – we watch our dog on our phone while we are doing the exercise. In addition, we record the training sessions, watch the recording afterwards, and we rate each repetition like this: ACED, OK and STRUGGLED.
ACED is when the training step has become a complete non-event for your dog, as though you were perhaps drinking a glass of water or dusting a table. Of no interest whatsoever. Only when your dog is consistently acing a step do you proceed to the next one. Bottom rung green.
OK is when you can see your dog is having to work a bit to process what you’re doing and to gain trust in what you’re doing. You may see some of the signals in the green and yellow areas but they don’t escalate *if you leave enough time* between the reps for your dog to process completely…A few are enough for a good learning effect, however. Never push. (2nd rung green and yellow. )
STRUGGLED is where we seriously don’t want to get to. This is over threshold. (Anything above 2nd rung green and yellow.)
If your dog’s behaviour suddenly escalates, then please slow your training down a lot and go back to guaranteed successes. Above all, look carefully at the recordings of your training to see the signals they were showing before this happened. You need to learn to recognise subtler signals of unease.
We are thinking of leaving, but our dogs need to learn we are coming back. Let’s think more like our dogs, from their point of view.
Always stay on the safe side. We need to din this into our heads 😅😅😅 : the important thing is not how far we get and how long we are outside. The important thing is the *quality of the success* for your dog.