|In hot pursuit of a mouse. Traffic? What traffic?|
A threshold is a level of a stimulus at which it causes a reaction.
This is different for every stimulus and every dog. And I believe it can also change day to day. When you have a toothache, when you had a bad day at work ... you are more likely to react to things that wouldn't bother you any other day.
When a husband murders his wife one day because she put the mustard on the wrong side of the plate, you know there has been something going on there.
Same is true for dogs.
The three important factors when it comes to stimulus are distance, duration and intensity.
Last week I wrote about how we are training Cookie not to bother with traffic. The ultimate goal is to change the way she feels about it. Our ultimate goal is for her simply ignore it as something that has no importance whatsoever.
It is a good example of all three factors and how they work in combination.
We started our training far away.
Because we have the space, we started at about 70 yards. That's a distance where she would still notice what's going on but didn't care. We use the Look at That game.
At this point, we are down to 20 feet for cars, vans and small trucks. More accurately, ONE car, van or small truck that goes by without stopping. Two or more vehicles passing at the same time are a stronger stimulus and require further distance or larger treats. Same goes for the post office car, which actually pulls over in order to put the mail into the mailbox.
Large trucks, trucks with trailers, other larger equipment and ATVs are more upsetting to Cookie and do require more distance for her not to react.
Anything under 20 feet is too close for Cookie not to react.
The other day we went for a walk on a logging read near by. There is usually no traffic. But that day a truck was driving through. It was at a spot where we couldn't make our way further from the road because of the bush.
Cookie's reaction was a great example of what happens when the threshold is breached.
I could barely hold on to her; she was very upset. Fortunately, it didn't cause any major setback, meaning it didn't lower her threshold. Which could happen.
Often distance and intensity go hand in hand.
Good example of that is thunder or fireworks.
Jasmine didn't care about either of them, even if the noise had gone on all night. There were a couple of times, though, when she was in the yard to potty and a loud clap of thunder surprised us. It must have sounded as if something exploded right behind her bum. She got startled and almost ran into the house through a closed door.
Fortunately, that too didn't affect her overall threshold for these things.
The best case scenario is working with your dog where you can control all aspects of the environment.
Then you can train gradually for each of the aspects; distance, duration and intensity.
In real life, things happen the way they happen and you cannot always control them.
Then you just have to make the best of it.
One thing to remember is that stress accumulates. As I mentioned earlier, any previous stress, physiological or psychological, will affect your dog's threshold to any next stimulus.
If your dog has a real serious problem, it is best to work with a professional. Besides having an experienced, qualified person who knows what they're doing, you will also get an environment where all situations are fully controlled. Full control over the environment and stimuli allows your dog to succeed.
Because Cookie's barking at the traffic isn't a major deal to us, we are tackling it the best we can with what we have to work with. And she's doing well.
Over threshold stimulus doesn't always have to cause stress in your dog.
Sometimes it's simply about too much stimulation. This can be particularly important when it comes to recall. The threshold aspects are the same, though.
For Cookie, a scent that is at least an hour old or older gets her curious but not to a degree where it becomes a problem. She is still aware of the world around her, including ourselves, so when we call her she can respond.
A scent that is truly fresh, half hour or less does something to her brain.
In an instant, a fuse goes, and the whole words ceases to exist. All there is is the scent and her innate drive to pursue it. At that point, you can be standing right next to her and she won't know you're there. That is something we still need to work on.
Interesting observation with Cookie is how she's affected by competing stimuli. For example, being hot on a mouse trail renders any passing traffic irrelevant, regardless of the distance, size or duration. A train could go by and she wouldn't care. Now, if I only could be as stimulating to her as a mouse ...
Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over-
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat
Observation Skills Of Dogs
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone?
Dog Training And Emotions
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"
So, We Have A Bear
About Happiness: What Makes Your Dog Happy?
Our Example Of The Use Of "Look At That" (LAT)
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Who Is In The Wrong?
Your Dog Wants To Follow You. You Just Gotta Be Going Some Place
We Still Have Two Dogs: A "Pilot Study" Part Two
Early Winter Safety: Exploring New Territories
Cookie Is Okay. We ... Might Be, Eventually. (Don't Try This At Home)
One Thing I Love About Winter: I See What They "See"
Give Your Dog What They Need, Get What You Want
Cookie, The First Of The Great Hunting Rottweilers
Distance Is a Relative Concept
Dog Communication: Be Good to Cookie or She'll Tell on You
The Benefit of the Doubt
Putting The Guilty Dog Look To Rest?
The Stench of Fear: Is There Good and Bad Timing for Vet Visits?
I am a Helicopter Dog Mom
Routines: Easy Come, Hard to Go
Things Always Change: Cookie's Hunting Adventures
The Advantage of Your Dog Not Barking All the Time: Cookie Saves Horses' Asses
"Look at That" (LAT) Game and Barking at Traffic