If you struggle with an anxious or stressed out dog, chances are you have heard of and maybe tried below threshold training. My questions are …
Are you a below threshold pro?
Are you able to predict what sets your dog’s anxiety off and when it’s going to happen every time?
My guess is that you aren’t a pro, nor are you able to consistently tell when your dog is going to have a meltdown. There are too many spiders involved (explained below).
Staying below threshold is HARD!
Constantly monitoring your dog via video.
Constantly having to be available to walk back in if it looks like your dog is going to lose his cool. How do you do this if you have to go to work and have NO support?
Constantly trying to foresee ANYTHING that might trigger your dog.
Often it’s 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
Sometimes you succeed, only to relapse a day, week, or maybe you make it to a month later.
Few have continued success.
Those who do succeed usually have put rules in place.
Rules are like keys. They unlock a calmer dog.
Why is staying below threshold so hard?
When I lived in Kansas there were times of the year when spiders covered our country roads in webs.
If you aren’t afraid of spiders, I want you to imagine you are.
Your friend invites you to go for a walk down a country road, not knowing it’s spider season.
You are unaware of spider season and agree to go for a country walk on a beautiful, sunny morning (this happens to be when there are the most webs).
You both start your walk and, about a 1/4 of the way into your walk, you start running into spider webs.
This immediately freaks you out! You scream, cry, maybe even wet yourself (sound familiar?), and run back to the starting point of the walk, vowing to NEVER go on that walk again.
Then, maybe a few weeks later, your friend invites you to try the walk again. Your friend explains that spider season is over. Your friend has also checked the road and has found it to be clear of webs.
You hesitate and, very reluctantly, agree to try it again.
When you get there, the road does indeed look very clear.
You start off on what you hope will be a wonderful walk filled with friendship, but, about 1/2 way in … WHAM! You walk into an unseen web.
You freak out and run back to the start of the walk. You tell your friend, in no uncertain terms, you will not ever trust this walk again. Don’t even try to tell me it’s clear. I can not trust that the spiders won’t be there. I couldn’t even see that one!
But your friend does try again a few weeks later.
You immediately feel the panic rise from deep within. Nope, no, no way are you ever taking that walk again. You offer to try another walk in a well-populated area (a new rule, or key) so it is unlikely you will walk into any webs.
This is how constant exposure to something that causes so much stress can backfire. Even if you have made headway, that unseen web can set you right back to the beginning, or worse.
It’s very hard to predict spiders, or even see them until you run into them unexpectedly.
So am I telling you not to try below threshold training?
No. If you can be on top of the situation at all times, if you’ve got it nailed, go for it.
But, for most of us, we need a little help with those unpredictable spiders.
This is where house rules come in.
Just like a toddler needs rules in order to feel safe, calm, and happy, so does your dog.
Rules are like the keys to calming your dog’s mind.
Live, Love, Bark,