Pawsitive Vybe S2E3 – Crossing the Threshold

The Threshold concept defines many important behaviors: On and Off, In and Out and is important to establishing a sense of place in dogs. Combined with Attention and Targeting, moving dogs from place to place or on and off objects becomes a piece of cake.

Surf by Segment:

0:52 – Building a Sequence with Sasha
3:18 – Show Intro
4:27Threshold with Hops
5:41 – Common Thresholds
7:50 – Setting the Tone with Harry
11:32 – Sponsor Message: FitPaws
12:25 – Show Backer Shoutout
13:42Disc Management Jam with Kiva
16:39 – STARR and the Car
17:44 – Deju Vu at the Door
18:57 – Try This – Generalize Thresholds
20:30 – A Dose of Classical Conditioning
21:32 – Finding Thresholds
23:04 – Closing Cuts & Credits

Leveraging Concepts

Now, you might think all of this is overkill,”Like why would I ever need to know this stuff let alone teach my dog about it?”

Well, thresholds are common occurrences in daily dog life. Odds are you have 10 of them, at least, in your house, with three or four of these evil thresholds negatively impacting your sanity and sense of being.

Crates, doorways, hallways, stairwells, front door, porch, out of the kitchen. Between the couch and chair? Thresholds are in effect whether you want them to be or not. Mastery of the Threshold makes for the one of the coolest dogs of all: a dog who knows where to be.

Where He Drones On and On About Context vs Concept…

No, I won’t do it.

Here’s the skinny… Performance is not Understanding.
These Threshold behaviors are normally taught in context. The front door, the door to the bathroom and the door to the playing field, those are the most common thresholds. Handlers get this performance and then call it a day with the training. But the dog doesn’t have a full picture of the Threshold as a concept and the dog cannot leverage it outside of the context of that situation – front door… bathroom door… playing field. So when they encounter a novel Threshold they have no idea what to do.

But if instead of focusing on getting out the door, if you work on teaching the dog how to navigate the Threshold and generalize it a bit you can tease out that concept and put it to use elsewhere to solve problems and look, and feel, cool.

In or Out? On or Off? It’s a Threshold

If you are going to get up on something, at some point in time, you go from Off to On. Same thing with In and Out. The moment you go from off to on is the Threshold and somewhere, somehow, with some part of the body, it gets crossed. Those are our criteria for shaping btw: look at, approach,head over, 1 foot on/in, 2 foot, 3 foot 4… it’s a pretty standard progression.

But there is a whole level of awareness, spatial and situational, that you can get by paying a little bit more attention to the Threshold as a concept and giving it some proper exercise.

In and Out and On and Off become extremely simple operations and efficient operations, especially when attached to Attention and Targeting. It’s almost like your dogs start to handle themselves.

The Threshold concept defines many important behaviors: On and Off, In and Out and is important to establishing a sense of place in dogs.

Doorways are Destinations, Not Staging Areas

Common understanding of doorways and dogs is that of a Staging Area. The front door is the Exit and it leads to everywhere else, the end. Many common Thresholds are very highly charged and the charge is always related to what’s next? We like to reframe the understanding: Doorways are Destinations

By putting value on both sides of the door, focusing on Attention and the crossing of the Threshold, the entire nature of the door changes. The door is no longer a Staging Area to go outside, the door becomes a Destination in and of itself. A destination at which I stop and look at my handler and wait for his cue.

Don’t be stingy here. Thresholds should be valuable on both sides. And the more reps the better. It is pretty cool if your dog hops out of the car on cue and whips around to give you eye contact, right?

Generalize, Generalize, Generalize

Of course the doors in and out of your home need to be worked, and on and off the furniture once in a while, surely count for something, but you really want to generalize and work the skill so you can stretch that Threshold concept out and give your dog a very deep and nuanced understanding of place in the environment… and a desire to hang out there.

Once you’re exposed to the Threshold concept, you can’t help but be impacted by it in terms of your training. It’s critical to teaching so many skills. A little bit of focus on this concept while working on skills like jumping on a table, go to a mat and lie down, or go slow down the steps – just a little bit of focus can do wonders for performance.

Making Decisions All day is Hard Work

Resist the urge to start cuing the behavior. You want the dog to see these situations and decide to offer Attention. Attention, the base level of communication becomes the go to behavior when the dog sees a situation or opportunity. Because you have generalized the behavior so well, gates, doors, hallways, spot, etc. everything is a potential situation and there’s definitely opportunity…

Let your dog have the responsibility for making these decisions. Make that part of your dog’s job. Play games with this Threshold or that one, keep it fresh and random. It will tire him out, I promise. Every day Fact of Dog kind of things:

  • going outside
  • greeting people
  • kenneling up
  • waiting your turn
  • leave me alone – I’m cookin’

These common situations provide a ton of repetitions for training to stick, and provide plenty of stimulation, exercise even, if the handler just lets the dog make these decisions on a daily basis.

Discussion in Comments Below

I’ll do my best to answer any and all questions on the show, the Threshold concept, Attention/Dismissal or Targeting in the comments below. Don’t be shy, the only silly questions are the ones not asked.

Pawsitive Vybe S2E3 - Crossing the Threshold