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How to Master Thresholds

By Jason Wright

May 16, 2023

Dogs are naturally impulsive creatures, often acting on their instincts without considering the consequences. While this may be "cute" or engaging to watch when your dog is a new puppy, without training your dog to control their impulses and follow your commands, this habit can become incredibly dangerous, especially as they get older.

To help your pet control their urges, such as running through open doors, you must work with them early on to teach them thresholds. This will not only allow you to set sound boundaries with your pet, ensuring their safety, but it will prevent them from establishing poor behavioural habits that can cause many issues.  

The following tactics and techniques will help you to teach your pet threshold commands, allowing you and your pet to establish boundaries and develop a happy and healthy relationship. 

What Are Thresholds

Thresholds are essential for every dog to learn, given the benefits they provide and the boundaries they set, preventing your pet from developing unwanted behaviours. As we've mentioned, dogs are typically impulsive creatures. To manage these impulses, thresholds teach your dog to notice an impulse, such as a dog or an open door, etc. but not be triggered by it, preventing them from reacting. 

To put it simply, thresholds are cues that can be used to teach your dog when to stop doing something or move on to the next task. They are especially important for managing your dog's behaviour in high-stress situations.

In high-stress situations or when your dog is easily triggered, we recommend teaching your pet to remain in a sit command by your side until the trigger passes or until you tell your pet otherwise. By teaching your dog to understand and wait at thresholds, you'll be able to notice the following benefits:

  1. Manage Impulses: The most important aspect of teaching your dog thresholds is that they teach your dog impulse control. With this, your dog can learn to control their impulses and learn patience even when they're excited or distracted.
  1. Prevent Unwanted Behaviour: Another important benefit of thresholds is that they help prevent unwanted behaviours. For example, if your dog tends to jump up on visitors, teaching them thresholds can help prevent this behaviour. By setting clear boundaries and expectations, you can help your dog understand what is and isn't acceptable in various situations. This will help prevent any accidents from occurring, especially as your puppy grows and gets bigger.
  1. Provide Boundaries for Your Pet: Thresholds can provide clear guidance in various situations. Whether you're visiting a friend's house, having family over, or going for a walk, your pet will clearly understand how to act and behave no matter the setting or environment.

How to Teach Your Pet Thresholds

It is important to note that teaching your pet thresholds can be a lengthy process requiring much patience. However, once complete and your pet understands patience around doorways, you can rest assured knowing that your dog will be much easier to manage. This will help to keep them safe and prevent any unwanted accidents from occurring.

If you are ready to teach your pet thresholds, which we recommend starting at a young age, here are some tips and techniques to help make the training process effective:

  1. Use a Balanced Approach to Training: Operant conditioning and balanced dog training are the methodologies we utilize at iTK9. Both methods incorporate a mix of rewards and consequences in your dog's training to help reinforce its boundaries and thresholds. With balanced dog training, the focus is simple; show your dog that certain behaviours can have positive or negative reactions. When a threshold command is completed, praise can be given to encourage your pet. However, if poor behaviour occurs, initiating corrections is necessary so your dog can understand that these actions are unacceptable.
  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Threshold commands are about setting clear boundaries for your dog. This means establishing rules and limits for what your dog can and cannot do and consistently enforcing those rules. For example, if you don't want your dog to jump up on visitors, you must establish that boundary and enforce it every time.
  1. Practice in Different Environments: Dogs don't generalize well, so they may not understand that the same rules apply in different environments. To ensure that your dog responds to your threshold commands in any situation, it's important to practice in different environments. Start in a low-stress environment, such as your home, and gradually work up to more challenging environments, such as busy streets or crowded parks where bicyclists, joggers and other dogs are present.
  1. Use a Consistent Tone of Voice: Dogs respond best to a consistent tone of voice. Use a firm but calm voice when giving your threshold commands, and avoid yelling or getting angry. Your dog will pick up on your emotional state, so staying calm and focused is important when working with them.
  1. Use a Visual Cue: In addition to using a consistent tone of voice, it's also helpful to use a visual cue to signal to your dog that you're giving a threshold command. This could be a hand gesture or a specific body position. The visual cue should be consistent and easy for your dog to recognize.
  1. Be Patient and Persistent: As we mentioned, training thresholds takes time and patience. Don't expect your dog to learn everything overnight. Instead, be patient and persistent in your training, and reward your dog for every step in the right direction. Consistency is key, so ensure you're training regularly and always sticking to the same rules and boundaries.
  1. Add a Consequence For Breaking the Threshold. Once the dog understands how to wait at doorways, it will now be held accountable to be patient. If the dog breaks the threshold, the handler should apply a firm correction through the leash

The iTK9 Way; Teaching Your Pet Threshold Commands and Boundaries

If your pet fails to follow thresholds or listen to set boundaries, it can cause a frustrating situation that can be dangerous to you, your pet and other people and dogs you encounter.

If you're struggling to work with your pet or unsure where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning safely and effectively. 

We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.

Included in all of our programs are the following;

  1. In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
  2. Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
  3. Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.

Contact us today for more information on our programs, including Board & Train.

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