Located in Rudy, Arkansas
Serving Fort Smith, Van Buren, and surrounding areas


What is Threshold?

Threshold is a term used by trainers to describe the limit (be it space or intensity) to which we can expose our dog before he/she becomes too worried or distracted to be able to perform. 

When working with distractions or triggers we need to be sure to work our dog outside of his threshold. The threshold is the invisible “line” where your dog goes from merely aware of something to upset by it. Threshold is different for each dog.


If your dog is too close to something he/she finds distracting or upsetting it will cause stress hormones to enter the brain.  These hormones take several hours to go back down to normal, and while they are at their highest your dog will find it difficult, if not impossible, to work.  It is not that he/she is refusing to perform a behavior, he/she is incapable. 

When teaching basic behaviors, this means that we need to go very slowly and gradually introduce distractions.  Generally, going over threshold in this situation means our dog got excited, and we can usually recover and continue working.

When working on emotional responses to triggers, we will find that reaching threshold can make it impossible for our dog to work for the rest of the day.

How to determine your dog’s threshold:

Watch for signs of stress.  Some of these can be hard to spot, but others are more obvious.  Look for things like:

  • Panting when it’s not hot
  • Pacing or sniffing around
  • Furrowed brow
  • “Smile”
  • “Whale eye” – Whites of eyes showing when they don’t normally
  • Dilated pupils
  • Ears back
  • Yawning
  • Turning head away
  • Freezing
  • Body shifting away from trigger
  • Vocalization
  • Lunging toward trigger
In order to learn your dog should be set up to succeed.  This means avoiding things that cause stress hormones to be released.  Those hormones have one purpose:  to get us away from danger.  When we are in danger we don’t sit down to do calculus.  We run.  So if you see signs of stress in your dog when you are working please find a way to remove some of the stress so that  your dog can think clearly.

Below are some videos on dog body language.  They are not mine, but I think they are a great resource to anyone who wants to understand their dog better.