Thresholds: The Movie

Summer, a sable colored dog is lying down on a step with a toy in front of her. Her eyes are wide and her ears  very far back and in motion. She is reacting to a noise and looks extremely fearful. She is at the threshold of a fear response.

Summer at the instant she reaches threshold of fear

I have made a movie about thresholds in dog training. It gives a quick overview of the work that I presented in my webinar for the Pet Professional Guild. (Click here for a script of the movie; there is a lot of narrative for which I didn’t put text on screen.)

The threshold webinar is still available as a recording ($10 members/$20 non-members of PPG) and I encourage anyone who is interested in thresholds to view it.

Also, I have previously published a blog post on the topic: Thresholds in Dog Training: How Many?

If you are a visual learner, the movie will probably be helpful. I spend a lot of time explaining the diagrams, and have an animation of what happens to the thresholds as we train.  The movie also has video examples of dogs and stimuli over the thresholds. (Plus it has a threshold of hearing test! How cool is that?**)

Thanks for watching!

Coming Up:

  • BarkBusters: Myths about Barking
  • Surprising Progress on Thunderstorm phobia
  • Why Counterconditioning Didn’t “Work”  
  • How Skilled are You at Ignoring? (Extinction Part 2)
  • What if Respondent Learning Didn’t Work?

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

** For the auditory people, musicians, and nerds among us (I’m all three): I used an iPhone app to generate a high frequency sinusoid (15.5 kHz) and recorded it for the movie. I used an oscilloscope app to make sure that the sound was playing during that part of the movie, through my own computer anyway. It’s just below my threshold of hearing. Younger people can probably hear it, if their computer speakers can generate it.

About eileenanddogs

Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek. Eileen Anderson on Google+
This entry was posted in Behavior analysis, Classical conditioning, Desensitization and Counterconditioning, Dogs' perceptions, Escape/Avoidance, Negative Reinforcement, Stress Signals, Terminology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Thresholds: The Movie

  1. Pingback: Threshold Video

  2. Paul McGee says:

    Hi Eileen.
    I would certainly recommend your webinar on the subject to anyone interested in the topic of this video.
    I have tried for myself to distinguish between the word “aversive” as used in ordinary language .. and an “Aversive” in the technical sense of a stimulus that on removal will reinforce behaviour/s. Do you consider that these are the one and same thing?
    If they were not, would you have any comment on how separate they might be?
    Thanking you,
    Paul McGee

    • Thanks, Paul, for the kind words about the webinar.

      I think the term aversive is actually closer in technical and common usage meanings than a lot of other terms (like “punishment”). Paul Chance’s definition is “aversives [are] those things an organism strives to avoid; they are commonly described as painful, noxious, or unpleasant.” I think that’s pretty close to the common usage. Do you? I’ve seen some definitions that stipulated that they had to be things that the organism would “work” to avoid. (Not much different from “strive,” really.)

      I’ve been in a discussion lately about whether negative punishment can technically said to include an aversive. (Would love to hear from a behavior analyst here about how the terminology is usually handled.) In the book, “Operant Behavior: Areas of Research and Application” by Konig, in the section on punishment by Azrin and Holz, they use the expression “aversive properties” in such a way that it might apply to negative punishment. I’m still reading about that.

      Good question! I hope my speculations were helpful.

      • Robin J. says: has a simple and useful definition of “aversive” in their glossary:

        “Any circumstance or event that causes pain, fear, or emotional discomfort.”

        Note that just as the dog decides the value of a reward, the dog decides the degree of an aversive. Some dogs don’t like to be petted by strangers–others love it. The same action is a reward for one learner and an aversive for another.

      • Robin J. says:

        BTW, Skinner defined both positive and negative punishment as having aversive effects. For a 21st century look at these issues, Dr. Murray Sidman’s COERCION AND ITS FALLOUT is well worth reading. Kathy Sdao highly recommends Sidman’s book, and says it caused her to think very differently about both negative punishment and negative reinforcement.

        Another behavioural psychologist I know says it’s simple: does the learner look forward to repeating the learning experience? If not, it includes an aversive.

        • Agree about Dr. Sidman’s book. Thanks for mentioning it! I like anything that lets me identify the hidden coercion in my life with my dogs. I think, given the power differential, it may always be there to some extent, but identifying it allows me to clean out some of the unconscious ways it can creep in.

  3. fearfuldogs says:

    Thanks for putting this together. With fear and aggression the smaller the margin for error we allow, the more at risk we become for getting it wrong, the more likely we are to have an unwanted response. The diagram is very helpful to me. I often think of dogs as being on the top of a cliff and and some techniques have us working closer to the edge. I may have no way to know with any certainty what skills a particular dog and handler have (online chats or phone consults), so it’s safer to work further away from the edge. Some of them are working without a net and don’t even realize the risks they’re taking with their dog. Every rehearsal of an unwanted behavior, is a rehearsal of an unwanted behavior and we know dogs get better at something with practice, even if we’d rather they stopped doing it altogether. I’ll be sharing this.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie. That is a great metaphor about the cliff. I’m linking to your website here for the benefit of people who may have happened on the blog because they have a fearful and/or aggressive dog. Folks, Debbie is well known for working with such dogs and is very generous with information on her website, and you can contact her there, too: .

  4. Pingback: How Did The Aversive Get There? A Call for Honesty | eileenanddogs

  5. That is such an excellent movie. You made everything so clear. I am trying to figure out how to explain this stuff to people (people I am helping to train themselves; no dogs involved), so it helps me to have a handle on the terminology as I decide what to explain and use with them and what is probably not useful for their layperson understanding. Thank you!

  6. Pingback: How Did The Aversive Get There? A Call for Honesty | PPG Podcasts, Blog & News Updates

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