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Arousal and the All-Important “Threshold”

May 7

6:00 pm PT

This talk is eligible for CEUs from: CCPDT, IAABC, KPA


When we refer to a dog going “over threshold,” we are referring to the point at which the dog transitions from high arousal, into a state where the thinking part of the brain is dulled, and the dog’s behavior becomes driven almost exclusively by instinct and emotion.

One of the features of going “over threshold” is that the dog will lose the ability to follow the owner’s cues. It is important to recognize that the dog is not choosing to ignore you when this happens, it is simply impossible for the dog to respond to your cues in this state.

Hyper-arousal itself is not a bad thing, it is a necessary and normal response to a life-threatening situation. In our domestic dogs however, we often see ineffective habituation, as well as anxiety and perception issues, leading to exaggerated responses to non-life-threatening stimuli. We also see non-fear-based emotions, such as frustration and excitement leading to this same state.

Repeatedly reaching a hyper-aroused state in response to non-life-threatening stimuli is unhealthy. It also poses a potential safety risk to other dogs and/or people. This is because one of the primary issues with a dog entering a hyper-aroused state is the risk for tipping into aggression or provoking aggressive behaviors in another dog.

In this presentation we discuss stressors, arousal, and what it really means to go “over threshold.” We also discuss training and management strategies for dogs with arousal issues.

Presented By:

Sharon Carroll, MAnSc, CDBC, CHBC, CPDT-KA

Sharon (she/her) has been a professional animal trainer for 30 years. She has been both a presenter and trainer in a range of animal shows and currently operates a dog training and behavior consulting business based in Newcastle, Australia. Sharon started competing with dogs over 30 years ago. She then made the change from competing with dogs to competing with horses.

For the next few decades Sharon had a successful career riding and coaching through to the highest levels in eventing and dressage (Grand Prix). During this time Sharon continued to train not just horses, but also dogs and a variety of other species. In 2018 she made the transition back to competing with dogs. She has since titled several dogs and achieved multiple wins and best in trial performances.

Intent on really understanding animals better, Sharon completed a Bachelor of Applied Science, a graduate diploma (Captive Vertebrate Management – wildlife and exotics), and a Master of Animal Science. Sharon is currently completing a PhD in veterinary pharmacology. Sharon is a Certified Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) in both dogs (CDBC) and horses (CHBC) and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Sharon guest lectures to post-graduate veterinarians and behaviorists at several universities and organizations on the topics of animal behavior, training, species-specific cognition, welfare, and psychological trauma in animals.

Currently, Sharon’s primary focus is working with dogs displaying significant aggression (dog-to-human and dog-to-dog), and also in cases where the animal is performing a range of other behaviors associated with fear or anxiety. In all cases, Sharon’s primary aim is to help humans understand the underlying cause for their dogs’ behavior, and to use both management and behavior-modifying training to achieve a better outcome for dogs and their human families.