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Concepts 101

A dog's brain is made up of building blocks of skills, or what we call CONCEPTS. How competent dogs are at these different concepts influence the choices they make in everyday life. These concepts combine to make up your dog's individual unique personality. The great news is these concepts are dynamic, so we can mold and enhance your dog's personality by strengthening these concepts individually through games!


The concepts we work on are:


1. Arousal Up/Arousal Down: Your dog's arousal is up when they are "reacting" due to an increased state of excitement, frustration, fear or over stimulation. There are times when we want to increase our dog's excitement and speed - in games or during competitions, for example. However, it's important to pair "arousal-up" games with "arousal-down" games, so your dog learns to calm themselves quickly after having kicked into high gear. 


 2. Calmness: A calm dog is a good dog. Calm is where we want our dogs to spend most of their time, because many times, a lack of calmness is the root of behavior struggles. A dog that cannot be calm has a more difficult time regulating their emotions and thinking clearly. Calmness is King!


3. Confidence: Your dog's ability to handle new experiences in their world and recover quickly when startled. A confident dog will be less reactive to stimuli and more responsive to you.


4. Disengagement: Your dogs ability to break away from stimuli. Sometimes our dog's have a hard time disengaging from us (separation related behaviors) or the environment (other dogs, squirrels, cars, livestock, etc). Disengagement games are so powerful - they teach your dog that there is value in moving away from and/or ignoring environmental stimuli. 

5. Engagement: Your dog’s ability to remain focused on you no matter what is happening around you. They find joy in playing games with you and no squirrel, bird, sheep, or other dog is going to entice them away! This concept works best when combined with other concepts, such as Self Control and Disengagement

6. Flexibility: Your dog's ability to think on their feet, recover, and adapt to a change in their routine or environment.

7. Focus: Your dog's ability to stay committed to a task or you. This can be handler focus (focus on you) or forward focus (focus ahead while still able to listen to your instructions).

8. Grit: Your dog's ability to problem solve and work through really intense training without immediate reinforcement.

9. Independence: This is a multi-faceted concept. Can your dog work a distance away from you, sometimes in multilevel tasks, and still respond? Can your dog rest calmly by themselves, without having to be right next to you?

10. Novelty: New objects, sights, smells, sounds, environments. What a dog considers novel will vary from dog to dog, and even day to day with the same dog. It's important for your dog to respond to novelty by recovering quickly and moving on (disengaging). 

11. Optimism: Your dog's ability to approach every situation and expect the best outcome. 

12. Proximity: Your dog's value in hanging out close to you. Your dog should feel comfortable, confident, safe, and rewarded when in proximity to you.

13. Self Control: Your dogs ability to exhibit impulse control around resources and arousing stimuli (toys, food, passion rewards, distractions, you). 

14. Thinking in Arousal: Your dog's ability to think and respond in their highest state of arousal. 

15. Tolerance of Frustration: Your dog's ability to tolerate not having immediate access to something they value.

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