First off, what is thinking in arousal?
This is the ability to process information when arousal levels are high. Arousal = excitement, so essentially, can your dog think when they get excited? This is such an important skill to teach your dog. Why? In relation to recall, when your dog seems something that excites them, their arousal level increases and without the ability to think in arousal, their ability to do what you want decreases.
As with all life skills that we teach, we look at teaching THINKING IN AROUSAL as a concept which, when trained, built and proofed will transfer over to everyday life. Before you get started with the training games, you need to set your dog up for success. It’s not fair on your dog to jack them up to insane fever-pitch excitement levels to begin with. Get your dog excited at the level that they can cope with and build from there.
A THINKING IN AROUSAL game that we want to share with you all actually has an IMPULSE CONTROL element in it too!
Here’s how you play:
This is the first level of thinking in arousal training. Can your dog perform a behaviour when there’s food out on the ground?
- With your dog in a controlled position (sit/down/stand) walk out and place some food on the ground
- Ask your dog to perform a behaviour they know well
- If they perform that behaviour, release them onto the food
We can increase the complexity and your dog’s levels by:
- Using higher value food
- Increasing your dog’s excitement before asking for a behaviour by saying things like ‘are you ready!!’ ‘3-2-1!!’ ‘Do ya wanna da food!!’
- Rather than your dog being in a controlled position, restrain them by holding the front of their chest. Did you know that being restrained automatically increases arousal?! As you let them go, ask them to perform a behaviour!
This is just one game that you can play to teach your dog the art of thinking in arousal. Have fun teaching your dog this much needed skill, but always remember to work at your dog’s level. If they get to a point where their mind is blown and you are getting a whole lot of vocalisation and frustration, this can be counterproductive.
Arousal levels can be manipulated up and down
So if you need to decrease arousal to get success in your training session, that’s cool, just know that you need to build those layers of learning from the level you are seeing success. If you are in need of reducing your dog’s arousal levels, here are some things that you can do to help your dog:
- Calmly massage your dog to help them calm down
- Calmly scatter some food on the ground for your dog to seek out and eat
- Pop a leash on and calmly walk in a figure of 8