This Vlog post is a particularly important one if you live with a dog. If you are struggling with a behaviour that you’d like to change, then you will want to know about your dog’s state, and how that state affects the behaviour you want to change. Even if you don’t have a challenge, it’s important to know as your dog’s state is critical no matter what you and your dog do together.
The 8 stages of the circle of fun I share in the video below explain what your dog’s state could be at any time, and the best state for your dog to be in to learn. Think back to school… did you have subjects you loved and subjects you liked the least? Chances are the subjects you loved are the ones you had the most fun learning. It’s the same for our dogs.
I created the Fun-O-Meter you will see in the video for a chat in our Free Dog Training Workshops Facebook Group. Let me know in the comments what you think and how it affects your dog.
To recap what we covered in the video chat, the 8 stages on the Fun-O-Meter are…
- Afraid: When a dog is fearful he can’t learn. The same is true for us.
- Anxious: When our dogs are anxious they are not comfortable, and they can quickly move to being afraid.
- No Fun: If something in life is “just no fun” for your dog, he is not in the optimal state to learn or engage with you or be comfortable in his own skin. A dog can shift from “no fun” into being anxious and also destructive. “No fun” can also move up to the next stage of being comfortable.
- Comfortable: When your dog is comfortable he is “chill”. He can be left alone, he is not going to be anxious as he is relaxed, and he has enrichment in his life. He can move into being interested in learning from this state.
- Interested: In this state, your dog is interested in what is happening and can quickly move to being excited to engage and learn.
- Excited: When your dog is excited he wants to learn. It’s easy to learn when you are actively engaged. In this state, your dog is working with you and having fun.
- Wired: This is a step beyond excited, your dog is heading to the edge and can move to red lining quickly.
- Red Lining: If your dog is red lining he has tripped over the edge. He can no longer hear you, he can no longer notice things that are around him. He can not learn.
In day to day life we want our dogs to be comfortable and readily move on to interested and excited when we are engaging with them and training… if you do dog sports you will likely be looking to your dog being wired without going over the edge to red line. We want to minimise the fear, anxiety and no fun zone. In daily life, we want to aim for our dogs being in the comfortable state.
Always be aware of your dog’s state to help your dog learn, have fun, and be comfortable in his own skin. Remember, if you own a dog, you are a dog trainer, and being aware of the eight states is going to make you a good trainer for your dog and help the both of you in your life together. By using choice, reinforcement and games in your training, you can take a dog from a state of being anxious or having no fun to being comfortable and excited when you want very, very fast. You can learn more about choice in dog training here on my blog.
Everybody who owns a dog will benefit by knowing the circle of fun, what state their dog is in, and how it’s impacting the life they have in the home and in training, so if you have friends with dogs share this Vlog post with them.
Today I am grateful for everyone who wants their dog to be comfortable in his own skin and excited to learn.
Hi Susan, very instructive this circle. I work my field trial lab, Splinter, 5 years old now, in contests and on game shooting days. Both get him very excited/wired. dummy launchers and guns get him on the edge of/into the red zone. I would like to learn more how to get him to “come back to me” without having to nag….I want him to deal with this pressure/excitement, instead of removing him from these situations…..
Hi May, visit our website http://www.dogsthat.com we have a classroom you may enjoy called Recallers. We have many field bred dogs in our classrooms! You might also like Susan’s classroom / DVD called Crate Games. The ultimate in ‘self control’ for high drive dogs. Lynda (once owned by a field bred Golden!)
Hi Many thanks for yet another interesting insight to our dogs and how we can help them live a better life. I love working with my cockapoo. It might take him a while to learn me even more so haha
I am planning on taking him to agility classes, as would love to get into this type of sport. I would also like to get into dog training as a job, long story as to why, so now looking for courses.
Am part of Wag Nation, Home school the Dog, you are an amazing lady, we have learnt and are still learning loads from you.
Sue and Henry
Is there a way to save this Vlog or print it off? I’m not very computer savvy!!
I forwarded it to my email and will print off
Amber switches from each one to another, depending on where, what, etc is going on.
Thank you. I learn something new every time I listen to you. I am working slowly through your Homeschool program and we (my puppy and I) both are enjoying it. You are helping make him the best dog possible. Thank you.
Thank You so very much Susan!!!!!!!!!!! I love all of your information. It is so very helpful. My dog, Night greatly appreciates all of your help as well. I get overwhelmed because you give so much. I do try my best to apply everything and keep learning. Recently I made changes to my training that I didn’t like. Luckily for myself and my dog, your Home School The Dog Program came along as well as some other wonderful podcasts that helped me by offering natural training techniques that I am comfortable with. I instantly made changes and started adding a lot more play to our sessions, randomly telling my dog how wonderful he is as he lives most of his life in a calm, comfortable, quiet state around the house. I have added controlling the reward instead of the dog. He is much more engaged and excited about training and practice. We are both so much more happy. Thank You so very much!!! 🙂
I love this video! And it is certainly interesting and informative…wow! I can see these states in my own dog, Haggis. What struck me the most , BFO ( Brilliant Flash of the Obvious) was this was a description if ME!!! I saw it immediately. One of the things I did was have my Humanality Test done along with my horses’ Horsenality I am a RT. Brain Extrovert. My body was shouting at my horse and I did not even know it. So…here it is again. What I do with my whole body is affecting my little guy. After watching this I have tried to be very aware to tone it down and not get so excited that I get carried away right into the wired zone.
Thanks for this super video. I was an eye opener! Kathy
I have two dogs and two different zones. My oldest Orion JRT is a wired easily to cross red line dog and the other Elaeira also JRT is an anxious no fun sometimes dog I really need a lot of effort in discovering ways to bring fun. The funny thing (cause they are two in agility) is that the girl is more focused and way good, rather than the boy which not listening
I have JRT’s too. George is always between excited and red line. Very reactive. I’ve been working with him in various classes, on socialization and impulse control. He’s doing better, but still has a ways to go. On the flip side, he’s a great performance dog. He dock dives, we work with the local city government doing rat control and we attend JRT trials. My other JRTs are more focused and are interested and excited, but manageable.
I joined recallers last week and I’m loving it.
I’m new to you, looking to get more instructions for me to better train my 8 month old lab. Thanks for the stages circle, lots of good information here. Excited, to try your training.
I have 2 dogs, a lab and an aussie. The lab has bee in agility for 5 years and gets somewhat interested, but often is side tract by her nose. The aussie certainly has fun but gets too far into the wired zone too often. I think I might be able to recognize(sooner) how to bring him back now. he said hopefully.
This is incredibly helpful. My 18 month old Toller is the sweetest dog (to humans). He has gotten into serious fights with our other dog and we must keep them 100% apart. He gets along with most other dogs but is reactive and fearful with some. He gets anxious/fearful which then flips to redlining and posturing for a fight.
This really helps me understand what’s going on and gives me so much hope that I can significantly shrink his fear/anxiety which will reduce his reactivity and unpredictability with other dogs. Overall this will make his life better and our lives as well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Amazing, I’ve just joined Recallers today and I can see I am going to have so much fun learning from you.
This is exactly what I needed! My younger agility dog is 1 yrs old now and is doing so well. He was learning so quickly and doing so well at all his obedience classes then suddenly at 9-10 months old he hit that fear stage and has not come out of it. It started in one of the obedience classes and was just scared of every noise possible, then men, then people in general. I couldn’t start competing with him in rally like my other dog due to the fear of the judge in the ring and other people around. His first agility class was great because that was before the fear and he was moving up so quickly in classes because he did so well. The fear started and he could hardly be in the ring and focus at 10-11 months. He would freeze and shake. We continued classes and continued to practice on our own. He has come around in the last month and getting ready to move up to intermediate. He loves to be in the ring and has fun but is still not all the way comfortable or as excited as he could be. He still will bark and get scared at people in our class, though he has seen most people since he was a puppy. He hates going inside stores…that is his worst fear. I been taking him and trying to reinforce good behaviors at the stores and to just listen and watch with a very very slight improvement. Now he is starting to lunge at other dogs in class. So anyways. This video and article were great. I am excited to see what else I can do to overcome this stage.
Wow, Susan, I loved this video! It helped me so much in how I look at what has happened with my poodle girl, PIA. 1 1/2 yrs ago PIA started not wanting to even enter the ring for her Obedience or Rally classes. She would crouch down, tuck her tail and I could see it was growing more & more severe. I wound up having to take her out of everything except tricks. She is now back to happily showing (tail up, no crouching, and we are going to start back in classes. But, as a trainer who had no experience with any of this I finally am aware that only I know my dog…when instructors would tell me, oh she’s being stubborn, lazy, etc. I allowed myself to follow their “more knowledgeable direction” and ignored what I knew my pup could tolerate…& with that caused a anxious/fearfu/absolutely no fun time for her. Thank you for sharing this! Will be looking for more of your info!
Brilliant, Susan! Love your message 🙂 Eager to work on recalling, after we understand her state of mind.
This was a great video. I have a 3 Y/O Irish Setter. She was just retired from the show ring. I don’t think she was mistreated, but she has a lot of anxiety. We have only had her two months. She is doing great and settling in. My concern is that we have an upcoming two week trip that was booked a year ago, A neighbor is going to stay at our house with her. My concern is how not to increase her anxiety while we are gone. Anything I can do to reassure her?
Hi Sue, your method of presenting/ training is just like some of my old school teachers, by making your subject matter really interesting by your infectious delivery you give over.
Only wish I could afford to go onto your Recallers course, but I will look out for any of your fantastic dog training mater.
Love your mythology and will try to encompass what you teach. Thanks.
I read this blog when it first came out and it gave me pause for thought as my BC loves excitement but there were things I asked of her which she would do because she is a ‘Good Dog’ but not with any enjoyment. I have changed my ways and lead up to an activity with some other activity (notably tugging) or a verbal which promises her that there is going to be a fun outcome (‘Are you ready?’) Now, we have our Circle of Fun 😃. We could not be happier!
working hard on stays in front of a flirt pole and treat and train expelling treats
Thanks, Susan It is a very interesting video and I will definitely use it and make sure I work with my dogs.
Susan you are a fantastic presenter. You explain things in a way anyone can understand regardless of their dog training experience. THANK YOU for providing not only great agility training information, but really valuable information about how dogs think and how to train a dog and making this available to the public at large. Educating people about dog behavior and training makes the world a much kinder place for dogs. Too often peple are unkind and unfair to their dogs without understanding that they are being so.
Oh my goodness. I’m thrilled to have this broken down and explained in great detail. You have clearly identified issues I’m having with my 4 year old border collie, just by virtue of explanation. Now — where can I search to find the solution? We go from comfortable at home, to Yay — I’m getting to go (in the car to train) to heck ya when we get to the facility — to I wanna run to — OH MY GOSH THERE ARE OTHER DOGS RUNNING [huge redline] in a matter of seconds. Here is the issue i’m seeing in the ring [keep in mind we are in foundations]:
Reinforcement: Getting to run ring time.
Response: Excessive arousal / barking / whining / lunging (crazed) / glassy eyed.
Trigger: Audible / visual triggers made by other people dogs / running ring time.
Which program can help me address this issue?
Having tried to use my cell phone and getting completely discouraged. I finally got on my desktop computer and started over. This is so much easier when I can see, hear and printout from Susan’s Vlog. Starting over with the Fun-O-Meter I have a foundation to build upon that makes the beginning steps very understandable. The CHOICE, REINFORCEMENT and GAMES with benign acts of closing hand and turning back opened the door of understanding for me. WHY, WHERE and WHEN is what I needed to progress. Thank You for making it available for beginners to go back to and learn from. Much appreciated.
Very interesting and fascinating. Another tool to use on my JRT who came to me at 9mths. (she is now 7yrs) As a puppy, she hadn’t been socialised, house trained and had no basic training. She had also been roughly handled. She was very sensitive to being touched and it took 18mths for her to accept being stroked. She still wont let me pick her up or do health checks. She is insecure when out on walks, walking behind me sticking like glue. I did gradually introduce her to other dogs, so she is ok with the dogs she knows but panics when they come running up to her. In the house she is a different dog, very vocal and is on the go all day even when I am sitting quietly. Nobody can drive or walk past the house. Always wanting attention, follows me around. She gets very over excited when I get visitors.
She does settle in the evening once I sit down. I do agility with her and is a cracking little dog. She does have a short concentration span
Her problems are quite deep seated. The more I look at the “Stages of Fun” the more it makes sense. Thank you
Really liked this! Kinda hit home! I have a dog who can go from excited to red line in certain situations! Like on outside recall. Hangs with us for awhile then runs like crazy & doesnot listen! I realize I need to be more exciting! What was the face book site again? Want to get to that! Thanks a lot Cathy&Sadie( the fog)
Hi Cathy, here’s the FB group:
My 10 month old sheltie gets in the red zone or close to it for a few seconds when he doesn’t get a second treat. It is like watching a 2 year old child have a tantrum. Looking for solutions.
Hi, I’m really interested to learn why a dog cannot be bored?
I love love love watching your videos.
I am totally in my weird zone when you do same because they are fun and your acting parts are just so funny.
Concerning toys, I have my challenges with my 8 year old Podengo. She was a rescue and had a stroke when I got her. She is much much better but still wobbeling on her back legs and not trusting them most of the time (only when she is free in the countryside and is in the red lining zone and not coming back for 5 hours. She is not a play dog as she never learned that. She is such a beautiful loving dog and trust me a lot and loves people. My only thing is that she is running of when I leave her of the lead and I was at dog training which she loved but had to stop it because she loves it so much and is so much excited that you cannot see that it is too much for her and then she is in pain
lots of love from spain
more and more success for you
good to have you in the dog training circle
Thanks Susan It is a very interesting video and I will definitely use it and make sure I work with my dogs as soon as they are in their exited zone.
Hello Susan! I joined recoilers a few months ago. I love the games. Working through them and having great fun with my border collie. I am a veterinarian and this wheel of fun is very interesting, definitely explains a lot to me. Thank you so much.
I just watched your video. It’s definitely explained what’s going on with my Border Collie when he is waiting his turn in a sport……Red Lining!
Susan just watched this video, so pleased I came across it, just coming to the end of my first year in recallers, everything you say is so true and this way of explaining it in the circle makes it clear what we all struggle to deal with or not. At times I think one of my dogs doesn’t look happy, have been thinking that lately and now I can see I have work to do to put that right. Thank you.
Great video Susan. Thank you
My cooper is on the red line as soon as the agility starts he is such a good boy till then
Excellent systematic way of thinking about dog states
i have a dog that i took on as the 4th owner, hes brilliant, but not bonded to anyone. borderX lab hes now 4 and i felt i could earn his trust. ehen hes good, hes very very good and when hes bad he is horrid. as a highly experienced dog owner, ive met my match. he has the trait “willful” were wired is. or in addition to wired. he has zero fear. and his wired DOES move to aggression, in that he will growl even at me. im wondering if a clean slate is needed, training w yet ANOTHER neutral human? how does susan feel about this? i cant be sure what exactly what happened to him before, but first owners let him rule the roost and 2nd owners beat him. i started imed w susans its yer choice, bc he is so brilliant. theres leash aggression which got him thrown out of 2 obed classes prev to me. i love this chart, but can an adult dog move his pie slices w such baggage?
Hi KM, Susan’s Vlog “Dog Body Language, Fear and Aggression” is an excellent resource to help.
I use Susan’s fun circle to work with fear-aggressive dogs and kids with high anxiety/anger/fear… For dogs I use the Snufflemat for comfort to interest using the nose and replacing displacement sniffing with search/find it as a reward for working on learning to rest and watch. For kiddos, I work to find their comfort spaces and interests to move around the circle. It is lovely.
Brilliant – so enjoy following you, Susan
I have a Chihuahua that I can’t get interested or excited.
Great video. Without knowing the states and how they effect learning, I experienced last week exactly what your video taught me. I training my dog in an agility/obedience session. My dog was in a comfortable/no fun mode and sniffing at the grass was better than jumping onto an unstable plank. I pulled out the rope toy and engaged in about 30 seconds of tugging and he became interested and excited in this short time. The rest of the session he was there to learn!
Oh this helped me soooooo much when I watched it on your recallers mini series. It helped me to understand why it is so important that I get my dog excited before I train. And it also opened my eyes to see exactly why I want my dog to be comfortable and how. Thank you!
Thank you.,so much Susan for all you have done in home schooling the dog. I wish I had known about this with our rescue dog. Who was red lining most of her life when out walking. . She as died now but we had her for about 12 years. Our new dog is a puppy. And is comfortable and interesting. And so I have learnt a lot in this year especially since joining you. I’d have loved to do recallers but I really can’t afford it. Thank you for all you do. And all I’ve learnt you are a very good teacher. I don’t do agility with my dog. he loves walking in the woods though and is a happy Sprocer. Called Dexter. All the best in your life.
Love the Fun-O-Meter!
My Perry was a rescue (rescued Am Eskimo = Reskie!)- when we got him he was approx 1 year old (although at the time I didn’t believe that- I thought people were fudging on his age to encourage adoption) & he had been with a foster home for 3 months before that, & had been 1 month with the person who found him wandering & lost in the streets of Santa Ana (the finder kept him 1 month trying to locate the original owner; then turned him over to Heart Bandits=Eskie rescue group). So he was only about 6-7 months when he was lost/dumped/ran away 😥
When we got him he growled all the time, but I believed the foster dad, who said it was just Perrys way of purring! (Since both my cats had passed on, I readily believed this!)
Now, 2 years later, he still growls a lot! Sometimes it is in play, & sometimes it really is a kind of purr, but sometimes (if he is reacting to other dogs/people) it is a warning.
Your circle of fun will help me assess where he is- thank you!! That makes me happy😁
(Thinking about him being lost makes me sad 😥.)
Thinking about all that I missed by missing his puppyhood makes me very sad 😢😢 and sometimes angry ☹️ that I missed all the cuteness & “the opportunity to bond with him” (I bonded with both my cats when they were young, & had no trouble training them! They had excellent recall, which was why I let them go outside!)
Perry’s comfort zone has definitely increased, as he now lets me brush him, & clean his eyes (he gets tear stains), which were no-no’s when we first got him. I am still afraid to try clipping his nails- he doesn’t much like his feet touched. Now I can work on making that more comfortable for him- because I really hope to make him an agility dog!!!
sleeping at my feet while I’m on the computer
Also, redline can be very dangerous because a “wired” state can lead to aggression. Two dogs (or humans!) playing can turn into a fight if the excitement gets too high. And agility dogs may bite their handlers when too aroused.
Not so easy to change their own behavior. Recaller way is amazingly. Apply to learn it first. Have still hoped to succed.
Thanks for a great video and FB page. I am also a part of your recallers program.
I hope you can help me with some advise. My challengerne is that my dog seems to get very quickly wired (and maybe red lining) and start barking during training. At this point my dog is not listening to me or start doing stuff on her own, that can be everything from trying another trick that she knows to start sniffing the ground or just barking into the ground and not listening to me. Some times my dog just barks during training, but I don’t want that because it is excalating and don’t stop. She will bark during a simple thing as being sent around a pole or going over a jump. Stpping the session or ignoring dont seem to help, it just makes it worse, cause she seems to get frustrated because we stop training. I would very much apreaciate some advice.
Thank you very much in advance.
Regards Tina A.
Hi Tina, Recallers is going to help for sure. This is a great question to ask in the Recallers forums or members only Facebook group. We have all the layers of learning for you that are going to help you and your dog be the team that you know you can be.
I’m new to your work andI totally loved your presentation. I can see why your dogs love what you do…HAVE FUN! You’re so animated just like a fun loving dog. I appreciate and respect the work that you do.
We’ve taken on a rescue dog which came to us occupying the AFRAID, ANXIOUS, NOFUN zones. We love this dog and despite what she’s gone through she also is smart, fun and funny. I’m so glad we got introduced to your work from a friend of a friend. We’ve been searching for this, YOIU, and the work (ha, ha…much more like FUN) and dedication that you are committed to.
Really fun presentation! I’m still chuckling. Will check you out on Facebook!
This is brilliant! I’ve definitely noticed it’s so much easier to train a dog since I started interspersing shaping/training sessions with short and fun tug sessions or running around and playing something like the game of deke and smoke ya games. Your programs have changed how I approach training and have helped me excel as a professional dog trainer by giving me so many practical tools for engaging the dogs I work with. Thank you for all you do to improve the lives of dogs and their humans everywhere!!!
Wired when they know that I am going to play ball with them
Wired whren it it time for fun with his soccer ball.