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.
Today, I was training my dog, he was his HZ and comfortable. When I started getting ready for training interested, when I started training excited and played tug between breaks and after that training, he was wired. Whatever I asked he did correct and so fast. Once training ended, we went for a walk. While we were crossing the street he jumped to his leash, tried to play tug, I say he went to red lining. He came back to comfortable zone after 1 minute later.
Another day, when we were walking, he was his comfortable state, he stopped I turned, and I saw two bunnies 5 foot away. He was interested and when he was looking at them nicely, I said to myself, it will be a nice picture, let me get my phone and bunnies and my dog looked each other and he jumped to superman position. This was on me. I should have kept to interested zone and walk away and get back to comfortable zone.
Interesting and important, I now understand my dog is redlining all during Barn Hunt-she won’t listen to run in a tunnel or to stop because she has found all the rat containers. I just don’t know what to do to get her out of that state of redlining so we can practice for a trial. Great video
Wow! I’m in the interested zone :). Thank you for explaining this material so clearly. Loki skips zones so quickly. No one suggested that life with a border collie puppy going to be calm quiet and comfortable.
Again this was a very informative video and helped a lot by describing the acts in each stage. I wish there was a little more description of how to get out of the fear stage and more about ways to get them into the excited stage without getting them into the wired stage. In one of your videos, I remembered you said that a dog can leave a fear stage but go back in a fear stage at about 6 mos. I wonder if a high energy dog that barks whenever he sees himself in any mirror or glass in the house would be considered in the fear stage. He is deaf and when I have to wake him, he is startled and jumps up and starts to bark. I believe that he is in the fear stage. I am having trouble getting him into the comfortable stage and some days he is in the redline stage bypassing all the stages. I bet you have a video just on the fear stage. I would be interested in a video to help him out of this stage. Again, a great video.
This was FABULOUS! Just started Recallers and hoping there is more sessions like this, deep diving into a strong understanding about what is going on below the surface.
Great information! Have a pup who just turned 2 and all the sudden seems to be going into panic modes at different times and places. Cannot put a reason on it except she has always been an anxious and highly in tuned pup to everything that goes on around her. This scale definitely helps!
Red lining – my new term for when my Toy Fox Terriers are in hot pursuit of a bunny or squirrel. Because they don’t hear us! LOL
K9 Sadie and myself are eating up all the information you are giving us// I see positive results already I am so grateful for all your teaching
Love this explanation! It really makes this concept come to life and allows for flexibility for everyone’s unique expectations for their dogs. I’m waiting for approval into the facebook group so I’m going to ask my question here! How do you define a game? What would you say changes a “traditional” “normal” training set up into a game? Thanks!
July 20/2022 K9 Sadie and myself are having very fun / she is eating up every class and I am too thank you for all your teaching and help We went to a fun outing that had many dogs doing different tricks and Sadie usually barks at them all BUT not one bark 😘😘😘
Great video to explain the world of the dog and how we can influence them!
Best explanation ever!! And I am feeling a little better about my situation. I have hope with better understanding!
this is the best explanation I have ever heard on dog emotions. I had a dog that I returned to the rescue because he redlined me , Being high prey he then attached me since I would not let get to a small growling dog.. After talking to several people I returned him since I live in an area that has a lot of small noisy dogs.
Thanks so much for this video. It explains so much about my dog.
I have a 4 yr old German shorthaired pointer who I am training for agility as well as dock jumping. Moxie enjoys both games but often is distracted. She is very distracted by scents and very quickly goes into the red line area of your circle. She forgets I am even with her. I am currently doing HS games and she is enjoying playing each game. I am hoping HS will help me build a stronger relationship with her and will start to minimize her being so distracted.
Wow! The content is so helpful for me to keep in mind as I train my new puppy…a 6 month old rescue standard poodle. He is pretty secure except when he is in his crate.We are taking baby steps and so good to be reminded when I start to wonder why something isn’t working to think about where he is on the feeling wheel and what I need to change up so that he is at minimum in the comfort zone. Susan you are an amazing teacher!
Thank you so much for your podcasts and help with our dog. We rescued our Border Collie/Aussie shepherd mix 2 years ago. We were told that he spent 8 hrs daily in his crate and had to wear a collar for his electric fence. He is now almost 7 years old and has responded very well to your fun suggestions. He spends less time in the fear/anxiety mode and is happy to be more comfortable. We feel like we have come a long way and are still learning how and when to identify his triggers. He loves people, but is still anxious with other dogs who are his size. Thank you again for all of your tips!!
When my German Shorthaired Pointer sees or scents squirrels on our twice daily walks, she goes on point. She doesn’t yank or pull me, just becomes very still (pointing) and we stand there in the middle of the sidewalk staring at trees for awhile as she is frozen and will not budge until the squirrel has either left her line of sight or become boring. Would you say she is redlining in this state, or just wired? After we get going again, she is able to listen and take direction from me.
What happens if you ask your dog to play treat diving in this scenario? How about tug?
What about this variety of leash work?
I wish I had seen this video when I had my last dog. . I hope to get a puppy soon and will be following you methods.
Thank you so much for sharing this information it was very insightful. How do I build confidence in my puppy to help him spend more time in the comfort zone and less time in the fear zone? I have purchased crate game online which we started immediately as he does not like his crate despite our best efforts. Everyone keeps telling me he will choose to go in there to sleep and like it but so far this has not happened.
Brilliant! Very helpful video!
Excellent start for me and my dog. My 2 year old seems to be reactive to unknown dogs, dogs showing attitude, strangers and cars during walks(on leash). He goes from interested to red line very quickly wanting to chase and barking excessively. This all makes sense and is a good beginning for understanding his situation and how to positively avoid the red line. Why he’s afraid, I don’t know as he even walks with his very calm “brother” and his upbringing has always been positive. Sounds in the house also get his interest up. We’ll see how this all progressive as I watch and learn. Thank you!
Thankyou. This has been really useful .We
have worked with our rescue dog for 9 months now. I can now see the zones. Initially very much in anxious/afraid zones -80%-and tends to hit those wired/red line zones pretty quickly when doing good stuff. Have definately got the comfort zone improved. But so hard to maintain the excited zone without escalation.
Thanks for this information! I’ve recently realized how my reactions were helping to trigger my semi-reactive dog. Since I’ve changed my behavior I’ve seen a huge improvement in her behavior, so many thanks!!
Loved the explanation 🙏🏼Thank you!
Very interesting! Thanks!
Found this really helpful, i can identify the different stages I see in my puppy, it’s making me think – thank you. We’re just starting our training journey but I’m already buzzing with small steps we’re making and the games are definitely the way forward for us. Thanks so much – will be joining your FB group
My dog seems to go from “afraid” to redlining. She will bark excessively and run around as if terrified when ever she sees my husband. She came to us from Oklahoma by plane when she was about 15 months old. she is now 2 years old, and still acts this way toward my husband. If she is on the leash, he can drive her to the local park and go for long walks and she seems fine.
Loved this – I had a very fearful/anxious dog previously. He was a rescue and what Susan said made a lot of sense. Her methods were what I inadvertently ended up doing with the dog to decrease his fear factor.