Titration Level: What is it & How Do I Use It?

By Tony Gravley

Correct that dog! Seems simple enough right? It’s not really that difficult, but there’s more to it than what one would think. There are three main categories of corrections:

1. Nagging

2. Overboard

3. Perfect.

Nagging corrections make me think of a harmless “Nat” buzzing around your ear. It’s just flat out annoying. He isn’t really doing any harm other than annoying you to death!  Nagging corrections normally come in the form of  light, not effective pops on the collar such as ”no” “no” “no” “no” or “heel” heel” heel”. They don’t stop the unwanted behavior and actually might be causing more trouble by stimulating the dog and adding energy to the situation. In fact, many times I use small corrections to create energy and drive. I will save that one for another article.

Overboard corrections are way too much correction. They not only stop the unwanted behavior, but normally cause lasting damage that can manifest in pure submission, avoidance of the task and even at times can completely ruin the chance of the dog ever performing the task at hand.

Many times overboard corrections are driven out of emotion and frustration on the part of the handler. This is a dangerous combination when we are talking about dog training. If you’re upset, it’s better to stop training and take a break. Put the dog away for a minute and start over when you are fresh and clear headed.

Perfect corrections are stronger than nagging corrections and weaker than overboard corrections. They are just enough correction to stop the unwanted behavior. It’s kinda like the three bears. The porridge is not too hot. It’s not too cold, but Jusssssst Right.

So how do you know how much correction is a “Perfect Correction”? When applying punishment (correction), the handler must be aware of the dog’s “titration level”. Titration is the amount of correction needed to stop an unwanted behavior with a given dog in a given situation.

Each dog has a different titration level. Different situations will dictate the titration level. A good example of this would be when you are doing basic obedience and the dog fails to respond to a recall command. He might need a level 2 correction on a scale of 1-10. But let’s say now you are doing the same recall and the dog breaks to chase a cat. That level 2 correction is not going to stop him in full fledged prey drive from chasing the cat and disobeying your recall command! In that situation you might need a level 7 correction.

Let’s say you had a softer dog in the same scenario as above. Maybe it would only need level 1 and 5 corrections respectively.

Another way to look at it is an escalation of force or the right amount of punishment to correct the unwanted behavior or lack of correct response to the task. My words of advice. . . . Know your dog and start light on corrections. Remember how much correction you applied in each scenario. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the desire and energy level of the dog, the more correction that is needed.

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