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Happy dog on beach - Wild K9s

What are concepts?

Your dog is unique. Every dog has a specific set of character traits, or concepts, that make up their individual personality. That’s what makes them so special. These can be shaped, nurtured, and developed by playing games. 

The Concepts

Just like us, some dogs are naturally better at some concepts than others. How skilled they are at any particular concept influences the choices they make on a day-to-day basis. 


For example, some dogs are naturally calmer than others, yet some may lack focus or give up easily when asked to do a particular task. Conversely, another dog may have laser focus on an object or task, but struggles to disengage and relax in the presence of distractions. There is no right or wrong answer here – it’s all about balance. Every dog can benefit from concept training, and we can help you to identify which areas your dog may need to strengthen with a bespoke plan tailored to you and your dog.  For each concept, there are games that can help your dog perform better within that skill or concept.

Graphic showing a grey dog head logo with a multicoloured brain - Wild K9s

Perception Concepts

These are the concepts that we can teach our dogs that influence the way they view an event.
Perception concept Icons
Is your healthy dog a little clumsy? Or hesitant to climb stairs or jump in the car? This may be due to lack of body awareness or fitness. Every dog can benefit from boosting their fitness, and by helping your dog understand how to move each part of their body, you can not only prevent injury but also improve their confidence and optimism. A flexible, strong dog who knows how to move their body will enjoy a greater quality of life and longevity.
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How does your dog cope with new objects, sights, smells, or situations? Sometimes it isn’t new, but the picture or context has changed slightly. Your dog’s ability to embrace change, recover quickly and move on is an essential skill that many dogs lack. This concept is typically worked on alongside others such as confidence, optimism, flexibility, and disengagement to help them take novelty in their stride.
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Is your dog willing to try anything and everything? A confident dog can handle novelty in their world with a quick recovery rate and without overthinking things. They are willing to try, and certain they can do whatever challenge is placed in front of them! Topping up your dog’s confidence is such a wonderful gift to give them.
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Can your dog adapt, think quickly on their feet, or recover quickly if there is a change in their life? Or do they become anxious, pushy, and frustrated?  Flexibility helps your dog to embrace change, go with the flow, and gives them the autonomy to respond differently in similar situations depending on the choices and opportunities available. Thinking outside the box is the true essence of concept training!
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Can your dog approach a situation and expect the best outcome? Do they see the sunny side of life or are they more pessimistic and worried about new events? Optimism is critical to overcoming so many behaviour struggles as it builds confidence and resilience. An optimistic dog sees the world through rose-tinted glasses; they believe the best is going to happen in every situation because they know you’ve got their back!
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Does your dog perceive an event to be good or bad in one situation, and does that transfer to other environments?

Arousal Concepts

These concepts relate to your dog's physiological response to an event and impact what happens in their brain.
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If your dog gets excited, can they bring themselves down into a calm and relaxed state, or are they bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day? If they are calm and sleepy, can they kick into high gear to go for a walk or run an agility course? Being skilled at self-regulating, even when excited is key to a happy dog, yet so many dogs struggle with this concept, leading to a host of behavioural problems like barking and lunging. We’ll teach you how to swap that ‘all or nothing – zero to 100%’ excitement into a more measured and appropriate level of arousal that is much easier to live with! Think of it like swapping the light switch for a dimmer switch.
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Can your dog remain relaxed despite sudden changes in the environment, or when faced with difficult situations? Are they able to settle when not actively committed to a task? Calmness is the key to a well-behaved dog. Ideally calmness should be a dog’s default state, yet so many dogs struggle with this concept, leading to the root of most behaviour struggles.
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Can your dog listen and respond appropriately when they are excited or fearful? Arousal influences emotion and growing this concept helps them to think and listen to you – even in the heat of the moment.

Choice Concepts

These concepts impact the choices your dog makes. When presented with a particular event, a particular perception, or a particular level of arousal, what do they do?
Choice Concept Icons
Is your dog able to control themselves around toys, food, people, or other resources? Dogs lacking self-control are overexuberant, excited, or struggle to disengage. This can lead to struggles such as jumping up on people, counter-surfing and mounting. Self-control allows a dog to make an active choice to delay reinforcement or interaction, safe in the knowledge that the reward is worth waiting for!
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Does your dog choose to hang out with you, even when there are distractions? Proximity is what gets your dog to want to be around you and stay around and is the key to perfect recall and stress-free walks.
Choice Concept Icons
Can your dog chill out in another part of your home without having to follow you around? Can they work away from you and still follow instruction? Independence is your dog’s ability to work away from you and away from reinforcement. It leads to a confident dog that can make good choices without guidance. They can be away from you and remain unconcerned and relaxed as you go about your day. Growing independence is particularly important for dogs suffering with separation related behaviours. Independence and proximity are not mutually exclusive – your dog can be good at both!
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Does your dog find joy in playing and interacting with you, or do you struggle to keep their interest? Do you sometimes feel like you don’t exist, or that they have selective hearing? Engagement is your dog’s ability to remain focused on you no matter what is happening around you … no other person, dog or squirrel can entice them away! Engagement is key to playing games with your dog and we are experts at finding that magic ingredient that grabs and keeps their attention.
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When your dog doesn’t have immediate access to a resource, whether that is food or even you, does frustration kick in? Building tolerance of frustration means that reinforcement can be delayed without an increase in arousal, decrease in arousal or change in responsiveness.
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Can your dog remain committed to a task, or are they easily distracted? Focus can be on you, a toy, or a task such as tracking or herding and is simply where your dog finds the most value. A dog that lacks focus is easily distracted and will choose the environment over you, resulting in recall and disengagement struggles.
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Can your dog move away from you or other things in the environment without reacting first? Disengagement helps your dog to understand that exciting or scary people/dogs/events are none of their business and to build a desire in them to move away calmly. This is a super powerful concept, especially for dogs that are reactive or show signs of resource guarding.
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Does your dog switch off or give up on things too easily? Or do they go the extra mile when the going gets tough? Grit is determination and resilience. The ability to push longer and harder and continue to want to work with you without frequent rewards. They might not always get it right, but a gritty dog embraces challenges enthusiastically and with purpose and is willing to try and try again.
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