Management: A Giant Dog-Sized Bandaid
Management is such an important part of owning a dog. You probably do it without knowing you're doing it. In this article, we are going to talk about what is management, why we use it, management versus training and what you can do to start.
What is Management?
When your dog does a behavior that you don't want, you control their environment so you don't see the unwanted behaviors.
Unwanted Behavior = Your dog barks out the window
Management = You close the blinds
Unwanted Behavior = Dog jumps on table
Management = Keep the dog out of kitchen or chairs pushed all the way in
Why Use Management?
The main reason you use management is so you DO NOT reinforce the unwanted behaviors. You also use management because you can't pay 100% attention to your dog to make sure they don't do something you don't like.
Where people get stuck is taking the next step to actually train the dog what you want them to do instead. It's ok if you're stuck. People get used to the life they live, they don't know there are other options and training some of these behaviors can be challenging.
You want to use management as a tool to deter unwanted behaviors while you are training them to do something else in these situations.
Management Versus Training
Training is so important because if you don't tell your dog what to do, they will do what they want to do. If what they want to do is sleep on the couch when the mailman comes, great! But if what they want to do is bark at the mailman until he leaves, then you need to train them to sit quietly.
We use a combination of training and management because you simply can't expect to train all the time. "But, why not?! I want to get rid of the behavior as fast as I can!" you say. Everything with dogs takes time, consistency and patience.
Time: I teach my clients to devote just 5-10 minutes per day training. It sounds like such a short time but my hope is that dog owners feel like they can carve that amount of time out of each day and be 100% dedicated to training. Your dog is a constant work in progress and training should be thought of as part of life with a dog. (That's if you want a well behaved dog, of course!)
Consistency: After you have decided what you want your dog to do in certain situations, you carve out your time and train them. While training you are clear in your communication, you reward good behavior, and you challenge them to progress. Being consistent is the best way to communicate what you expect them to do, motivate them to do what you want (instead of what they want), and keep track of how far your dog has progressed.
Patience: Every day is not going to be the same. Some days may be hard for you and some days may be hard for your dog. Maybe it rained and smells insane to your dog, maybe you have a lot going on that day, or maybe something just isn't jiving between you and your dog that day. You don't want to put a lot of pressure on each training session but work with your dog to know where they are and celebrate progress.
Management helps us set the dog and ourselves up for success in challenging situations. For example, let's say your dog jumps on people when they come into your home. You are training your dog to sit in its place while people come into the door and then to say hi while staying on the ground. Then one day, your mother shows up unannounced while you are cooking dinner and your husband is playing with the kids outside. Instead of having the dog jump on your mom, you frantically run over to get the dog and the pasta sauce boil all over the stove .... you grab a kong with peanut butter out of the freezer and put the dog in the crate and help your mom walk into the house. Then you check on the pasta sauce and take the dog out. Your dog (and your guests) will appreciate the calm response during an exciting time for them.
Tipping the Scales: If you feel as though you are living a life of 100% management, start training! I recommend starting to think about the behaviors your dog does that you do not like. Then think about what you want them to do instead. Then start with just five minutes per day training them.
You'll get to a point when you're doing 10% training, 90% management .... and then 20% training and 80% management. The training gets longer because your dog doesn't need as many treats, responds quicker and farther away, and starts checking in with you more.
I hope you can believe me when I say you don't want to live a life of 100% management. It's too much pressure on you to make sure you shut the blinds, walk away from passing dogs, and tell the mailman to leave the mail in a box in the driveway. Start taking control and teaching your dog what to do, they'll appreciate it and everyone will be less stressed.