Dog Management & Training – The Dynamic Duo

Dog Management & Training | Oh those well-known duos we often speak about – peas and carrots, salt and pepper and wine and cheese just to name a few. I particularly love that wine and cheese duo!

In the world of dog training “management and training” is the quintessential dynamic duo and I think most all positive dog trainers. Those who train without the use of force, fear or intimidation, would agree.

To understand how important dog management is, you first have to understand the definition as it’s used in the animal training world.

Management means manipulating the dog’s environment so that it prevents the dog from practicing unwanted behaviors and sets them up for success in the training process.

In many instances, training may not be necessary at all if you put a dog management strategy in place. Years ago a client called and wanted me to teach her dog not to grab tissues from the bathroom trash can. I was certainly capable of creating an effective training plan to help the dog learn not to do this. But why not just manage it instead? The easiest way to manage this issue would be to put a lid on the trash can. Voila! Problem solved. The dog is no longer able to grab tissues from the trash can. No training plan is needed and no money need be spent on training.

More often than not, a management strategy is put in place while we’re training the dog to do something other than the unwanted behavior the dog displays.

Let’s use counter surfing as an example.

dog management

If your dog has been counter surfing, I’d lay money on the fact that he’s periodically been getting something tasty off that counter. If you understand learning theory, “getting something tasty off the counter” is reinforcing to the dog. That morsel of food he just ate positively reinforced the behavior of jumping up on the counter. Reinforcement is what makes a behavior more likely to occur again. Your dear sweet dog will try it again because it worked for him the first time. And now, management to the rescue.

The management strategy for counter surfing is to keep all counters clear that might be tempting to the dog.

That means food, paper products and anything that the dog might be tempted to reach. Once the counters are clear of those delectable items, then the training plan would be to generously and consistently reinforce the dog with a yummy treat for keeping four feet on the floor while he’s in the kitchen.

We used a similar management and training process with our own dog, Cody, when we first brought him home from the shelter. He was quite the fractious dog in those early days and his modus operandi was to “go up!”

In fact, for the counter surfing, management alone could be a nice strategy for some homes. Install a gate at the entrance of the kitchen which prevents the dog from ever entering the kitchen. Counter surfing solved.

dog mangament
Willow & Cody wait patiently at the entrance to the kitchen

The use of a crate is another good example of dog management.

Once you’ve done the appropriate training to help your dog love a crate it can be used to manage a variety of situations. If your dog is enjoying time in his crate when people enter your home, he won’t jump on guests.

If your puppy is periodically crated when you can’t constantly supervise him, you’re able to prevent potty accidents. This also prevents inappropriate chewing on items around the home.

An example of dog management for a dog who barks at passersby’s would be a visual barrier on the windows. The visual barrier could be drawing the curtains or installing blinds. Shutters or placing frosted or opaque film on the pertinent windows works too. If the dog can’t see the passerby the barking will be prevented.

As Tiffany Lovell of Cold Nose College Space Coast says, “Management doesn’t make you a lazy trainer.” What it does make you, is a smart trainer! Sure, you can teach your dog all sorts of things. By adding in an appropriate management strategy, you insure you are setting your dog up for success. It also is enhancing your training too!

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina.  She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe.

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