Management… use it!

One of the things that sets professional trainers, experienced rescue folks, quality breeders, and “dog people” apart from the rest of the dog owning public is their commitment to using management techniques. It is definitely one of the struggles I have with explaining to my students–it’s okay to manage their dogs environment especially when it comes to important things. If you are very serious about the well being of your Michael Kors shoes, don’t leave them out if your dog has a history of chewing shoe-like objects! Of course we want to aim for reliability, but dogs, no matter how well trained, will make choices and betting your favorite $300 shoes that Fido will ALWAYS make the right choice is a mistake.

I equate it often to children. Parents may have guns, matches, prescription medications, cleaning chemicals, a pool,or other not so child friendly items in the house and most parents will talk to the kids about not touching the items, staying away from the items, and perhaps, at the right age, explaining how to use and care for the items safely. But there is no way that a parent should leave guns, matches, cleaners, etc. within reach even though they have spoken to their kids about never touching. I mean there is a reason we need child locks on everything and that’s because kids do not always make good choices. It seems everyone understands that it’s just safer to put the guns in locked boxes, matches on super high shelves, cleaning solutions up high, have every drawer/cabinet shut with a child lock, even toilet locks, and make sure pools are securely fenced off (and perhaps even a pool alarm for extra safety) but families often seem unwilling to crate, gate, clean off counters, or close bathroom doors to keep Fido AND their important possessions safe. This lack of impulse control and not making the ‘right’ decisions is not limited to kids either–let’s be honest, if all humans always made the right decisions we wouldn’t need jails (or as many), wouldn’t need home alarms, could leave our doors unlocked, wouldn’t have a need for crazy diets, would not have to deal with impulse buys (of all natures), and probably wouldn’t have much personal debt.

The emphasis on management is particularly important for dogs who have a history of unwanted behaviors–counter surfing, stealing undergarments, chewing furniture, potty training, resource guarding, reactivity, or jumping. Dogs with known behavior issues are the ones who really are in need of a quality management protocol to help them be successful. These are dogs with a history of making the wrong choice so preventing that incorrect choice is extremely important. It really is unreasonable to think a dog will ALWAYS make the right decision, especially if they frequently practice or rehearse the incorrect choice. Honestly, I think it’s unreasonable to think a person will ALWAYS make the right decisions. If you have a dog who has no bad habits, irritating behaviors, or naughty streak, then management isn’t quite as important but most dogs have something that could be aided by effective management.

It makes life so much easier to take an extra little bit time in the day to make sure my dogs are setup to make good choices. I know my dogs have a history of hunting out food–be that counter surfing or digging through bags to find food, so I make sure to check for those things before I leave. It takes an extra minute or two but it’s well worth it when I come home to a clean house. On the days I forget or miss a food item I didn’t know about, I’m punished with dogs who have eaten some pretty crazy things and left a mess on my floor. I could certainly manage them more by using crating or gating but I make mistakes rarely enough that I am comfortable just checking for the food items in the full house. The other thing I manage, particularly with puppies or new dogs, is their ‘recall’ by never letting them off-leash. They are on a long line or some other tool that I can use to make sure they do not just ignore me.

Professionals/experts/etc. teach the behaviors they want, while preventing the unwanted behaviors from continuing by using management techniques. This combination of training and management is what really allows them to function so efficiently with multiple dogs, with dogs that have behavior problems, and young dogs. If you think professionals make it look easy, this is probably one of the steps to look into learning more about!

  1. Amen to sensible management! For dogs and children…. 🙂

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