top of page

Management.
The single most effective tool to prevent the practice of unwanted behavior so it doesn't become a Bad Habit

Management is preventing rehearsal by changing the environment.  

These dogs bark at things they see out the window. 

There are a lot of things we could do to interrupt it.

But many of those things might actually make it worse! 

 

We could yell.  But they may think the things outside upset us, too.  Likely, they will bark more because we are "barking" with them!  Corrections can momentarily interrupt the noise but, no matter how mild, they create negative associations and increase stress and anxiety.  If stress and anxiety are WHY the dog is barking, you've just increased the reason they bark. 

 

Teaching them to "shut up" doesn't address the emotion that drives the behavior.  We have to help them FEEL better, so they don't feel the need to bark.  This is behavior modification, not training.  Changing the reason the dog performs a behavior, not just stamping out the behavior via suppression.  Suppressed behavior is still there.  When corrections fade, bottled up emotions erupt.  They are still upset about what they see.  Your stressed dog may soothe himself by chewing his feet instead of howling.

Management is Prevention.  We could move the couch so they can't perch there to scan the neighborhood and bark all day.  We could keep them out of the living room with a baby gate.  We could install window film so they could still sun themselves, but not see out.  Nothing to see?  Nothing to worry about.  Nothing to bark at!  Quiet, non-stressed dogs with no training needed.

 

barking at window.jpg

Some behaviors are SELF-reinforcing.  They are FUN or satisfying.

Behaviors that are rewarding, get stronger and more likely.
More barking, digging, running down the street.

Management is not training.

If you put your dog in a crate because he jumps on guests, you prevent him from practicing jumping and accidentally getting rewarded by people who "don't mind" or encourage crazy behavior.  You prevent the people and the dog from getting it wrong.   But you still aren't teaching him how to meet guests politely.  He will still jump if he's not managed until you've carefully taught your overly friendly dog a better way to greet people.  You must teach what you want to see. 

Time-outs don't work.  

If you wait until he jumps on guests and then drag him roughly to his crate and shut him away as punishment, you didn't prevent rehearsal.  He still jumped, he made connection and got a response from the person.  You interrupted the situation, but you still didn't teach him how to be calm and greet guests politely.  He still has no idea how to avoid being punished AND you made the whole doorbell ordeal more stressful.  You may actually be teaching him to become upset at the sound of the doorbell and eventually to dislike guests. 

Management is an important part of training - to prevent mistakes and set your dog up for success!  
 

It is so much more difficult to break a bad habit than to create a new one! 

Teaching a dog to stay in the yard, not bolt out the door, and come when called can be extremely difficult to re-train if the dog has already been rewarded by racing through the neighborhood. Every escape increases their skills and the strength of the habit, built on the success of repeatedly getting out the door or over or under the fence.   Prevent rehearsal!  Provide an airlock until your door safety training is complete - place an exercise pen around the front door so you can close the gate behind you before you open the front door.

Identify any behavior you want to avoid before it has a chance to be rehearsed.

  • Anticipate potential problems.  

  • Manage the environment to avoid unwanted behavior so they never know it's possible. 

  • Guide them to where and when and how you want them to do things. 

  • Create patterns you want to see for their lifetime.

  • Replace unwanted behavior with an incompatible desired behavior: run to mom for a treat every time the doorbell rings.  
    The emotional association is Doorbells = "Yay, cookie time!" instead of "Intruder alert!"  This is much easier to teach BEFORE the dog notices that doorbells mean someone is at the door.  It can influence positive feelings about someone on the porch - visitors predict good things.

Dogs are very predictable - they do what dogs do.  They bark and dig.  They are born knowing how to sniff out hidden morsels, excavate to find things, grab and pull and carry things in their mouths and keep things that they find.  They call out when they are lost so their mothers can find them.  They pee when they need to go.  They return to places where they've done these things before.  Use this in your favor!  Manage self-reinforcing behavior by providing appropriate outlets.  Supply satisfying things to chew on or regular access to a safe place to dig or run or swim or sniff.  Prevent boredom.

 

Dogs aren't born knowing that humans have weird rules.  That when they need to relieve themselves, that indoors is different than outdoors, and carpet isn't the same as grass.  That kid toys aren't dog toys.  That underwear left outside the hamper isn't a dog toy.  That if they find a sandwich unattended on the coffee table, it isn't automatically free food.  (When another dog walks away from leftover dog food, it means it's their turn!)

 

Manage the environment so it is "mistake proof " and carefully teach the dog what you DO want. 

Reward what you like.  Catch them getting it right!

 

 

TEACH IT BEFORE YOU NEED IT!

 

This is the single most important piece of advice that every dog owner needs to remember, and very few take to heart.

 

People tend to wait until the dog has gotten it wrong to address the issues.  A lot of training and correcting and anger goes into trying to repair bad behavior.  It would be SO MUCH EASIER to teach the dog proper behavior in the first place.

 

She's found the gate left open.  Will she come if you call her?   Or dash off down the street before you can stop her?  The answer depends on learning history and practice getting it right.

Management is essential for safety, to prevent accidents.

Is your dog territorial?  Does your dog resource guard?  If you can't control the environment and the people in it, you must remove "bones of contention."  If your dog loves visitors but might become stressed over someone too close to his bones, toys, or his food dish pick them ALL up and put them out of reach when you have company.  Muzzle training is an essential management tool for safety for you, guests, the veterinarian or groomer.

The worst mistake people make while teaching new skills is to "see how he does this time" with no management or carefully thought-out safety net in place.  If guests are expected, a long line is life insurance for your escape artist, just in case your training level isn't up to the challenge presented and you need to stop him from dashing out the door. 

 

Evaluate.  Is he really up to greeting guests today?  Is it fair to ask him to?  What is his stress level TODAY?  How many stressors is he dealing with? - physical, emotional, health, environmental?  Triggers add up.  Are these guests who will help him get it right?  Or are these visitors who are likely to set your dog off?  Is it possible this won't be a positive learning experience?  Can you manage the situation to set him up for success?  Or should you manage the dog by removing him from a potential negative event or behavior rehearsal that could have been avoided?

 

Some situations are not worth the risk.  If your dog has a bite history, remove the dog.  You simply cannot provide 100% supervision AND host a party.  If one dropped cookie and a guest reaching to pick it up could mean a collision of teeth and skin, put your dog away in another room or in his crate if food will be present.  Operate on the premise that management always fails.  Put a lock on his crate and/or the door to his "safe room" to prevent accidents and keep everyone safe.  The bigger the risk, the more management is required.  Are guests staying the weekend in your home and your dog is likely to be a problem?  Do your dog and your guests a favor.  Board him somewhere safe for the weekend.

 


This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -
ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com

 

 

bottom of page