Thursday, May 4, 2017

I don't wanna: The dislike of management in training.

I have loads of amazing clients that do the work we discuss and put forth the effort to train their dogs using the advice and plans I give them.  However, depending on the case and specifics of the issues we are working on, this may possibly mean a huge shift in change for both the dog and owner.  This very often involves what we call "management", and this can often be met with some real crazy "whaaa?" faces and words.

Management is utilized a great deal in the beginning of a training program, especially when really changing behavior in dogs, because it sets the dog up to succeed.  It's like the alcoholic that's decided to stop drinking.  They cannot successfully do this by going to the bar, even if just once a week.  They have to manage themselves and set themselves up for success so that the long term result is the person no longer drinking.  This means attending AA meetings and getting rid of all alcohol in the home, not going to bars, etc.  It's a whole new system they have to adopt if they want to change.  There is no easy way around it.  Either they do these things and manage themselves tightly in the beginning (so hopefully when further into their program they can actually go to a bar with a friend and use self discipline) or they will fail. It's just that simple.

We must do the same with our dogs.  When we want to change their behavior we have to find ways to set them up for success while we are working toward the bigger goal or end goal.  If your dog is barking viciously out of the windows at home then gets out on a leash and is very reactive (or aggressive) toward other dogs then we need to change something.  Management here would include blocking the window (so not to practice and get amped up) and not walk the dog --for now-- so that he cannot practice these behaviors. This is not fixing the problem but it's putting forth a management protocol that will aid in the success of all the other training we will be doing to help in the long run.

While most people clearly can see the situation with the alcoholic and respect it, they cannot seem to do this with their dogs when it comes down to it.  I find a lot of resistance to management protocols with dogs.  As humans we seemingly so often just find that dogs are here to do what we say when we say it and if they can't we'll force them into the scenario to make them understand what's wrong and why.

Fido lunges on a leash? Well by golly then I'll slap this correction collar on him and yank it really hard when he does that! He'll learn not to do that again! ... Hmmm ... Is that really setting the dog up to succeed? Is this actually teaching the dog what he should be doing instead of lunging on the leash?

puppy in a safe area: management!
Management is just as important in a training program as the actual training and changing of behavior.  It is part of the protocol.  If one doesn't manage and set their dog up for success the dog will not succeed in the way that it should.  Trainers don't give you the rules to stop doing certain things with your dog or to change the current way you might be doing something so that they can really disrupt your life.  They do it to help you and your dog for the goal you have in mind.

This could be as simple as putting a puppy in a crate so that he cannot chew your things while you're out to quitting your daily walks if your dog is reactive on a leash.  Neither are a life sentence, but a management protocol that can be eventually totally changed to something different.

So just remember, setting your dog up for success and managing your dog isn't a failure, it's a step in the right direction.  I have a client right now that's doing an amazing job with her very leash reactive dog.  We are to the point where I've suggested she can now start short walks.  She knows what to do and how to help the dog when she sees other dogs.  So she says to me, "I feel like I really chickened out the other day walking Fluffy.  I saw another dog and I wasn't ready so I jumped behind the closest car and hid there with Fluffy until the dog was gone. I know I should have worked on her and done something else."  I said, "Are you kidding?!  That's great!  If you knew you weren't mentally ready to handle that then you did the right thing. You set her up for success. She was not able to see the dog to react and you stuck it out until it was safe and she wasn't put in a position to react!  I call that a success and good thinking!"

Don't ever feel like you're failing if you set your dog up to succeed, even if in that moment it's not actually "training".  If your dog is put in a position to make a good choice, or at least not make a bad one, then you're winning! 

Happy training ... and keep on working with your dog to set her up to succeed!

Stacy Greer
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior, LLC

1 comment:

  1. My dog (2 yrs German Shepherd) is reactive to other dogs and lunges towards them when we walk on Leash. When he was puppy, he was attacked by stray dogs, may be because of that, he has learnt this behaviour. We are trying our best to change it into positive thing for him, so that he does not get nervous when he sees other dogs. He was also left off leash with other dogs, so we know he is not aggressive, but he is a rough player and does not understand if the other dog doesn't want to play. He would keep poking.

    Your blog always inspires me to keep working towards the goal. The relaxing exercise really works for Victor and he has learned to stay calm when we are busy.His attention seeking behaviour has reduced.I would love to understand and study the breed specific psychology of dogs. If you have any insights on the same, can you please share with us. Happy Weekend and would be waiting for your next blog :)

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