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Management as the first tool in behaviour change

I’m sure you can think of at least one behaviour that you wish your dog wouldn’t do. Often we jump into needing to ‘fix’ the problem through training but sometimes management is a much quicker and simpler solution.

The 3 key areas to think about when it comes to management are:

  • Keeping dogs, humans and other animals safe. This might include baby gates, crates, leads, harnesses and muzzles

  • To prevent the rehearsal of undesirable behaviour

  • Ensuring the dog’s needs are met using enrichment such as quiet sniffari walks, food puzzles, and training time. See our blog on enrichment here

The first step in any behaviour change is to prevent the rehearsal of undesirable behaviour. The more your dog does a behaviour, the stronger it becomes in their behavioural repertoire and the more likely they are to keep doing it. This then prevents us from being able to teach the dog any new skills. Many behaviours are so intrinsically reinforcing that even severe punishment may not be enough to stop them from happening. To break this cycle, we need to focus on changing something in the environment to stop the behaviour from happening. Examples of management include using an opaque window film to obscure your dog’s view from passing people and prevent barking, crating your puppy to stop them chewing wires or toileting indoors and keeping your dog on the lead to stop them running off. By managing the environment we can ease the pressure for both dogs and their owners to ensure safety and to allow everyone to breathe for a bit whilst a training plan is put in place.

Sometimes management is enough. Not taking your dog to the pub when they’re just not cut out to be a pub dog is ok! Avoiding other dogs because your dog is frightened is ok! We also all have days where it’s easier to just manage to take the pressure off and sometimes a break from that trigger allows the dog to be in a better head space to train. However, we can eventually look at teaching your dog new skills that we can then apply to the problem scenario to change the way your dog thinks, feels and behaves. 


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