Management: We Use It to Make Our Own Lives Easier... Here's Why Our Dogs Deserve It Too
Do you ever close your eyes when you see something gross or upsetting because you know that if you look at it, it will ruin your whole day?
Do you ever scroll past a certain social media post because you know it is going to make you mad if you read the comments?
Do you put your favorite unhealthy snack in the way back of the pantry so that you won't have to see it every day and be tempted to eat it?
These are examples of how we use management in our own lives. We manage our experiences, temptations, and behaviors every single day by making choices like the ones above. We do these things to set ourselves up for success. We know that sometimes it is easier to not put ourselves in a certain situation than it is to exhibit self-control.
But somehow, it often feels like cheating for us as owners to use management with our dogs. We want our dog to be able to always exhibit self-control in any exciting, stressful, or scary situation. We want to be able to walk down the sidewalk and not have to cross the street when there is another dog coming. We put dogs on a pedestal because they are our best friends and in many ways, they are perfect to us. But when it comes to management, they get the short end of the stick.
Trainers, on the other hand, love management. This is because in many situations, in order for behavior modification and training to work, we have to be ready to manage situations that our dog might not be ready for.
For example, if we are trying to teach Fluffy that seeing other dogs out on a walk is not something to be afraid of, we have to ensure that Fluffy has a very positive experience with seeing other dogs out on the street. We have to set up the conditions properly, have a super amazing motivator for Fluffy, and start the training with a situation that Fluffy can handle (other dog is very far away and not coming closer to Fluffy)
This means that if we aren't prepared to help Fluffy have an amazing experience when we see a scary barking dog that is up ahead, we should manage Fluffy's experience and avoid the situation. This protects all of the training and confidence-building we are doing with Fluffy.
The world is full of messy situations and scary dogs approaching from down the street. This is why trainers love management.
In addition to using management to protect training, sometimes management is the best solution overall.
For example, I live on a busy street. One of my dogs gets worked up and barks at the window every time someone walks by. This happens several times a day every day. Could I try to train my dog to not bark at people out the window? Sure. But that would take a lot of effort, consistency, and for me to need to be there to train.
Instead, I managed. I bought window film that sticks onto my windows and blocks my dog's visual access to our street. Not only does it help my dog be more settled in our living room because she does not need to keep watch on our street, but it gives me and my family some bonus added privacy while still letting in sunlight.
I successfully removed the temptation from my dog's life and made all of us happier as a result.
So instead of seeing management as cheating or as a lazy option, look at it as protecting all of the hard work and training you are doing. Look at it as helping your dog have an easier time navigating through life. Look at it as removing all of the aggravating, scary, or stressful posts that might be popping up on your dog's daily social media feed. Look at it as a way to make your dog's life better-- and yours too.