This month, I was honored to be asked to co-host the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop along with Cascadian Nomads and Tenacious Little Terrier. Please join us as we talk about the rewards of positive training methods on every first Monday of the month. January's theme is "Goals."
As the owner of a reactive dog, I incorporate a great deal of management into our daily routines. Management is a very important aspect of any positive training protocol, and is more about changing our own behavior than our dog's. Management means making choices that help your dog succeed, so that training can happen and training can work. Management means not asking too much of your dog in a stressful or distracting situation and it means reducing stress and distractions.
My Chow mix, Lasya was nearly perfect, but she did have an aggravating habit of getting into the kitchen trash. I can't tell you how many times I came home from work to find the house strewn with licked-clean cans, shredded wrappers, and the rest of the disgusting contents. Back then I did a lot of yelling, which only served to teach my dogs that sometimes I got mad when I got home after they'd enjoyed an awesome garbage buffet. Eventually I got a little smarter and started putting my trash can outside before I left for work. Problem solved. I no longer came home to a mess and my dogs stopped worrying about unpredictable appearances of the crazy lady. Management isn't cheating - it is analyzing a problem and staying a step ahead of our dogs. We are supposed to be the more advanced thinkers, after all!
Management isn't fool-proof. Sometimes I still forgot to put the trash can outside and was greeted with a house that looked like a rock-star's trashed hotel room. I didn't yell anymore though, because I'd rightfully transferred the responsibility from my dogs to myself. I forgot, I failed, and it was my mess to clean up. If I was mad at anyone, I was mad at myself, but the whole experience led me to lighten up and look ahead. I'd do better tomorrow. I'd remember to put the trash outside tomorrow. Management allows us to be a little easier on ourselves and our dogs, because it can always be improved upon.
One of my very best management solutions with Ruby was putting window film on my front window. For a dog who is extremely reactive to everything that moves, desensitization and counter-conditioning can be a daunting task. I was already struggling with our walks in the big wide world and wanted to make our home a safe and peaceful environment, which I couldn't do with Ruby on high alert on the back of the sofa. I installed a frosted window film which greatly improved our quality of life. Less barking, less stress for us both. Management means working out training issues with creative solutions. It can be as simple as putting your nervous dog in a quiet room when you have company or changing your walk schedule to avoid encountering other dogs or people. The important part is being on your dog's side and helping them be the best they can be.
If you are working on your training goals for the year, ask yourself how you might streamline or accelerate those goals through management, training in the right environment and setting your dog up for success.