Management is Key

Let’s say you have a dog that has exhibits undesirable behavior such as jumping, counter surfing, eating shoes, getting into the trash, and things along those lines. Management may be the answer to your prayers.

What is management, you ask? Management in this scenario means managing the dog’s environment. I am a big fan of management when it comes to dog training. Rather than leave a dog to its own devices and expecting it not to succumb to temptation, YOU need to take control by managing the environment.

Example: Fluffy is a trash fiend and every day you return to a home littered with garbage. You huff, you puff and storm around the house picking up the mess – all the while thinking Fluffy “knows better”. Well, it is highly likely that Fluffy does not know better. Have you actively trained Fluffy to abstain from trash digging while you aren’t present? I think not.

In this scenario, punishment is totally out of the question. You have to catch a dog in the act - or within 3 seconds - for the animal to make a correlation with why it is being punished. I AM NOT ADVOCATING PUNISHMENT, in fact, I am making an argument against it. Continue reading to understand what I am saying.

So, Fluffy gets into the trash daily for months and you two have a routine. Fluffy meets you at the door, you see the trash and get a scowl. Fluffy then makes herself smaller and/or tries to slink away. It is NOT because she “knows better”. It is because your facial expression is different from the happy face you usually greet her with, there is also likely a change in your breathing.

The body language Fluffy is exhibiting can be better understood as appeasement or calming signals – not guilt. I honestly don’t think dogs waste time with the emotion we humans know as guilt.

Dogs are masters at sensing/reading the slightest changes in our disposition/emotional state. Because of this, we humans think that dogs “know better” when they have, in our eyes, misbehaved. This is almost always not the case.

Dogs are animals, we must not forget this. They are prone to foraging, one of the many things mother nature saw fit to program them to do. If I were a dog and with access to a trash bin with ham in it, you’d better believe I am going to get to that ham.

Why tempt fate and put dogs in unnecessary situations that only result in our frustration? There really is no reason for this. With all the tools we have within our reach, things like trash digging should not be an issue.

What is the solution? For the scenario of trash digging there are multiple solutions ranging from getting a high-quality trash can that the dog cannot open, putting the trash can in a cupboard or pantry, restricting the dog’s ability to roam the house while left unattended with baby gates or a crate, and the list goes on.

The fact of the matter is, management not only makes life with a dog easier – it makes it more enjoyable. It’s more enjoyable because you’re not walking into a trash party after a long day at work.

By managing a dog’s environment, you take away some of the likelihood that the dog will get into “trouble”.