Part of being a responsible pet parent implies that we manage our pups to keep them out of trouble. Trouble could mean a dog running amok into traffic via the front door, a fearful dog finding himself too close to a “scary” stimulus, dogs chasing the family cat and, yes, destroying our precious property.
Management means that we control the environment so that the dog does not get to practice behaviors that are plain dangerous or that we need to modify. As such, any good behavior modification plan must have a management component integrated into it.
From a physiological stand point – not only in a “strict” behavior sense- (as if we could really separate these two…) when our dogs get to practice undesirable behaviors, they get so much better at them. It really boils down to muscle memory and neural pathways either being created or strengthening.
As a result of a dog practicing unwanted behaviors, the behaviors also get stronger because if the dog is engaging in them, it means that there is something reinforcing about them for the dog. And as you well know (or I hope you do)… whatever behavior gets reinforced will go up in frequency.
Some situations are really simple to manage once the person has identified the problem and makes a good effort in following through with a protocol.
Say for example, leashing a dog that is not fully trained every single time the person steps out the front door with the dog. The chances of the dog running away are almost nil! Or managing the dog when we cannot fully watch them in their crate – once crate trained.
There are other instances, as well, where management is really tricky and it requires some problem solving in order to set some contingencies in place.
Case in point: Rio dashing out the front door whenever she thinks there is a visitor. I don’t have to worry about traffic as there is none and we have a fenced in area.
Even though she is getting so much better at controlling herself when someone has come home to see us, we still need to manage her “hellos”.
As a result of this, the other day I tried an interesting technique with really surprising results. I was expecting my accountant so just before she was due to arrive, I placed just outside our front door some really tasty salmon treats. They were so tasty that my own mouth began to water.
A few minutes later, Rio spotted Judi via the front window and she wanted to rush out the door to say hi.
As Judi was approaching the front door I opened it and saw Rio beeline- nose to the ground taking in not only the aroma of the salmon but munching on the treats. It was hilarious to watch because even Judi responded by complaining to Rio that she had found something more interesting than her! After the treats were gone, Judi got a much more settled “hello” from Rio.
Ah, front door management … such a big headache for most folks… so in next week’s post I will give you some ideas you can try at home. See you then, I hope!