Management vs Training

By Abby Huxtable

Management is an important aspect of any training or behaviour modification plan, but sometimes management alone is enough to prevent a behaviour happening.

When we want to teach a new behaviour, or change an unwanted one, it is important we use management to prevent our dogs practicing any unwanted behaviours.

For example, jumping up at people. We teach ‘Four on the Floor’ instead, but we need to prevent our dog jumping in the first place in order to change the behaviour, or to prevent it being practiced.

How do we do this? We have our dogs on lead, behind a baby gate, or in a pen. This is management. We are using those management tools to prevent the jumping up.

We then teach them what we want instead, which is for them to sniff for treats on the floor, when a person comes towards them.

By repeating the management and therefore prevention, plus the reinforcement of the new skill, then the new default behaviour becomes ‘see a person, sniff the floor’.

Without management to prevent the unwanted behaviour, this change in behaviour cannot occur, as they will continue practicing the unwanted behaviour (jumping up).

However, sometimes management alone can be enough to simply prevent the unwanted behaviour. Yes, you would always need to use that management, as you aren’t teaching a new, alternative behaviour, but that is OK.

What level of management, and what level of training you do will be personal to you, your situation, your priorities in your lives together, and your dog and their personality and abilities.

For example, I saw a client recently whose dog likes to greet visitors at the door. She gets very frustrated and therefore reactive with any sort of restraint, so a lead/leash wasn’t an option (the first option of management we considered).

It is entirely possible to teach a dog a boundary and Kikopup has some great YouTube videos on how to do so, however this is a long training process that requires a lot of proofing to make it solid and safe.

Trigger stacking | Meadow Family Rescue

So, in our door situation, we decided to use the dog’s long line to allow her to greet people at the door with relative freedom, but she is still safe and cannot run off their driveway into the dangerous road.

This is management. This is the best option for the client, the safety of the dog, and the situation.

Yes, they will have to use this management each time they answer the door, but it is the best option for them and their visitors and, most importantly, the dog!

Sometimes, simple management is the easiest solution to prevent unwanted behaviours, to enable you to get on with your lives together, without undertaking a big training commitment, where you can focus those training methods on more important elements of your lives together.

It is also possible, that with simple management, extinction may occur (not always a guarantee), and the unwanted behaviour may fade by them simply not practicing it.