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Management vs Training - are you doing both?

From a very young age, whether we own a dog or not, we hear 'you need to train your dog'. Train them as a puppy, and then you won't have to worry about them when they are older. And for the most part, the majority of people do. Or at least, they try to. Some try harder than others. Some don't continue the training into adolescence and adulthood where inevitably it becomes a thing of the past. Some don't see the necessity of training a dog beyond basic obedience. Some want perfection. Some don't want that 'robot dog'. Some choose positive and rewarding dog training techniques. Others opt for quick yet aversive techniques.

What most dog owners don't understand however, is the importance of management. We can train and train and train our dogs and likely see results, but without management, these results will be slow and likely never achieve the level we want in the dog's lifetime.

So what IS management?

Management is managing the environment and your expectations so that your dog is LIKELY to succeed. If your dog is likely to succeed, they have a higher chance of being rewarded. These rewards will fill up their hypothetical training jar until the jar is full and the behaviour becomes habit.

Most dogs can Sit. This is because this has been rewarded so often that the jar is full and Sit is the go-to behaviour for rewards. They are rewarded for this in the home, in the garden and on walks. This is the power of reward based training and something you are likely doing without realising a lot of the time. Now, ask yourself: Do you reward your dog for Down, Recall and Stay as much as you reward for a Sit? Are you as consistent? Do you practice these as much?

If you don't, it's time to start.

If you do, ask yourself... are you using management as well? If you aren't, it's likely that the jar is depleting equally to or quicker than it is filling. A perfect example of this is when you're training your dog to recall to you. You can reward your dog EVERY time for coming back when called, but if they are off lead and able to perform the opposite behaviour when they want to, each time they DON'T come back, the jar depletes. Therefore, for every good behaviour you're rewarding, your progress is hindered by each failure. If the failures become more frequent than the successes, your recall is gone. Kaput.

If your dog is on a 5-10m long line (ie. management), they can't run off. They can't ignore you. They can only come back for a reward. Bingo! You've just removed the failure. This is the best example of training and management. You can't have one without the other.

What other examples can I use? Well... loose lead walking.

You can reward your dog every time they are walking nicely by your side. The jar fills. But then, they pull you. You go forwards, you give up because you want to get home for dinner. The dog learns pulling works, and the jar depletes. How can you manage this?

Manage the situation so that the dog never learns that pulling works by choosing quality of walk over quantity. This largely requires patience, which is why stopping pulling on lead is the number one request from my clients and the hardest one to nail.

Another example is jumping up at people when they come in.

How do we reward this? We reward four paws on the ground, lying on their bed or sitting quietly.

How do we manage this? We have them on a lead or behind a gate when visitors arrive so that they cannot practice running over and jumping. Instead, they can only practice the good behaviour.

And lastly, how often do you have to repeat all of this? How long will you be training your dog? The realistic answer to this is for the entirety of their life. They are ALWAYS learning. The more work you put in now, the better they will be when they are older and calmer. Repetition is key. You need to train and manage your puppy when they are young. You need to train and manage your dog when they are adolescent. You need to train and manage your dog when they are a young adult.

When they are coming back 10/10 times without needing to use the long line to stop them running off, you can start to reduce management. When they have learnt to lie on their bed when people come in, you can remove the gate or lead. Until then, you need management.

And remember...

None of us go to work for free.

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