Training vs Management

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As you get to know your dog with his habits and quirks, you may have some issues that need need to be “tweaked.” There are many things that you can train, but there are some issues that need to be managed. Things that can be trained are behaviors that your dog has either not learned at all, or has learned, but not to your liking. Some examples of this are jumping on people, pulling when walking, changing focus to you instead of whatever distraction is around, or not charging the door when going out. These things can all be taught so you get the behavior you want. There are some things that cannot be trained out, but must be managed. An example of this is having a terrier that chases the cat. You can work on impulse control with the dog, but because this trait (prey drive) is bred into a terrier, you may never be 100% sure that your cat will not get chased. If this is a dangerous situation for your cat, you will need to manage the interaction the dog and cat have. Examples of management are: using a crate for the dog when you cannot be with them to supervise interaction, making sure your cat has an escape route (usually vertical) at all times when around the dog, using a baby gate to separate them so the cat can have a stress-free place to retreat.

Sometimes it is difficult to know if the issue is a training issue, or management issue. My general rule is that if the issue is something that is breed-specific – training will help, but may never be 100% reliable. If something is a safety concern, always manage even while training. If I have a client that has small children and their Border Collie is chasing them and nipping at their heels, I would advise that while we are training the dog the children have rules about not running around the dog, crate the dog while children are rough housing, or keep the dog on a leash when they interact – and always under adult supervision. If I have a client that has a Husky, I would caution them to make sure that all fencing is sturdy, well maintained, and tall. I would also encourage them to have their Husky microchiped. We could train the dog to not dart out of the gate, but because they love to wander and are notorious escape artists, would not see a breech in the fence as the same as a gate – and off they go. Take some time to do a little research on the dog’s breed traits so you know what to expect, and figure ways to manage those things that are not the most desirable, but are most likely things you will not be able to fully change.

I would welcome any stories in the comments of things you do to manage your dogs’ behavior.

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at FourontheFloor-Dogtraining.com and on Facebook.

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