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Survive the Holidays Like a Professional: How Management Can Save Your Sanity and Training Progress

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

If you know me professionally you know two things; My spiel on dogs being self reinforcing creatures and my view on management until training has stuck. If you don't know me (Hello! I'm so glad you're here!) I'll break these down for you.

Dogs are self reinforcing all the time. If it feels good or makes something they want happen, they're going to do it. Take digging as an example. It feels good to them physically and mentally and the more they're allowed to do it the more they'll want to do it. (Ever heard the term "What you reinforce is what will happen"? This is true even for things you ignore and let happen) Or another example, leash reactivity.Your dog is uncomfortable with dogs or people coming towards them, subtle signs got ignored so they barked and lunged and magically the other thing backed off. They learned it worked and will try it again until trained and guided not to do so. If you have been training hard up until the holidays but are not 100% on the problem behavior, I always suggest management over just "toughing it out". Here's why; say your dog is an incessant barker, she's made progress but its still a bit of a struggle. Allowing your dog to mingle with your holiday guests and bark her head off will set your training back a few steps as now she's remembered how much she likes barking. Now if you're really close and have guests who don't mind helping with your training, awesome! But if you want to just relax and unwind and not be engaging in a training session during your party I highly suggest management, which I'll discuss now.

Management does not solve behaviors. Full stop. You are simply not allowing your dog access to whatever triggers an undesirable behavior (or from getting to develop a bad behavior in the first place) but the cause is still in there, the behavior is still in there, and it will need to be worked on so your dog can earn freedom. Yes you heard me right, earn their freedom. A new dog (puppy or adult) in our home does not just get to "move right in". There are rules and expectations. If you show you can behave in the livingroom (not chewing things, pottying etc) then you can be allowed into some other rooms. Our daughter's room is off limits to all but our 2 senior dogs as they will not chew anything of hers or make a mess. If you take this approach, "This is my home and I will teach you how to live here so you may enjoy more of it", your relationship with your dog will be much better. So, what do I mean by management anyway? Specifically; exercise pens, crates, and closed off other rooms (IF they have proven they wont destroy anything in them). Yes even these tools require some training for your dog to be in them happily, but if you put in a little time with them your dog will be comfortable, safe, and happy. I love frozen kongs (I always recommend the black ones not the red ones) as something for them to do while somewhere else. Our freezer always has a minimum of 1 kong per dog that's here (including client dogs) as a way to keep them occupied while we work other dogs or housework. There are tons of healthy recipes if you search the internet. I know you want your dog in the mix of your party, but frankly some dogs will never enjoy that and it is selfish to force it upon them. Some dogs will get there, but management is a great tool while you are working up to that to save you both stress and not put your training back.

Good luck and as always, reach out if we can help you!

For the Dogs,

Christina, DTFC

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