Most dog owners can think of at least one thing they wish their dog didn’t do. Stopping unwanted behavior is the main reason owners seek out dog trainers and other behavior advice. But your dog might not need training – they may just need “management”.
What is Management?
Management is setting up your dog’s environment to prevent problem behavior before it starts. It may also mean avoiding situations where your dog is likely to do something you don’t want. Using management means being proactive and thinking about ways to prevent unwanted behavior rather than trying to react after it has happened.
Management can be part of a bigger training plan or a long-term solution by itself.
Why is Management Important?
Management is different from training because it uses the environment and tools like leashes or crates to prevent a dog from doing something, rather than trying to teach them what to do through either rewards or punishment.
Preventing problem behavior proactively is important because:
Management may also be preferable to training because:
There are several common management tools:
Consider whether an environment or an activity is right for your dog. Not all dogs are happy going to dog parks or hanging out at sidewalk cafes. If your dog consistently struggles in a certain location or during a certain activity, both of you might be happier if you left them at home. That is okay!
When Management Isn’t Enough
Preventing problems through management and avoiding challenging situations is a key part of improving your dog’s behavior. However, there are some situations where training may still be important and you need to be honest about your dog’s needs as well as your own.
For example, if your dog snaps at the vet, you could avoid the problem by not going to the vet. However your dog’s health and wellbeing would be at risk. Instead, training and working with your vet are necessary to deal with this behavior.
Or maybe your dog suffers from separation anxiety. Management would involve figuring out how to never leave your dog alone. If you didn’t want to have to continue this for your dog’s whole life, you’d need a training plan.
It’s also important to think about the risks if you or someone else makes a mistake with your management plan. If you accidentally leave food on the counter and your dog steals a quick snack, it probably isn’t a big deal overall. However if you are using management with a dog that displays aggressive behavior, it is important to honestly evaluate what would happen if a mistake was made and how likely it is that that could happen. In these cases, training as well as multiple levels of management may be necessary.
Ultimately, management will be part of changing a problem behavior. It is your decision whether to manage a problem for the long-term or to use management as you implement a training plan. A skilled trainer can help you create a management plan and understand how it will fit into a larger training plan.
Often we feel like we must train our dogs to deal with problem behavior. But it might be okay to just avoid the problem!
Need help creating a management plan? Maybe you want to go beyond management and train new behavior? Not sure which is right for your dog’s issues? Schedule a private behavior consultation.