Management. If you work with me you hear that word a lot. It is a part of any behavior modification plan.
What do I mean when I refer to management?
Basically it means setting up the environment so as to prevent your pet from practicing behavior you don’t want practiced. A proactive way of looking at it is setting up the environment to make the preferred behavior more likely.
A scientific description for this is Antecedent Arrangement. Antecedents are environmental factors that occur BEFORE a behavior that set the ball rolling for the behavior to occur. Examples include: the proximity to a new person is an antecedent for pulling on a leash, barking, jumping, or even growling or lunging; the sound of a dog barking is an antecedent for barking, growling, running away or running toward; humans sitting at a table is an antecedent for pawing, whining, barking; the proximity to wooden chair legs is an antecedent for chewing on the legs.
Since we know that behavior helps an animal to get something it values—whether that is attention, sensory stimulation, physical activity, or something else—management to prevent practice of the unwanted behavior is very important to training success.
These are some of the ways preventative strategies were put into place during my week.
When I was working with a client to teach her dog to sit while people approached them, she had her dog on a leash (that was loose) while asking him to sit and then reinforcing him for doing that behavior. When I arrived for my first appointment about a dog who has a history of barking and lunging at strangers, my initial greeting was with a fence between us and with the dog on a loose leash. When we were practicing recall with a client’s dog, we were in their fenced in yard.
Other example of management include:
- Baby gates for preventing dogs from having access to spaces where unwanted behavior is likely to occur.
- Crates for preventing puppies (and dogs) from pottying inside, chewing on furniture or grabbing shoes, getting overly bitey when overly tired.
- Window clings for preventing dogs from seeing moving things outside that may trigger barking, panting, and/or pacing.
- Boards placed around furniture, electric cords or floor length drapery (which I had to do when my Dawson was younger) to prevent your puppy from pulling or biting on it.
- Ensuring that shoes and other objects you do not want chewed are kept out of reach of your dog or puppy.
The list can go on and on. Just remember, before you can effectively teach your pet when to do a different behavior, you have also got to come up with a plan for finding a way to keep your pet from practicing (and getting reinforced) for doing the behavior you do not like.