The Almost No-Work Way to Fix Behavior Problems

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When a visiting puppy offered to help me eat my lunch the other day, I realized I'm pretty lazy when it comes to fixing behavior problems.

Even though I'm a dog trainer, if the choice is between active training and management to solve a problem, I'm likely to pick management. 

  • Erecting a temporary barrier or putting the pup on tether so he cannot access the couch to climb up would be a management solution.
  • Giving very frequent reinforcement for having four on the floor OR offering a Sit/Down would be the active training solution.

When I'm taking a lunch break I'm not really interested in being a trainer--I just want to sit and enjoy my lunch. But I also don't want the puppy in my food and I most definitely do not want her to develop a permanent bad habit. Therein lies the beauty of management--I get a break, but the puppy's behavior doesn't deteriorate.

Management and active training both yield the same, short-term result: the problem behavior doesn't happen (in my case, the puppy isn't climbing onto the couch to eat my food). This is critical because the more often the dog does the wrong behavior, the more often they're going to do the wrong behavior. The best way to undermine your training is to let your dog practice the wrong behavior outside of training time.

Couch climbing isn't the only thing management can help with!

  • Barking out the windows: put up window film so they can't see people walking by.
  • Pulling owners over on walks OR pulling so hard the owner cannot stop moving: properly fit and use a front clip harness.
  • Jumping on counters to look for food: crate the dog when food is out.
  • Getting into the kitty litter box: elevate the box.
  • Not coming in from outside: take the dog out to toilet on leash.
  • Chewing up illegal objects: create a Dog Area that is puppy-proofed.
  • Peeing on the owner's bed: shut the bedroom door.
  • Digging in the trash: put the trash in the pantry or use a trash can with a locking lid.
  • Jumping on guests: sse a crate, baby gate, or leash. See our blog!

There is no shame in using management. Some people adopt it as a lifelong solution to a behavior problem and others utilize it as a break from training without ruining the progress they've already made. What management tools do you use to make life easier?