Dog’s Eye View: Management comes first
May 19, 2016
Something that always comes up when dog owners ask for help with any kind of unwanted behavior is the question of who has to change the most — their dog or themselves? It's probably not so much a quantitative answer, since both parties need to do some work. In reality, though, it's usually the human members of the family, since they have to learn and do a lot more in order to be able to help their good buddy do better.
One of the first things I address is the "physical plant." I find it useful to come and see what kind of environment Buddy is living in. We are all so accustomed to our home that we often cannot see ways in which we might be setting our dog up to fail. Would you turn a toddler loose in the living room with your cherished rare and valuable glass collection sitting on the coffee table? I hope not.
I have a saying — management first — which means let's dog-proof the house. This is where we all learn to pick up our shoes and socks and put them away. We can't leave the TV remote on a low table. Children's toys, stuffed animals, dolls and game boards are put on shelves. Toxic plants are taken out of the house. And, my favorite, purchase a really solid kitchen garbage container and bathroom waste basket with strong lids.
I don't know what I'd do without baby gates. They make such unique ones now. There are solid, fence-like gates for inside the home with latching gates you can walk through. The old standby, "tension baby gates," have been around forever. Using kennel crates and/or indoor free-standing exercise pens are also helpful for short term confinement.
Some time ago, I was at a workshop with Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and behaviorist. He told a couple of stories that help me remember that forethought and prevention go a long way toward avoiding frustration, anger, blaming and loss of money. He told of a lady who was so frustrated that her Chihuahua kept getting on her bed and peeing on her pillow.
Of all of the many things Dunbar could have said, he had this one simple management technique: "Close the bedroom door." He also recommended purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of puppy toys when you bring your new buddy home in order to find out what he likes and what kinds of toys are safe to use. His reasoning is, "What would you have to spend to purchase a new couch after the one you have has been chewed beyond recognition?"
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These statements may seem silly, at first, but the reality of bringing a canine into a human home requires some consideration. Management also includes being ready to change your routine and attend to Buddy's potty needs, eating times, exercise requirements, training and just plain cuddle times. It all pays off in the long run.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.