D O G M A N A G E M E N T
A seminar for approximately 4 hours with theory around Dog Management.
What is dog management? The system of dog management explains how to nurture the relationship between the dog and its owner.
What can be difficult about it is that all owners expect something different from their dogs depending on individual circumstances and their lifestyle. Moreover, in many contemporary households the dog is a family pet with no demands, but on weekends owners compete with it in obedience, IPO, agility or show ring. In all cases owners must develop the relationship with the dog where certain behaviours can be switched on and off through a simple word or a cue. Dog management is about raising a dog from puppy to adulthood while conditioning its behavior and eventually choreographies to owner’s liking and needs. It is not to say that owners have to be regimental, quite the opposite, they can remain as affectionate and as emotional as they normally would be with the dog, but simply would give it a little structure. The end benefit of it would be that both dog and its owner will understand one another and have a working and effective relationship.
If we look at a simple scenario where people have multi-layered relationships we notice that how they behave with their children, how they behave with their spouses, how they behave with their bosses or friends would be slightly different. In everyday life people always step into and out of different characters. Another example of the multi-layered realtionship would be working for a friend or a relative. How do you separate your professional and your social relationships, how do you keep them from interfering with one another? Dog management is based on this very philosophy: nurturing the relationship with your dog to the point when the dog would understand that your relationship has to step in and out of different scenarios.
One of the benefits of being a dog lover is that, unlike the society or friends, dogs are never judgmental and they never pass judgment on how we behave. But if we manage to control our behaviors in certain scenarios, we will find that this will create a comfort zone for both us and our dogs where we can totally be ourselves in any different situations. But often what is really difficult for many people is the ability to switch off on the days when we do not have the energy or we are not in the right frame of mind. How can we get through moments like this without losing your face with the dog?
In shaping your relationship with your dog, the more effort and work you put into it, the more you get in return. Another important thing to remember is that the first year of your dog’s life is the most detriment in forming a relationship. On a higher level, I expect that over this first year every owner should be able to learn how to achieve contact with the dog no matter the circumstances, no matter the environment, no matter the distractions. All dogs should be able to run free and enjoy their lives, but you must be certain to have the security that you can sustain the control and contact and have the dog to come back to no matter what. Owner should be able to make the dog feel calm and secure while visiting the vet, going on public transport or maybe meeting another dog which is not so social. Being able to maintain the contact and control over the dog without using physical force especially if it is a large dog is what dog management is all about.
The common problem is that many dogs listen very well when it suits them or when there in nothing else to distract them, as we say in English, a dog is a house angel and a street devil. As a dog trainer I often meet people who tell me: my dog listens very well at home, but won’t pay any attention to me in the park. Many so called trained dogs forget about the owner as soon as they see other dogs. Not only this situation can become dangerous, but it can be very frustrating to many owners. So instead of restricting the dog and telling it that it is not allowed to say hello or be curious about other dogs, there should be a way to implement social boundaries beneficial for both the dog and it’s owner.
When it comes to the balance of the dog-owner relationship – many owners often give everything to the dog for free: they feed the dog, they walk the dog, they carry the dog, they drive the dog to the park, they massage the dog while watching TV, they make bed for the dog, they arrange the dog’s social interactions. So in many cases this relationship becomes unbalanced because the dog genuinely does not give anything back. And by giving back I do not mean, of course, that your dog has to make your bed or feed you. What I mean is that under certain circumstances it would make your life easier if you could get the dog to cooperate with you when you need it. It is this unbalance when we give too much empathy and too many things absolutely for free that ends up spoiling the dog. And, as I am sure, all of us can understand that a spoiled dog is like a spoiled child – nobody likes a spoiled child and it is the same with spoiled dogs that won’t listen and have a tendency to loose control.
If you look at diffent scenarios, culturally we have a tendency to have a great admiration for the competitive dog. I have been competing with dogs in many disciplines and have been around competitive people for many years. Something that always fascinated me is that people who have been training for example obedience, can condition their dogs to work perfectly during the trial, but sometimes miserably fail to control the dog outside of this environment. Many times I stood and admitted someone doing beautiful dressage in obedience and then met the same person in the forest screaming for the dog to come back. This happens simply because this dog’s behavior was never conditioned for the casual settings. Another social scenario can be a boarding kennel or even day care centers for dogs. In Sweden where I live it is not an unusual sight to see dog walkers walking up to fifteen dogs, many of them large, but all under perfect control and all well-behaved. This is a complete opposite of the competitive dog, those dogs are conditioned to behave in everyday life, but most probably they will not withstand the pressure of high competition. Conditioning behaviors, social or formal, is what dog management is all about. So when you understand the philosophy of dog management then you can condition whichever behaviors are most suitable to your lifestyle. It is as simple as having a dog which is manageable in every situation, you are very happy with how the dog walks, how the dog behaves with your family, other dogs and strange people. And then one day you have a bad experience like a dog cuts it’s paw and as a result it has to go through some degree of discomfort at the vets. Dog management will help you out here. Sometimes there would be moments when we will have to push the dog to do something it does not feel like doing, but through active dog management you will be able to secure and support the dog so that it’s psychological trauma will not become an ongoing problem.
To summon up, imagine if I told you that dog management is about not training the dog in the schedule that you are already involved in, it is not about giving extra training classes, dog management is not about doing anything extra. It is about utilizing the lifestyle that you already have. Dog management is about noticing and taking advantage of all available moments that occur multiple times every day within your interaction with your dog. And it is these multiple moments and unique recipe that insure that that these moments develop to your and your dogs favor over period of time. So doing nothing extra, except for altering your behavior and some of interactions with your dog will give you huge rewards in the long run.
I always emphasize that temperament, which is basically the genetic factor, something the dog is born into, and behavior are two different things. If we take again the parallel from people we can often see that Italians have a certain way of behaving which is typical for Italians, English have a certain way of behaving which is typical for English, Americans or even Russians for that matter – and these behaviors are not necessarily based on temperament. Young children simply learn to behave like their parents or friends and dogs are very much the same. Even though there is a wide variation of temperaments from breed to breed and even from one dog to another, owners need to condition their dogs to behave the way that favors their lifestyle. Favorable behaviors may be different in the pet dog that lives with the family that enjoys taking long walks and in the sporting dog that competes at high level. However, it is very important to realize that if you don’t condition the behavior, the temperament will dictate how the dog reacts in stressful situations. Being able to condition and sustain the behavior regardless of the temperament and circumstances that is the true secret if dog management. So instead of categorizing different scenarios I want you, the reader, to look at your own lifestyle and think where you would like to improve your relationship with your dog, whether it is the control, contact, communications and where you would like to put clear borders in relation to what the dog does or does not do, how the dog interacts with people outside of your family circle and so forth.
So imagine the perfect relationship and contact with your dog that can be obtained without any dramatic lifestyle changes, without any special classes, without any special training on a weekly basis, long journeys to the professional trainers, but just by understanding the foundation of the relationship between you and your dog and utilizing the lifestyle that you already have. This is not a fantasy, this can be done and the only difference between you and somebody who already implemented it is understanding how it works.
Can be boxed in A simple tip: if you have a dog that you want to be a simple family pet that you can take for daily walks and maybe in the evenings or on weekends you want the same dog to be a competitive dog. If you look at most competitive scenarios you will find that nearly all formal activities in the world of dogs is done on the left hand side, so if you can teach the dog to understand that while you ask it to walk on the left side then you are in the formal aspect of your relationship and while on the right hand side you are on the casual aspect of your relationship, this will help the dog to understand that there is actual difference. For example, if it was an obedience dog, he should understand that while on the left hand side it must think of you and him as a team, as a collected cooperation, but the day after when it is on the different leash and collar and most likely you would be wearing different set of clothes, then your dog will be walking on your right hand side and will know that it you give i some degree of timeout. You will find that there will be a degree of alteration in your behavior from right to left resulting that in time there will an alteration in your dogs behavior from formal to informal. The end result would be that both of you will have right hand side behavior – walking in the park to formal behavior on the left which is your competition side and this can work just as well for the show dog, obedience dog, hunting dog or whatever your chosen formal behavior is, so this simple tip can help a lot when it comes to having a multi-layered relationship with your dog.