As leader, you will encourage and develop rewardable physical behaviors or responses to your requests. Those behaviors in turn set up emotional associations that further internalize the responses.
Being quick and generous with your rewards teaches the dog which responses you like, resulting in further compliance and cooperation in the future.
Before we start to use this information to establish training foundations and solve problems, though, there is another necessary interaction to set the stage for harmonious living — namely, management.
We use a management system when training is still in process or when activities in the house might not include the dog. Good management minimizes the number of mistakes your dog or puppy makes and teaches it to accept limits on its behavior, thus minimizing corrections and conflict.
While corrections and redirects are inevitable when living with a dog, rewards for desired behaviors are much more effective in strengthening habits and creating positive emotional associations. Corrections done poorly can cause a sensitive dog or puppy to misinterpret what you are doing, creating fear or conflict rather than cooperation.
The fewer serious mistakes your pup or dog makes, the more easily it will develop into a confident and happy dog that readily accepts and understands the limits on its behavior. It is more likely to successfully socialize and adapt positively to your household.
Management entails different forms, one of which is confinement. When I can’t supervise a young dog, I manage until I can predict that good habits will prevail.
For example, during the day, if I am not home, my puppy will be left in a space where I know he and my house will be safe. I’m lucky to have a variety of options, such as crates, yards, kennels and multiple baby gates, and can chose any of them depending on the weather, the age and temperament of the pup and the length of time I will be gone.
When home, some owners will leash a puppy to themselves or to a comfy bed with a toy to keep the dog out from underfoot, yet in the same vicinity for better supervision.
Additionally, I might use management strategies when I prepare for a training session, by scheduling the timing of feeding and activities to increase the probability that my dog will be excited by the rewards I use. I like to train before mealtimes or use the excitement of play or going for an outing as an opportunity for learning.
Management stands as one of three strategies, next to training and socializing, for developing a best-friend relationship with your happy, confident dog.
In my next column, I’ll look at socializing a dog, what happens when it goes wrong and how to socially “inoculate” your puppy so that it easily handles a variety of experiences and people.
Augusta Farley raises, trains and competes with Belgian Malinois dogs and runs Best Friends Pet Resort & Canine Academy in Patterson. She also hosts a Patterson-based nonprofit dog shelter, Westside Animals for Adoption, on her property.