I’m going to let you in on a little secret. My dogs are not perfect. As a matter of fact, many of the great trainers I know have dogs with behaviors some people might consider annoying.
I often use my own dogs as examples when I try to help people decide what is most important in terms of their dog’s manners.
A client emailed about her dog chewing up DVD cases while she was gone, plus the dog jumped on people who came to visit.
The dog is around a year old and very energetic. He is also easily bored and needs more than exercise to keep him busy. He needs to find things to do. Hence, chewing up DVDs when he was alone and bored. He also loves people and is a big dog. So, when he jumps up on people, he is large enough to push someone over.
I told her how I solved these issues since I have an 11-month old constantly bored 65 pound adolescent dog – He is never left alone and when company comes over he is not at the door.
Instead of training a different behavior I choose to manage my dog’s behavior in situations such as this.
My client emailed back. “Clearly, if YOU are crating your dogs, we need to return to putting him in his crate. Also, if you as a dog trainer are keeping your dog on a leash or separate from guests, clearly we novices need to be doing something similar!”
I was quick to point out that just because I did this, it didn’t mean she had to follow my lead. I was just providing a management solution vs. a training solution.
If I left Skywalker loose in the house while I was gone, I would come home to a destroyed home. He is a busy boy. I wanted an intelligent, high-energy dog in order to do search and rescue. I did not want a couch potato. Sky gets lots of daily exercise and he spends several hours each day loose in the house under my supervision (and he still manages to destroy things when I’m not watching closely enough).
In terms of jumping up, I could train my dog to be more polite at the door. It just isn’t a priority for me. I have lots of things I want to work on with my dogs. In order not to be overwhelmed I choose the behaviors most important to me and work on those. For the rest, I find a way to manage the behavior. Instead of working with four dogs on polite door behaviors, I either meet someone outside my door (like the pizza delivery person) or I put my dogs up before I let anyone inside the house. I can then choose to allow dogs to greet visitors later if I want to.
However, if a client wants her dog at the door happily greeting visitors, then I can teach the client what to do.
I always try and give my clients more than one option. I want them to have one or two training options and at least one management option.
If you find yourself having a conversation with a dog trainer and you feel overwhelmed don’t hesitate to ask for management as well as training tools.