Part 3 - Management

May 28, 2018

 I don't know what it is about management, but everyone seems to hate doing it. No end of times I meet people who have this horrendous problem, want to jump through all these hoops to fix it, when it could just as easily be managed. 

 

As far as I see it, management comes in 2 forms. 

The first form has the goal of preventing overall arousal. Arousal is the intensity of an emotion, but it doesn't tell me what kind. Even very positive emotions can result in high arousal. The higher the arousal, the more likely we see behavior problems. Therefore, by managing the arousal of a high stress/anxious animal, we prevent the manifestations of those problems. We do this by preventing trigger stacking. Trigger stacking occurs when, over time, little situations build up on the animal until they can no longer cope, hit their threshold, and then product their behavior problem. We prevent trigger stacking by identifying small triggers throughout the day of the pet and monitoring body language. Stop the process before it gets started, prevent reactivity, and manage the the problem. 

 

The other form of management is surrounding a specific problem. For example, reactivity on walks. My answer? STOP WALKING THE DOG. If your dog is reactive on walks, I guarantee you they aren't having fun. I literally cannot imagine being so stressed out every single time I'm out of the house that I want to yell and scream and threaten violence to every person I see. Yet, that is exactly what our dogs are doing when they're reactive. Why would you want to expose you're loved ones to that? 

 

There is nothing wrong with managing a problem. Depending on the dog and family, this could be the answer they're looking for. Just stop exposing the dog to that situation. If they still, truly, want to change the behavior, we still use management as a training tool. By preventing overarousal, we help the pet stay in (what I call) "Logic Land." Logic Land is where learning occurs; if the pet goes over threshold, they can't learn. 

 

So, regardless of your goals and expectations for change, management is an integral part of any behavior modification program. Work with the family to figure out what works best for them. Manage the problem while teaching new skills. 

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