If you’re a good, responsible dog owner you probably want to address the issues you have with your dog. I mean, in addition to be annoying and embarrassing, they’re not all that good for the health of your dog.
That’s great – you should try to improve these problems. However, just because you want to fix this stuff, doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to.
All the good intentions, time and devotion in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t have the resources to effectively treat the issues.
Your success or failure in improving any problem with your dog is tied to your ability to control the environment. The more variables you can control, the better your chances of seeing some results. And the more factors that you’re unable to manipulate, the more you may be just wasting your time – or making the situation worse.
Understand Your Limitations
When you’re analyzing a particular behavioral issue you have to be honest with yourself and assess if you have the tools to really work on it. Can you control the environment? Do you have the time? Do you have what’s necessary to work on the issue?
These are important questions and ones that you much ask for each issue and in every situation.
For example, if your dog is anxious and jumpy around kids and you really want to help him become more comfortable around children, but you don’t know any kids that are old enough and responsible enough to safely work with you and your dog, it’s probably not going to work. Even though you have the desire and time to try to improve your dog’s feelings of kids, you lack the resources to do it.
If that’s the case, you need to put treatment on the back burner and instead work on ways to manage the issue.
This is sometime hard to accept because you so badly want to help your pooch get over this issue, but just don’t have the volunteers to do it.
Losing the Numbers Game
The big hurdle that you’ll most likely face is that you need to do lots of good repetitions treating the issue, while trying hard not to add on any more negative reps. All dog training is repetition and consistency, which means that the more your dog has been doing a problem behavior the longer it will take to counter-condition it.
Going back to our example above, let’s say that you get one of your nephews to come over and load your dog up with yummy treats for an hour. And in that time your dog goes from scared to very content to be around this little person who spits up chicken like a popcorn machine. Congrats, that’s a big step forward.
Then during the next week when you’re out walking in the neighborhood you encounter children four different times (as luck would have it you live by a school) where your dog gets scared and freaks out. That’s four steps back.
Do the math. You’re going to lose that numbers game. There’s just no way to realistically treat this issue in your present situation.
The Time For Management
When you hit that point where treatment is not a viable option, it’s time for a heaping helping of management.
Although you might be a bit disappointed with this realization, don’t feel bad – it’s okay. Sometimes management is the best treatment of an issue.
If you don’t have what it takes to see lasting results of a problem issue, then you need to work on ways to manage it. This is not a cop out and you’re not failing your dog here, it’s just the best option at the time.
If you can’t do the amount of repetitions with kids to change his perception of the little buggers, then you need to manage it by not letting him interact with kids and removing him from those situations that involve children.
It’s not ideal but hey, who said this was a perfect world. The goal is to keep you and your pooch living together forever. And in the course of your life with him there will issues that you can and should treat. But there will also be those things that you won’t be able to address, and that’s when management is your new best friend.
What issues does your dog have where management is the best option? Let me know in the comments.