Should you train your dog or just manage it?
I’ve already talked about the fact that Quin barks at other dogs. I find it really annoying and difficult to manage. So what do I do about it? Do I settle for that behaviour. Let’s think about training vs managing these problem behaviours.
Barking at other dogs is described as reactivity. People are very scared if they have a reactive dog. They panic about meeting a reactive dog. No-one wants their dog to become reactive. Oh no! What should we do?
What does managing look like?
If you choose to ‘manage’ your dog’s reactivity, you might start by getting a yellow lead, or a jacket that says ‘Nervous dog‘. You will of course keep your dog on lead for all walks, unless you have hired a private field that is completely secure.
All your walks will be spent nervously watching out for other dogs. You prepare to grab your dog, step away from the path, glare at the other dog owner. If the other dog approaches you, you might get ready to shout at it, putting your dog behind you, or picking it up.
It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Some people think that is part and parcel of dog ownership. It isn’t. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be like that. Dogs should be able to run around, sniffing and wandering at their own pace. You should be able to walk calmly and at your own pace, enjoying the countryside, watching the seasons changing and listening to the birdsong.
Doing this might take a bit of work though. You’ll have to start by paying attention to your dog. Secure your recall. Motivate him to come back quickly and often.
Training takes time
As I’ve been saying from the start, training is an ongoing process. Does Luna no longer get treats because she’s 12 years old? No of course not! She gets treats for being my best, beautiful Boo. Always. Well not quite always, she’s diabetic after all.
You need patience and persistence to train a dog. It is not always straightforward, but it is worth it.
With Quin’s problem, I know that part of the reason he reacts to other dogs is because he is a bit worried by them. So I call him back to me and reward him for staying calm and not fussing at the other dog. I keep going, he keeps getting better. Equally, I know to pay attention to the other dogs and look out for those who have been really frightened in the past and may therefor react more aggressively towards him.
Generally though, when dogs meet other dogs they want to keep it simple and not react. Ideally, they want to say hello nicely.
The rewards of training
One of the rewards for me is walking past people who said ‘What beautifully behaved dogs’. People do notice when your dogs are good. They appreciate not being knocked over by a rabble when they come in the house (I haven’t stopped Aura squeaking though!) Overall, training vs managing wins for me (and my dogs).
Eventually, you can take nice family photos of your dogs. When your puppy owners come around you can show off your waits and individual recall by name. Most of all though, you can relax and enjoy your dogs!
Whatever you do, keep practising, keep rewarding and keep engaging with your puppy!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.