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MANAGEMENT MATTERS


I frequently come across a multitude of questions and queries from people seeking help with training their fearful dogs to do or not do various things. These often include things such as:


*Not to bark at goings on outside windows.

 *Not to bark at the doorbell.

 *Not to bark at outside noises.

*Not to door-dash the moment it opens.

*How to teach them to cope with visitors.






The list goes on, but often, all that is needed to prevent your dog from rehearsing those unwanted behaviours is to have some management strategies in place. With some forethought and taking a proactive view, we can often make life a lot easier for both the two and four-legged ones!


Minimising stressors in the home as much as possible is really important as it will help to prevent trigger stacking. With just a few small changes, you can make a big difference in how safe your dog feels in his home environment, and this, of course, will directly impact your dog's behaviour; feeling safe is so important!


You can read about the topic of trigger stacking here:






And you can read about how you can help your dog to feel safe here:







There are lots of options for helping you manage your dog and his environment, no matter the layout of your home, but these are just a few possibilities to consider:


*Provide your dog with several safe spaces around the house. This will give him a choice of places he can retreat to from other pets, and will also offer him respite from visiting or resident children. If the children are not old enough to be trusted to follow your instructions, physical barriers are a good idea for that extra level of safety.


*If your dog is worried by people coming to the door, use physical barriers to prevent access, or wait until your dog is safely secured in another room before opening the door.


*If your dog is worried by people coming into the home, plan ahead and have management strategies in place to protect all parties concerned. This may be in the form of using barriers and safety gates to prevent access to visitors, or having a safe space set up in a quieter part of the house where your dog is happy to spend a bit of time without you.


*If your dog is alarmed whenever the doorbell rings, why not disable it, or tape over it? A friendly request in advance or a note on the door asking visitors to knock, ring or text when they arrive should do the trick.


*Does your dog like to eat the post or the postman's fingers? Prevent access to the door with a barrier, install an external post box on the edge of your property, or fit a cage to cover the letterbox.


*If noise sets your dog off, you can use television, radio, fans, white/pink/brown noise, household appliances etc to mask sounds. It might be that there's a quieter area of the house where your dog can hang out and feel safe.


Please note:

Sound sensitivity is often due to a medical condition, pain, or physical discomfort, so do get your dog thoroughly checked by your vet if he struggles with noise.


*In terms of reducing visual triggers, window film can work brilliantly to prevent your dog from watching at glass doors and windows. Patrolling behaviours can really ramp up arousal and stress levels, which will also increase the possibility of trigger stacking. There are some really pretty window films available, and they still allow the light through. I like the non-adhesive type which is applied using water, as it can easily be peeled back and replaced to allow for counterconditioning. Changing the layout of a room by rearranging furniture and making use of barriers may also be effective in obscuring the view to outside.


Management is a really important part of behaviour modification, and should not be viewed as taking the easy option, cheating, or avoiding the issue completely. When we are not actively training, we need to ensure that we don't expose our dogs to the things which worry them in order to prevent trigger stacking and to allow decompression time. If your dog has multiple triggers, it is best to prioritise training one at a time so as not to overwhelm him, which means that management really is an essential component.


Giving some thought to household management right from day one may even help prevent any issues arising in the first place - prevention is better than a cure, is it not?



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