What is Management?
In the dog training context, management refers to being in control of your dog’s environment to set them up for success and prevent specific behaviors from occurring or re-occurring. The goal when doing this is to control particular triggers that could result in your dog being unsuccessful. Examples could range from digging outback, going through the garbage, barking at passersby in a window, but our focus is how to regain trust after your dog bites a young child. The key to successful management is prevention, but it’s important to note that a management program’s success falls entirely on humans, not dogs.
There are times when management is the only way for our child’s safety. Once a dog crosses a line and has nipped, lunged, or bit, absolute control of the environment is critical no matter the circumstances surrounding the bite. Yes, there are times when toddlers are too pushy or overwhelming towards a dog, but no kid deserves a face bite as a correction. It is the parent’s responsibility to control stressors and advocate for the dog, but no toddler deserves to be “taught a lesson” from their family pet. Many dogs can still have a successful life when managed appropriately and then coincided with a training program if it was an isolated bite.
Here are practical ways to start implementing management techniques:
- Immediately alter your dog’s environment and routine, so the dog temporarily has no contact with your child. You need to utilize baby gates, a dog crate, or arrange to have a separate room away from the child.
- During the child’s napping/sleeping times, the dog can have complete freedom of the house. I would use those times to train the dog and create new rules and boundaries around the house. The dog should not have access to where the child sleeps at any time.
- Remove the dog from all furniture and beds. An elevated dog that is at the same eye level as a toddler can feel empowered. You also don’t want a dog challenging a child over space. Purchase comfortable dog beds and take time to sit with your dog on them. Children should never sit with a dog on their place bed, it is the dog’s space only. You may need to keep a short leash on the dog to help break the habit of them going on the furniture. Remember when the dog is on its new bed to reinforce them with rewards and chew toys.
- Have controlled interactions between the dog and child to start rebuilding the relationship. Use exercises like a family walk, so the dog starts looking forward to an activity involving the child. If the dog likes to play retrieve, the child can help throw the toy with the adult. Helping prepare meals is also a good habit to start with a young kid. Afterward, remember to feed the dog where they have privacy to eat undisturbed. Only pick activities that the dog enjoys. If being pet or brushed stresses the dog, the child should not be involved. Allow the dog plenty of time away from young kids, and pay attention to the dog’s body language when having supervised activities to know when to intervene on the dog’s behalf for space.
- Use this time as a teaching moment for your child. Show them how to pet dogs properly, manners to have around dogs, boundaries on when to leave the dog alone (when eating/sleeping), and teach them about dog body language.
- Respect if your dog has a low threshold towards young kids. If that is the case, you can’t force relationships, and by putting more pressure on the dog, you only make it worse. That leaves the dog in a constant anxious state of mind.
*Please remember that your dog still needs adequate exercise, stimulation, and training during this management time. The use of interactive toys such as Kongs, Nylabones, and Bully Sticks are great ways to keep the dog occupied.
A management program allows us to rebuild trust and confidence in the dog while simultaneously respecting its need for boundaries. Managing dog behavior and training a dog should coincide to create the best results. Implementing the Dogs to Diapers online course while hitting the reset button with management techniques will set your family up for the most success and teach your dog their role when around kids. Your dog needs coping behaviors (new jobs around the baby/toddler) to help them adjust to the changes. Up to this point, the dog has probably done its best but hit a threshold. That is no excuse for a bite, but it is an alarm you can’t ignore. It can happen again if the same situations continue. Each case is unique.
In some cases, there is too much risk, even with management when it involves a baby or toddler. A nursery door could be left open, or a dog can jump baby gates, and that’s when tragedy could strike. Dogs are predatory animals with a set of teeth and a biting style specific to their breed. Genetics play a huge role in why our dogs act or react the way they do. Many times, owners don’t realize the genetics contributing to their situation in hopes that the dog can be “fixed” with training only. The damage that is caused even with a warning bite could be detrimental to an infant. If you are unsure, hire a professional in-home dog trainer to assess your situation and advise accordingly.
In most cases, streaming the online course is sufficient but if you need individual assistance, Dogs to Diapers offers a “Trainer Intervention” Package. It consists of a private one on one behavior analysis, immediate access to Dogs to Diapers online streaming course, and supporting follow up notes (for future reference) based on the intervention’s totality. The cost of this package is $250. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-770-9834.