Let’s be real — training your dog is hard. Especially when your pooch has behavioral issues.
While teaching a dog basic commands like sit, stay, and paw can be fun and relatively stress-free, the stakes are much higher when you’re dealing with canine behavior issues. These kinds of problems can make your daily life incredibly difficult.
Whether you’re trying to stop your dog from barking, or you’re working on something like reactivity, changing your dog’s behavior requires consistent effort and dedication. And while the results are well worth the effort, it’s no surprise that busy dog owners find it nearly impossible to make time for training.
We have good news, though: There’s an easy fix — management solutions!
Management solutions may not get to the root of your dog’s issues, but they can make life a lot easier for both you and your pet when you’re at your wit’s end.
We’ll share some of the most effective management solutions for addressing a variety of common canine problems below.
Helpful Dog Management Hacks: Key Takeaways
- There are two basic ways to address problems with your pooch: training techniques and management strategies. Training techniques will usually represent the best long-term solution, but management strategies typically provide quicker results.
- Ideally, you’ll work on addressing your pup’s problems via training techniques, while using management strategies in the interim. By doing so, you’ll often find it easier to keep your sanity and avoid canine chaos while “reprograming” your dog through training.
- Many management strategies are incredibly simple to implement, though they may require a bit of sacrifice. For example, if your dog is lunging at other dogs during walks, you may need to adjust your schedule to avoid as many canine encounters as possible.
What are Management Solutions for Dog Behavior Issues?
Management simply refers to controlling your dog’s environment to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors, rather than trying to change his response to a given situation or environment.
Here are a few examples:
- Problem: Your dog gets riled up at night and is more difficult to walk.
- Management Solution: Only walk your dog during the day.
- Problem: Your dog bites your fuzzy slippers in the morning.
- Management Solution: Don’t wear fuzzy slippers and opt for close-toed sneakers instead.
Management solutions are often employed when an owner needs a quick solution to a behavioral issue. However, they are usually used alongside training sessions, in an effort to achieve a long-term fix.
Management vs Training: Which Is Better?
The truth is that good management strategies are just as valuable as good training techniques. In fact, there are many reasons why management strategies can be better than behavior training:
For example, management strategies:
- Require less time and effort for the owner
- Prevent your dog from practicing undesired behaviors (so at the very least, they won’t make the situation worse)
- Are quick, often immediate, solutions to undesired behaviors, which can reduce anxiety and stress for your entire pack
While most owners will want to use a mix of management strategies along with training techniques, I will say it loudly and clearly: There is nothing wrong with relying mostly (or heck, entirely) on management strategies.
It’s the easiest solution and there’s no shame in it!
A Training-Management Combo Is Ideal, But Not Mandatory
In a perfect world, you’ll use management strategies alongside training work.
This means if your dog is reactive, you might take him to a park two or three days a week, when you can keep plenty of distance from your dog’s triggers and practice counterconditioning and desensitization techniques.
However, when you’re walking your pooch before work and don’t have time to be in training mode, you can employ management techniques instead. This includes things like hiding behind parked cars and avoiding busy walking times to stop your dog from rehearsing unwanted reactive responses like barking and lunging on leash.
In fact, preventing your dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviors is often enough to achieve permanent behavior changes.
When you prevent your dog from rehearsing and practicing unwanted behaviors (such as barking at triggers or lunging at other dogs), those undesired actions can end up retreating further back in his brain — especially when you teach him alternative behaviors to do instead. This includes things like “heeling,” performing a hand target, or nomming on a toy.
If you’re dealing with a puppy, you can rely mostly on management. Then, after a couple of years, you can slowly phase out the management strategies. Since your pupperino didn’t have the chance to practice the initial bad behavior, they’ll tend to fade away much easier.
The Drawback: Management Techniques Require Some Sacrifice On Your Part
Changing dog behavior often means changing human behavior too.
The drawback of relying 100% on management strategies is that it can have a significant impact on your life.
For example, if your management strategy for dealing with your reactive dog is to walk Fido very early in the morning and very late at night when few other dogs or triggers are present, it can make your daily routine pretty burdensome.
However, if that routine works for you, and you don’t mind seeing slower progress with your dog’s reactivity, that’s fine.
Life with a dog will always involve some level of compromise.
Dogs should be members of our families, not accessories. Bringing home a dog is entering into a human/canine relationship, and can entail making compromises just as you would for any important person in your life.
Many of the behavior issues owners struggle with come from dogs doing pretty natural, normal doggo stuff (like barking at squirrels and doorbells).
We can resolve a lot of these issues through training and practice. However, we can also resolve a lot of these issues with quick management solutions.
Both require time, effort, and sacrifice.
Whether you choose to sacrifice your time through training work or some of your personal lifestyle elements via management solutions is up to you. There is no right or wrong option, so long as everyone — including you and your dog — are happy with the end result.
With that in mind, here are our favorite management hacks for quick behavior fixes!
Problem #1: Your Dog Barks at the Doorbell
Do you dread having visitors over? Do you cringe when you see the UPS truck come to a halt outside your window? These are just a few symptoms of having a doorbell barker!
Having a dog who barks at the doorbell can be really stressful. One way to work on fixing this unwanted behavior is to desentize your dog to the doorbell by having a friend, neighbor, or family member go outside and ring the doorbell.
When the doorbell rings, offer your dog a treat. Lather, rinse, and repeat until your dog gets a little more comfortable with the ding-dong danger. Eventually, you’ll want to transition to a pattern in which you only offer him a treat when he remains calm and quiet when the doorbell rings.
Alternatively, some owners have better luck giving their dog something to do instead of barking at the door bell, such as going to fetch a special toy or running to a training mat (or some other designated spot).
However, this training activity can take some serious practice time and requires the assistance of an enthusiastic helper. And the truth is, there are some great quick-and-easy management hacks that can make this issue of doorbell disasters disappear.
- Cover the doorbell with a plaque. Pretend you don’t even have a doorbell and cover it up with a piece of seasonal decor or a numbered plaque. Nobody needs to know you even have a doorbell!
- Put a sign up asking visitors not to ring the bell. Place a note beneath your doorbell asking people to call or text your cell phone instead of pressing that dastardly ringer! As a bonus, this also prevents them from knocking, which can be just as triggering for some four-footers.
- Replace your existing doorbell with a Ring doorbell. Another option is to replace your existing doorbell with a Ring doorbell, which lets you change the standard “ding-dong” sound to music or something else. This allows you to start fresh when your dog is just so riled up by the standard doorbell noise that it would take a ton of counter-conditioning to reverse his overreaction.
Problem #2: Your Dog Barks at Noises
Perhaps you live in an apartment with noisy upstairs neighbors who like to do jump squats a little too often. Or maybe you’ve just moved to an old, rickety home that creaks and groans in ways that startle your pup.
A dog that is always barking at noises inside the house can prevent your home from feeling like the relaxation refuge it should be!
The training strategy for this issue would be to offer your pup a treat whenever your dog hears a startling noise and doesn’t bark (even if that period of not barking is just a second or two). Then, you’d continue to “mark” the good behavior (click a clicker or tell him “good boy!”) and toss him a treat as long as he remains quiet.
If he barks, start again, waiting for that break in the barking to click and reward him when he’s quiet. Gradually, you’ll want to extend the length of time he has to remain quiet to earn a treat. Start with 5 seconds, move on to 10 seconds, and so on.
Again, this method requires a lot of your time and attention. You’ll need to have treats close by basically all the time, and it can be exhausting and frustrating waiting for a lull in the hysterical barking to reinforce good behavior (silence, in this case).
- Use a noise machine. Noise machines add a constant low-level sound that can drown out or reduce the intensity of the sounds that startle your dog. Not all owners are fans of noise machines, but if you don’t mind the sound of a waterfall, bonfire, or rainfall around the house, this can be a really easy, affordable fix to a frustrating issue.
- Restrict your dog’s access to areas that trigger him. If there are certain areas that generate a lot of triggers, use dog gates to restrict access to those parts of your home. One example might be gating off the entrance way that leads to an apartment building’s hallways, where the dog can easily hear the echo of dogs walking by or people using the elevator.
- Close the windows and doors. You may be able to address your dog’s nuisance barking by simply quieting the sounds that upset him by shutting windows, closing doors, and implementing noise-dampening curtains and carpets. Also, consider asking your upstairs neighbors to purchase some carpeting if there are loud sounds coming from above you (or if you’re feeling really generous, offer to split rugs with them or even provide them with some).
- Distract your dog with a chew or Kong. If you know there are certain times of the day when there are more triggering noises than usual, schedule a special snack time for those parts of the day. So, for example, if the 2:00 p.m. school bus drop-off drives your dog nuts, whip out a frozen Kong for him to lap up at 1:55 p.m. (assuming it’ll take your dog a solid 20 minutes or so to get through — adjust the timing as necessary). Or, if your neighbors start their jump squat workout at around 8:00 a.m., toss your dog a tasty chew when you wake-up. Give your dog something more interesting to do than barking his brains out!
Problem #3: Your Dog Barks Out the Window
Do you have a dog who spends all day staring out the window just looking for stuff to bark at? Ultra-alert patrolling pups can be a real nuisance! But don’t worry — once again, management solutions can help.
The training strategy for addressing uber-alert window guardians looks pretty similar to the solution for barking at indoor noises. You’d simply reward your dog for being quiet when he sees a trigger waltz past the window. But again, this requires you to invest significant time, remain very patient, and keep treats at the ready.
- Install window films. One of the easiest ways to keep a squirrel-barker at bay is to put up window clings that will let light in but obstruct your dog’s view of the outdoors. If your dog is small, you can just put window clings on the bottom half of your windows. Some window clings come in lovely design that you might even enjoy more than your plain old boring windows!
- Close your shades. Closing your shades is an easy alternative to window clings, but it’ll make your house dark. I’m a pretty big fan of natural light myself, which is why I prefer window clings over closing shades.
- Use indoor gates to restrict access to windows. This is yet another situation where indoor gates can come in handy. Simply keep your dog gated off from rooms with low windows so he can’t see those triggering stimuli — problem solved.
- Distract your doggo with a chew or Kong. Again, using a stuffed Kong or tasty chew to get your dog away from the window and refocused on something else is another way to keep the chaos under control.
Problem #4: Your Dog Barks During Walks
If your dog is barking and lunging on walks, you’re probably dealing with a leash reactive dog. Leash reactivity is a common canine behavioral issue, and it can turn what should be a relaxing dog walk into a mini nightmare.
Training a leash reactive dog can be incredibly stressful. As an owner of a reactive dog myself, we’ve spent countless hours working on Remy’s reactivity through training games like engage- disengage and counter-conditioning Remy to the presence of other dogs during walks. Working on canine reactivity can be a long and tough road.
- Avoid triggers. I once saw a Tiktok “dog trainer,” who said owners should never avoid triggers. That is terrible advice. There is nothing wrong with avoiding triggers when you don’t feel like being in training mode. You should only engage with triggers if you have your treat pouch ready and are up for a training session. If you just want an easy walk with your dog, there is no shame in avoiding triggers. Hiding behind trash cans, cars, dumpsters, park benches, or bushes will allow you to avoid your dog’s triggers by using barriers.
- Walk your pooch early in the morning and late at night. If you see someone walking their dog at 5:00 a.m., there’s a decent chance their dog is reactive! Sometimes, getting up at the crack of dawn or walking Rover late in the evening when fewer triggers are around is the easiest way to get your dog his walk. Most folks don’t want to live this way forever, but if you don’t mind the odd hours, there’s nothing inherently wrong with simply opting for low-trigger walking hours.
- Change your walking route. Another great management strategy for a leash reactive dog is to pick a less populated area for your daily stroll. If you live in a busy urban center, taking your dog out to a quiet park a few miles away might be a better option than contending with triggers on tight, tiny sidewalks.
- Try a treat scatter. One easy management strategy is to throw a bunch of treats on the ground when you see one of your dog’s triggers. Keep your dog facing away from the trigger so that he doesn’t even see it. Treat scatters can be a part of reactivity training work too — if you throw down a pile of treats while your dog can observe the trigger (while remaining under his flip-out threshold), you’re doing some counter-conditioning work by creating a positive association between your dog and the trigger.
- Lure your dog past the trigger. Luring basically refers to taking out a treat and using it to move your mutt. This is technically different from behavior work, where you reward your dog for good behavior. In this scenario, your dog isn’t choosing to perform a specific (and desired) behavior, he’s just following the treat that’s right in front of him. When a trigger pops up out of the blue and you realize you’re in over your head, there’s nothing wrong with whipping out a treat and luring your dog the heck out of Dodge!
Management strategies are great when you need a break from reactivity training, while still keeping your dog below threshold. Trigger stacking (repeated exposure to triggers during a relatively short period of time) can make things tough on reactive pooches, so don’t hesitate to mix in management strategies.
Problem #5: Your Dog Jumps on Guests upon Arrival
Watching your dog jump all over houseguests is no fun at all (for you or your visitors). Some people are afraid of dogs, and a jumping, over-enthusiastic greeter might convince them not to politely decline future invitations. Plus, no one wants muddy paw prints all over their clothes.
But don’t worry — you can use management… eh, you already know where we’re going with this.
The standard training solution for a jumping dog is to ignore him and turn your back until all four paws are on the ground. Only then do you give him the praise and pats he is longing for!
While this training option is fairly straightforward, it can be difficult to enforce when you have various visitors or family members who are not so dedicated to the training practice. If your dog gets the attention he desires from jumping (even if he only gets it from some people), it reinforces the behavior, making the problem nearly impossible to solve.
- Confine your dog to another room before guests come inside. One easy idea is to simply close your dog off in a separate room or a crate before your guests come inside. Give your pals a few minutes to settle in before letting your pup come out and say hello.
- Place your dog behind a baby gate. In case you hadn’t noticed yet, dog gates are super workhorse tools when it comes to management strategies! This is another situation where gating your dog off in the kitchen or a laundry room works great. This way, he still gets to be part of the action (kind of) while not physically assaulting visitors.
- Put your dog on a leash at the front door. You can also put your dog on a leash when answering the door so that he physically can’t jump up on guests. Just understand that your pup’s standard leash may not work especially well for this — you may want to use a shorter, tie-down or “traffic” leash instead.
- Drop treats on the ground. Another easy management tactic is to drop a bunch of treats on the ground while you go to answer the door. This keeps your dog low to the ground, positioned right where you want him and not focused on the guests. You could modify this into a training game by dropping a treat when your pup looks at a guest while keeping his paws on the ground. But as a management strategy, you can simply use the treats as a distraction and as prevention, rather than a reward for good behavior.
Problem #6: Your Dog Interacts Inappropriately with Guests
Maybe your dog has no issue with guests entering the home, but once they’re inside, your dog becomes a bit too pushy in his quest for attention. He might bark at them incessantly, lick their hands raw, or demand they throw his favorite fetch toy over and over.
A training strategy for this issue would likely involve teaching your dog a “Place” command, such as having him go to his bed when he’s getting riled up by guests. Or, you could reward him when he displays good behavior. For example, you could toss a treat his way when he’s interacting politely with guests or keeping a respectful distance.
However, sometimes you won’t want your friends’ visit to be a training session. You might just want to relax and chill with your company, which is perfectly understandable! Guess what you can do in these cases?
- Give your dog a high-value chew. Distraction is a pretty incredible management strategy. Distract your dog enough and you can prevent him from practicing undesired behaviors — and that definitely counts as a win! Let your dog enjoy a Lickimat, toss him a stuffed Kong, or give him a long-lasting chew to keep him occupied while guests are visiting.
- Put your dog in another room (or a crate). As when dealing with an excited greeter, there’s no shame in putting your dog in another room, crating him, or sequestering him behind a gate when visitors are over. Throw a Kong into the mix and your dog will likely take no issue with leaving the party. This is an especially good strategy if you have a dog who is a potential bite risk.
If you need some fun ideas for what to stuff all those Kongs with, we have a great video about stuffed Kongs below:
Problem #7: Your Dog “Counter Surfs”
Have a dog who loves to steal morsels off of kitchen countertops? These snack-snatching dogs who jump up on counters are often referred to as “counter surfers.” Counter surfing can be a tough behavior to combat because “wins” — even infrequent ones — can be very reinforcing.
Think about it this way: Maybe your dog jumps up on the counter five times a day all throughout the week, and doesn’t get anything. But when he jumps up on Sunday, he finds a big rotisserie chicken and snags a drumstick.
Even though the dog jumped up 30 times and didn’t get anything out of it, the one occasion where he got that chicken drumstick was rewarding enough to make the activity well worth it. After all, a drumstick (or any other human food your dog might find on the counter) is like doggy gold.
The training strategy for this issue would actually be quite similar to the management strategies — you absolutely can not leave unattended food out on the countertops. Period. Full stop.
Further training strategies would involve spending 10 minutes a day giving your dog access to the kitchen under supervision. While your pooch is enjoying kitchen time, you would then practice mat training and reward him for staying on the mat.
- Keep food off your counters and your cabinets closed. Changing your dog’s behavior often requires changing your behavior. In this case, keeping your countertops free of food and your cabinets closed is essential. You simply can’t give your dog any opportunities to reinforce his counter-jumping.
- Restrict access to the kitchen. Once again, gates save the day! Restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen by using gates to keep your dog out of the room.
Problem #8: Your Dog Chews Up Stuff
Inappropriate chewing is one of the most classic canine issues, with chewed up dress shoes and heels being the quintessential puppy problem.
Destructive chewing can be annoying for owners, but it’s a very natural behavior for dogs. In fact, chewing is a stress-relieving behavior for dogs. Rather than trying to prevent your pup from chewing, our goal as dog guardians should be to teach our dogs what they can and should chew on (while helping them avoid off-limit items).
This is another scenario where training and management really overlap. Any training in regards to chew prevention will follow all of the management strategies listed below, while also giving your dog appropriate chewing outlets (like long-lasting chews and toys). Then, when your four-footer chooses to chew on an acceptable item, you’ll want to lavish him with praise.
- Close doors to bedrooms and closets. If you have stuff in your room that you don’t want your dog to chew, just close the door. Don’t present a house full of temptations to your dog!
- Keep enticing items off the floor. Yes, it’s really that easy! Just put away shoes, charging cords, TV remotes, and other items you don’t want your dog to chew. If you usually put your shoes in a pile by the door, try putting them in the closet instead, or get a storage bench ottoman to place by the door that can hold your shoes without allowing your dog access to them.
- Restrict access to chewable furniture. If your dog loves to chew on carpeting or furniture, don’t let him access those areas without supervision. When you are busy or out of the house, gate your dog off in a dog-friendly location like the kitchen or a laundry room. Or, once again, use a comfy crate for your canine.
Management techniques are considered the lazy option by some, but it’s all about working smarter, not harder, right?
The ideal solution to any pup problem will usually involve a mix of training work and management strategies. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort to control your pet’s environment and make long-term compromises for the benefit of your dog, there’s nothing wrong with committing to management practices. This can yield for a more enjoyable life for you and your pooch!
Have you tried any of the dog behavior management strategies detailed above? What were the effects? Did you mix in training as well? Share your thoughts in the comments!