The first and arguably most important part of a successful behavior modification plan is management.
But what is management?
What does it look like?
And why is it so important?
The concept of management in training is all about setting up the environment to help make the desired outcome more probable, while also limiting or eliminating the learner’s opportunity to practice undesired behaviors. So what does this look like? Here are a few examples:
Putting a leash on your dog before you answer the front door, so they don’t run up and jump on arriving guests.
Keeping interior doors closed while you’re not home so your cat doesn’t jump on the kitchen counter.
Building a coop for your chickens so they do not escape over your backyard fence.
Using baby gates and exercise pens to contain your puppy during potty training and teething stages.
Without management, all the training actually will have little or no effect. Learners need a well-structured environment which lends itself toward making the desired choice easy for the learner! When teaching a toddler how to ride a bike, we do not ask them, “do you want to wear a helmet?” Instead, we can ask “do you want the green helmet or the red helmet?” Either way, the learner will be wearing a helmet! Management provides our learners with a variety of choices within reasonable boundaries. As their skills grow, and as positive reinforcement is applied to the various behaviors we want to see, the learner is granted more freedom and more choices.
Poor management often leads to reactionary training, which often includes using pain, fear, or intimidation to stop behaviors from occurring. Why punish the learner for failing when we can instead reward them for doing well? Successful and ethical training is about setting the learner up for success, not failure.
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