In today’s post, I want to talk about something that I’ve brushed on before and want to explain in more depth. It’s called the “collateral effect.” The “collateral effect” is a term that I use frequently. It simply refers to the common trend that when we satisfy one need in a dog, other behaviors that we weren’t trying to fix still tend to fall into line.
We have a new videographer who’s filming some of our clients. One of those clients said on tape that the training process was hard and required effort, but by pushing through they saw a lot of results. But she also said that he now only had to take his dog on an hour-long walk in order to come home tired. In contrast, he still wouldn’t be tired after three hours of exercise. “Now,” she said, “he puts himself to bed when it’s bedtime.”
This is the collateral effect in action. No training is designed to make a dog go to bed on time, and no training forces a dog to be satisfied with one hour of exercise rather than three. It’s not something that we’re doing intentionally. But you’re typically going to tire a dog out faster through the brain than the body. Finding the time to get our dogs tired can be a challenge in today’s hectic world, but extra energy can cause destruction, hyperactivity, and even aggression or anxiety. We all instinctively know that it’s beneficial for our dogs to be tired, but we need to leverage our time in order to make that happen.
If you have the time to take your dog on a three-hour hike, that’s great! But what happens when you’ve got work, and you need to hit the grocery store on the way home, and your kid has band practice afterward? It can be very difficult to get your dog tired. This is why it’s so important to make the time that you do have much more mentally exhausting to your dogs. This particular client did structured walks and practiced obedience. As a result, her dog became more relaxed. It’s actually very common for things to change—for the better—without our explicit intention, just because we got our dog’s mind right.
Think about this in relation to your dog. Is there a foundational problem that needs to be addressed? If you address that problem, then you’ll see other collateral issues begin to get better too.