Training More than One Dog or Puppy in Basic Obedience
By Aidan Bindoff
Do you have more than one dog or puppy? Would you like to train them? Find out how to train multiple dogs in a house without headaches and confusion in this brief and easy to understand article.
Dog training is easiest when we make it easy for our dogs to succeed. When our pets succeed easily in training, we can reinforce their good behavior. When we reinforce good behavior, we get more of it. It really is that simple. The golden rule is always set your dog up for success.
When we have two or more dogs or puppies, it becomes necessary to separate them for training at first. We can go into a room with the dog we are training and simply shut the door, or put the other dogs or puppies outside in a secure yard and shut the door.
All training should initially be in a quiet, distraction-free area. Other dogs and puppies trying to muscle in on the act or get your attention will distract the dog you are working with. Working with more than one dog at a time will also confuse you, making training more difficult.
When you have trained a puppy or dog to perform a particular behavior with distractions (see my article “Dog Training With Distractions – Proofing for the Real World with Positive Reinforcement”), then you are ready to introduce another dog into your training of that particular behavior.
I recommend teaching all dogs to go to a mat and stay there. You can toss them treats while you are working with another dog so that they figure out the best way to get treats is to stay on the mat. At first, you will need to toss a lot of treats! You can taper them off over time.
If your mat training is not yet strong enough, then you can use a crate until your mat training is strong enough. This will set both dogs up for success – remember the golden rule?
Some dogs, particularly puppies who have been raised together, really need to learn how to be apart. I make a point of taking my dogs separately to different activities, even if it’s just a walk around the block. If the dog left behind decides to complain about this I have them shut inside so no-one has to listen to the noise (although my dogs have gotten used to being separate right from day one so this isn’t a problem).
Paying attention to a whining dog or puppy who is left alone will only reinforce the whining (or barking, or howling, or whatever it is they do to express their displeasure).
When you train as suggested above, never attend to the whining dog who isn’t being trained at that moment. Don’t even bring them in for their turn at training if they are whining or barking. Wait until you get at least 3 seconds of quiet before you open the door. Next time, wait for 4 seconds. Continue to increase the time you want quiet for second by second each day.
When you get really good at training, and when your dogs get really good at being trained, then you can start training them together. Keep it simple at first, remember the golden rule? Always set your dogs up for success. Start off teaching them stays together, or to come when called. Remember to reinforce them both, but never reinforce a dog who is trying to get the other dog’s reward!
Aidan Bindoff is Editor of http://www.PositivePetzine.com, a free ezine for people training their own dogs. Each edition has easy to use training advice based on positive reinforcement methods. Subscribers have access to a large archive of back-issues they can consult for just about any behavior or behavior problem.
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