I am the proud owner of multiple dogs.� I like having more than
one dog and Iâ€™ve always had at least two since I was eighteen
Growing up, my parents were reluctant to let me have even ONE
dog. They finally caved, and we got ONE dog, a Chow Chow, much to
my delight. But I still begged my mom for another. She always
countered with,â€Then sheâ€™d be part of a pack and would need and
love us less.â€
I think this was just an excuse.
So anyway, when I moved out and got my own house, it wasnâ€™t
long before I owned two dogs. The most Iâ€™ve ever had was four
dogs; currently, Iâ€™ve got three living with me.
And it highlights for me, the more dogs you have, the more you
must work at keeping them trained and bonded with you, not just
with one another.
Iâ€™m frequently asked: â€œHow do you train more than
one dog at a time?â€
Itâ€™s a great question because I know there are plenty of
multi-dog homes out there.
So today Iâ€™ll offer you my thoughts:
Can You Train Two (Or More) Dogs Together?
Dogs are like toddlers with fur; theyâ€™re energetic and find it
difficult to concentrate, even when there are NO DISTRACTIONS. You
really have to work to build a good foundation to get control of
your dogâ€™s behaviors in distracting environments.
And, like toddlers, dogs are super competitive. They donâ€™t
like to share. And they donâ€™t want to share. So when you start
training a couple of dogs together, theyâ€™re not thinking about
what theyâ€™re doing â€” theyâ€™re anticipating you rewarding the
So training takes longerâ€¦ or doesnâ€™t produce results at
Itâ€™s not the way to build a strong foundation of skills in
each individual dog.
Imagine taking toddlers to a ZOO and trying to teach them to
read or do math problems. Would it work? Of course not. There
are too many distractions; the toddlers wonâ€™t focus, and
theyâ€™ll become frustrated.
Thatâ€™s why youâ€™ll never see a police or service dog trainer
working with TWO DOGS at the same time. Even if one dog is already
Professionals know that dogs donâ€™t learn as well together.
The dogs are too distracted. And the handler isnâ€™t effective
â€” itâ€™s impossible to give TWO DOGS timely rewards, corrections,
The Argument For Teaching Your Dogs One At A Time
I separate my dogs when I am teaching one of them something
new. I put everybody else in a crate or outside or in another room
and I work ONE DOG at a time.
This way they have my full concentration and their little minds
arenâ€™t spinning about who else might steal â€œTHEIRâ€ cookie.
They donâ€™t have to worry about giving stink eye, or stiffening or
growling when cookies are shared; they can simply concentrate on
the command I am teaching.
And by giving my FULL ATTENTION to one dog, I notice the
millisecond that he/she makes a positive step toward the behavior,
and offer positive reinforcement.
This offers the dog clearer communicationâ€¦ speeds their
learningâ€¦ and motivates us BOTH, with faster successes.
Training my dog separately also allows me to bond with each of
them as individuals. I donâ€™t want my dogs to be overly reliant on
one another. I have had several dogs come and go and get cancer
and die and I donâ€™t want my other dogs to not know how to
function without the other. This training gives them individual
attention and shows them how much fun spending time with me can
Do my other dogs throw fits when I take another out?
Sometimes. But I donâ€™t mind and ignore them. It tells me
theyâ€™re excited because they know itâ€™s THEIR TURN next.
If I really hated it, I could teach them to be quiet when I
leave with another dog.
When Itâ€™s Appropriate To Train Your Dogs TOGETHER
Is it EVER a good idea to train your dogs together?
Yes and no.
No, I cannot effectively teach them something
NEW when I have more than one.
Yes, once theyâ€™ve learned the behavior, I can ask them to
perform the behavior TOGETHER. For example, I often walk all three
dogs together on-leash. But, of course, I taught them each leash
manners and heel one at a time.
Some people ask me if they can use their dogs AGAINST each other
in training, to speed it along. Absolutely! This is a great way
to improve your dogâ€™s overall focus and can be very motivating
and fun for them. Dogs often get to a place in their training
where they challenge you with a â€œMake Meâ€ attitude. This is
when I like to bring in another dog.
Assuming the dog truly knows the behavior Iâ€™m requesting,
Iâ€™ll bring in a second dog and ask THEM to perform it for me.
If the second dog performs the behavior, he gets a JACKPOT of
treats, praise, and affection. (Provided youâ€™re confident this
wonâ€™t instigate a dog fight with your crew.)
The first dog watches all of this â€¦ and suddenly is DESPERATE
to perform for you, too.
When I trained Service Dogs, they all had to master consistent,
reliable retrieval of ANYTHINGâ€¦ even metal, which tastes
So when theyâ€™d eventually refuse to retrieve items they
didnâ€™t like, Iâ€™d bring in my star pupil, â€œNixâ€ who would do
ANYTHING for a cookie. Nix would immediately retrieve the item on
command and enjoy his JACKPOT of treats and affection. While I
intentionally ignored the other dog.
I would then repeat this scenario with Nix a few more timesâ€¦.
until I could see the first dog was frustrated and now eager to
Competing for the opportunity to perform almost always made
these obstinate dogs decide they wanted to work for me.
Again, though, be sure your dog understands the basic command
and can reliably perform it for you without distractions before you
Otherwise, itâ€™s not fair!
Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
Training Multiple Dogs Together