Dogs Taking Over the House?
If you’ve ever had more than one dog in your home, you know life can sometimes feel like a circus, or even a jungle! Lions and tigers and bears might be easier to handle than a house full of dogs.
Life with “your pack” can be tons of fun. But, those of us who do it know that two dogs are more than twice the work of one, and three or four can feel like twelve. Several dogs can bring fun and energy to your home, as long as they’re managed well and they’re well-suited to your lifestyle and each other. In order to maximize the fun and tone down the chaos, there are a few simple tricks that can be extremely valuable to the multi-dog owner.
1. Teach One Name that Calls Them All
You can choose anything from “dogs,” to “monsters,” but it’s a whole lot more efficient than calling, “Sparky, Princess, Spike, Lily, Cisco…” for sure! To do this, you just say the name in an attention-getting voice, and reward any dog who looks. It won’t take too many tries for everyone to be willing participants in this game and catch on! Once they’ve mastered their group moniker, you’re well on your way to keeping them under control and looking like a lion-tamer.
2. Treat Each Dog as an Individual
Many people get bogged down with the idea of treating every dog in the house exactly the same, all the time. For example, if you take one dog to the vet, you may feel like by leaving the others behind, they’ll feel bad, so you take the others out for a little trip later to make up for it. One dog got a cookie for sitting politely at the door, but the rest need one too, so that you can sleep soundly at night knowing that you’re a good dog mom. When dogs don’t learn how to tolerate frustration, it can lead to huge problems for them, and especially for you. So, don’t get hung up on making sure that you treat every single dog exactly the same every minute of every day. They are individuals, and treating them as such will help them, and you, and relieve a lot of stress for all involved.
3. Teach the Same Manners to Everyone
It really helps to teach your group of dogs to perform behaviors as a group – specifically key manners behaviors like “Get Back” or “Stay”. This is more difficult than doing something with a single dog, but not as challenging as you might think. You can break the process down into a few simple steps. First, teach each dog a behavior like “Stay,” on their own. Practice it with each individual separately until they are reliable on their own. (Side note: Yes, you should keep the other dog(s) in another room or behind a gate while you teach your pupil. Remember, they can handle it and it’s good for them to learn a little patience! Use a stuffed Kong as a distraction if needed.) Once you’ve taught each dog separately, begin to practice with two at the same time, until they’re reliable together. If you have more than two, keep adding one dog at a time. Once they’ve got the basics as a group, you can add little distractions, one at a time, and at a slow pace. If you are adding distractions to the entire group, and one dog isn’t getting it, work with that individual separately to bring him up to speed. Training the “entire team” takes a little extra time, but when your dogs are well-mannered as a group, you’ll be impressed and pleased, and so will your friends!
Inspired by dogs? Check out this video of our students and mentors training theirs!