When I got my first dog Dexter I was fresh off an internship at the Shedd Aquarium and full of training momentum. I worked with Dexter every day, a few times a day, on anything from obedience to tricks. It was fun and easy. Then we got Delilah and all that changed. I couldn’t just decide to train one of the dogs on any given day because the other dog was there and wanted my attention as well. So I had to figure out a way to manage both of them.
I have tried many different techniques, and have found what works for me and my dogs.
All the techniques I tried can, and do, work, but some did not fit with the two crazy pups I own. If you are finding it hard to work with all of your dogs, I encourage you to try out different ways and see what works for you.
- Have two trainers. This is simple enough, right? It is for most people and is probably a common solution for households with two dogs. My husband and I, however, have two very different schedules, and frankly the times we are home together we would rather watch a movie or relax, not train our dogs. And what happens if the dogs in the house outnumber the people? Then what? You could invite some friends over for a training party! (Non-professional trainers have training parties, right?)
- Put one dog in another room. This solves the problem of needing more people and dealing with more than one dog. But what happens if the separated dog starts acting up by barking, whining, scratching at the door, or all of the above? You could try some doggie enrichment to occupy the separated dog’s time. This sometimes works for me, depending on which dog I have separated. Dexter is perfectly happy with a peanut butter kong, as long as he can see us through the baby gate. Delilah, on the other hand, is impossible to contain and even with a peanut butter kong of her own is not okay with Dexter getting any attention. She will just pick that kong right up and shove herself into the training session.
- Train both dogs at the same time. This can work as well, and can be a fun challenge for the trainer and the dogs. But sometimes a dog just needs some one-on-one attention. Also, there may be food aggression between the two dogs, which could cause problems.
- Have one dog go to and stay at his/her place, and alternate dogs. This is the method that works best for us. Some of you may be saying “Well, wait – how is this different from training two dogs at once?” It’s not different – I am training two dogs at once, I am just using a management tool to set both the dogs and myself up for success. I ask Dexter to go to his place while I work with Delilah. As long as he is lying down on his place, each time Delilah gets rewarded he gets rewarded as well. Then I call Dexter to me and send Delilah to her place, and we do the same thing. That way both dogs are actively participating in training, but I am still able to work one-on-one with each dog. Yes, sometimes one of the pups will get up and come to me (mostly Delilah), but no worries – I just ignore her and Dexter for a few seconds, ask Delilah to go back to her place, and then reward both of them.
So test out different methods and find what works for you and your pups!