Training Multiple Dogs Together: Mistakes To Avoid & Success Secrets

I am the proud owner/momma of multiple dogs.  I like having more than one dog and I have had at least 2 since I was 18.

As a child my parents first barely let us have a dog for more on that read My Dad Hated Dogs!   So when we finally got to keep our Chow Chow I wanted another 😉  of course I did; I did grow up to be a dog trainer after all!

But my mom always said “Then she would be part of a pack and would love and need us less”.  I think this was just an excuse 😉

So when I moved out and got married, it wasn’t long before I got dog number 1 (as soon as we moved into a house) and then came dog number 2.

I, personally, like my dogs having another dog or two to play with!  Although I do believe that they bond to each other, I have never felt that I was unloved.  And, they keep each other entertained when I am gone and teach each other all the naughty things I wish they wouldn’t pass on!

At one point I had 4 dogs and that was way too many!  I have 3 now and think that maybe one too many, but such is the state of my house right now.

But, let’s face it the more dogs you have, the more work you have to do to keep them well trained and make sure that they do bond with you and not just to one another.

One of the most frequent questions I get about dog training is “How do you train more than one dog at a time?” and so that is what I want to focus on today; to help you multiple-dog owners with training at your home!

Can You Train Two (Or More) Dogs Something NEW Together?

Dogs are like toddlers with fur; they have an excess of energy and they have a hard enough time concentrating when there are NO DISTRACTIONS.  You really have to work to build a good foundation to get control of your dog’s behaviors in distracting environments.

And, dogs are super competitive (just like toddlers) they really don’t like, nor do they want to share.  And when you put a couple of them together and try to train; they aren’t thinking about what they are doing they are anticipating you rewarding the other dog.

Dogs just can’t learn something with another or other dogs present; it just isn’t fair.  Even if you do train them this way it is going to take twice as long and not be as effective or build that strong foundation you are looking for.

Take those toddlers to a zoo and try and teach them something difficult like math or reading… do you think that would be an effective place for learning?

You never see a police dog trainer, or an assistance dog trainer trying to train a new dog with another new or even experienced dog (socializing is different).

Professionals know that dogs don’t learn as well together.

That is they can’t learn together while sharing the same handler, nor can the handler (or owner) give more than one dog the appropriate timing and attention.

I often giggle when I rewatch some of the videos I have shot for this program since I often let all my dogs hang out while I work with one of them.  I might ask for eye contact and focus or for the dog to sit and I see in the background my other dogs staring wildly at me or sitting when I ask, and yet I don’t see them at the time.  I am too busy focusing on the dog I am commanding.

In a dog that knows the command, this isn’t a big deal and he/she knows with whom I am working but when I am teaching a dog this is too distracting and confusing.

The Argument For Teaching Your Dog’s 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 separate into another room and I work one dog at a time.  This way they have my full concentration and their little minds aren’t spinning about who else might steal “THEIR” cookie.  They don’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 later, once they have learned the command they are much less possessive over treats.

And, I can give my full attention to one dog and notice the millisecond that he/she makes a positive step toward the behavior and this gives the dog clearer communication and the ability to succeed.

It also allows me to bond with each of them separately as individuals.  I don’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 don’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 be!

Do my other dogs throw fits when I take another out… sometimes… but I don’t mind; to me that tells me they are excited because they know their turn will be next!  If I really hated it, I could teach them to be quiet when I leave with another dog.

When It’s Appropriate To Train Them 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, I can put them together once they have learned the behavior and understand what I want and then I can ask them to perform the behavior together.  I often take all 3 dogs for a walk, but I taught them leash manners and heel separately!

Some people ask me if they can use their dogs AGAINST each other in training, to speed it along.

Hahaha  YES!!!  Let me explain.

Dogs often get to a place in their training where it is almost as if they challenge you to “Make Them” perform for you; and this is when I like to bring in another dog.  First I must know that they understand the behavior but are simply choosing not to perform it for me!

Then I bring in dog number 2 (who needs to know the command) and ask them to do it for me, and if he does he gets jackpotted and a whirlwind of praise and affection (provided there will be no dog fight instigated over this).

When I trained Service Dogs they all had to learn to retrieve and retrieve basically anything including metal, which tastes icky.  And, so when they decided they really didn’t like that item and would not do it I would bring in NIX.  He would do anything for a cookie and he would immediately retrieve the item and give it to me and I would very blatantly give him a HUGE treat and love on him for compliance while ignoring the other dog.

I would then have him do it a few more times until the other dog was frustrated and leaping for the fallen item.  Problem solved!!!  This almost always made these obstinate dogs decide they wanted to work for me!

Sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at it from their point of view and understand how much individual attention they need!

Once you do that, your dog training gets so much easier!

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