Training multiple pets has always been a huge challenge for me. I should probably be reading about this more than writing about it. However, I think I have learned a few things over the years though and want to share just a few simple tips that have worked for us.
Our household was at its largest when we had four dogs and four cats. At that time, three of those dogs were puppies! Yes, crazy (I wouldn’t do it again), and training was difficult to say the least. Somehow we managed to teach the dogs the basics, and we also managed to work on specific problem behaviors, like Sheba’s jumping.
When Luke joined our household I was adamant that I wanted him to be well trained, so he went to basic obedience school and then we took him to a private trainer to work with him more. That’s when I really discovered just how much I enjoy training, how much fun it is, and how it has increased my bond with Luke.
I always take him into a private room when we work so he is not distracted by the girls. Occasionally we might work together with them, but for the most part it’s one on one. Luke responded to clicker training so well I wanted to try it with the girls. TIP #1: What works for one does not necessarily work for others! The girls are both almost 11, and even though they say you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, I’m not sure that’s true. I mostly think it’s the girls’ personalities though….they are just not tricksters like Luke.
Cricket thinks she should get a treat just for being cute. She just sits there and wiggles. Sheba just gets a bit daffy and too excited. So Luke is going to be my trick dog, and the girls mostly get their basics reinforced in everyday life.
TIP #2: Always be training – multi-task! My dogs rarely get a treat unless they sit for it. They won’t get a treat in the kitchen if I’m in there cooking (Luke is told to go to his bed, but the girls have always just been pretty good about not being underfoot). Often when we’re out playing fetch in the yard, I have a handful of treats in my pocket and will call them to “come” to me. Sheba gets so excited about that, if she even sees me put my hand in my pocket, she’ll come running to me and sit down!
Luke gave me another great example for this: yesterday I picked some fresh radishes out of my garden. I set them on the ground to hose off the dirt. Luke stole one, and went romping around the yard with it! I had no idea if radishes were safe for him (turns out they are and can even be good for their teeth), because who would imagine their dog would eat a radish? I barely know any humans that like radishes! Luke is not good on his “leave it” command when he has something he considers really fun and he knows I want it back. He is good with “trade” however, so I ran in the house to get some treats and as soon as I yelled “trade” he dropped the radish and came running (he had only eaten about half of it).
When we go on walks, I try to always remember to bring treats with me. It’s a great time to reinforce “here” or “come”, if they’re on a long leash. I also like to work on “watch me” when on walks too, which is an important command for reactive dogs on walks anyway.
TIP #3: Always be aware of what your dogs are doing. If they do something you’d like to train them to do, such as a play bow or speak, say the word and praise them when you see them doing it. For me, it’s a great way to start training a new trick without having to set aside the time to do it.
TIP #4: As always recommended, keep training sessions short (10 minutes is recommended). It might be easier to set aside 30 minutes per day, broken up into segments, especially when you have multiple pets. Do what you can when you can, and to me, even five minutes is better than nothing.
TIP #5: Praise as often as possible! You can’t always have treats in your pockets, but dogs love praise too, and Luke seems to love it when I just say “good boy” and give him a scratch on the chin (he doesn’t really like being patted on the head). I try to always do this when he has done what I ask (and I’m trying to train my hubby to do it more). It doesn’t matter if I’ve just called him into another room, or reminded him to lie down when we’re eating. I think it’s just a great way to reinforce things daily and keep them wanting to be on their best behaviors.
Just a note: I have never worked on training my cats, other than trying to redirect behaviors like scratching in appropriate places. Even though I’ve had cats my whole life, I never thought of them as trainable. I am starting to see and learn otherwise now, and if you have trained your cat I’d love to hear about it!
Disclaimer: I am not a dog trainer! I am just sharing some tips that have worked for us. If your pet has problem behaviors, please consult a professional trainer for help.
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.
I’m also including the linkup for the Multiple Pet Mania hop. You can read more about that hop, which includes reviews, giveaways, and a photo contest by clicking here. If you haven’t filled out the survey yet, please do: Life with Multiple Pets Survey. This week’s giveaway of a $50 gift certificate to K9 Bytes Gifts will be open through Monday and you can find that by clicking here.