I have to admit that I did a lot more training when I only had Ruby. She excelled at trick training and quickly developed an impressive repertoire. Boca was able to attend a basic obedience class and did wonderfully, but we haven't gotten very far beyond that. Training more than one dog can be tricky and it can be hard to find the time to work with each dog individually. Here are some things I have learned that can make it easier and keep it fun.
Keep It Simple
When working with multiple animals it's important to remember that they can be a distraction to one another, and you may not be able to work on complex behaviors. A dog may find it more difficult to do some things in the company of another; for instance, Boca is overexcited when there is food involved and can tend to leap around and make Ruby nervous, so Ruby won't necessarily do some of her behaviors that put her in a vulnerable position, such as rolling over or "relax." I know I have to ask for simpler things such as "sit," "down" and "paw." I increase the challenge by asking for these behaviors from both dogs in unison, and the results can be pretty amusing.
Training two dogs can open up some delightful possibilities if you draw on each dog's strengths. Ruby loves to jump over things. Boca loves to sprawl out on the floor. Naturally, I've taught Ruby to jump over Boca! Our friend Lauren taught her adorable lookalike girls to "kiss" and it's just about the cutest thing ever. Dai Aoki of Positive Dog Care Sydney does some incredible stunts with his two border collies, Holly and Ace.
Utilize Mat or Crate Training
When you want to focus on one dog, it can be tough if the other is vying for attention, barking or whining. I'm so glad that Ruby has a great mat work foundation as it is the perfect solution for short training sessions when I have both dogs in the same room. I can place Ruby on her mat and work with Boca, or ask Boca to go to her kennel while I work with Ruby. I haven't done any mat training or the Relaxation Protocol with Boca, but sometimes we play our own variation on "crate games" where I will take turns sending them to their kennels and release them separately. This is a great way to practice impulse control.
Consider the Individual
What works for one dog may not work for another, and even if you are working with more than one dog at a time, you may have to fine-tune your training for each. They may require different kinds or rates of reinforcement, different lengths or intensities of sessions. Ruby is easily frustrated and Boca can be too food motivated so I have to take these things into account and adjust for them.
Remember that every interaction we have with our animals is teaching them something, and even if one dog is waiting its turn for formal training, it is learning! Ruby and Boca have taught me so much about positive reinforcement, often picking up on things so much faster than I expect. Training multiple pets comes with its own challenges, but I think the rewards far outweigh them.
This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days - join us on the first Monday of every month to promote positive pet training and share advice and experiences. The hop is open all week long! The next hop begins July 6th.