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.
They’re great tips, especially no 5 – praise is far more important to me than treats are!
Our cat Mulberry does a few tricks for treats – if he feels like it. It started by accident when my biped was training me indoors because it was raining. Mulberry joined in and was copying me!
Luke responds very well to praise too. He still loves to close the cabinet doors for us, and he only occasionally gets a treat for that now.
I love that your cat does tricks too! That is just something I’ve never tried with cats, I guess I didn’t give them enough credit!
Cascadian Nomads Bethany Clochard says
I love that so many of us had the same #1. Respecting our pets individuality is clearly a very important point. Your tip about paying attention is excellent as well. Sometimes I ask one dog to “down” and Jason will point out that another dog downed behind me. Good dogs! But if I don’t notice and reward, they won’t stay good for long. I wouldn’t work for free or if no one noticed my hard work either!
Tenacious Little Terrier says
I reward good behaviors that I see too. I think older dogs can definitely be trained… I started training Mr. N at three and foster pup at five and taught Sage a new trick at five. And foster pup was definitely not the biddable sort either.
Lara Elizabeth says
These are some really good tips! Training more than one pet at once definitely takes some trial and error. I recently learned that there was no way I could do any on-leash training with both dogs on a walk. Boca was *way* too focused on getting treats and Ruby of course doesn’t care about treats outside! Thanks for joining the hop!
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
great tips! Luke you silly boy, that radish picture is great!
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Great tips, I’m actually getting better making them work for treats, hugs, praises. PAWhaps that’s because we’re in training (Jax & I). Let’s hope I’m able to keep it up after classes are over.
Great tips – we’ve used Jack to teach Maggie to do things. He is so easy to train because he is so food motivated…she watches him and voila!
2 Brown Dawgs says
Those are excellent tips. Freighter likes to steal my shoes or slippers when he is being silly. I try not to laugh because it just encourages him. 🙂
Oh I know, and didn’t I always make the mistake in the beginning of chasing him? I still have to stop myself, and run for a treat instead. I don’t mind if it’s an old pair of shoes I don’t care about, but if he picks up a favorite and/or expensive shoe I have to move quickly…the destruction can come on fast! LOL
The Island Cats says
That’s the one thing about us cats…we’re not as easily trainable as dogs. But when there’s treats involved, we could be coerced. 🙂
It's Dog or Nothing says
These are great tips! I especially love tip #2. Sometimes I give Mauja and Atka something from dinner, but they always at least sit for it (usually perform a trick or two). It’s a great way to sneak training into your everyday activities.
I got my dogs as young adults, but I find it easier to train them together and count on peer pressure. If I give a command and give a treat to one dog, they all learn to carry out the command.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
PS. Since Ducky has IBS/IBD, I have to be REALLY careful about treats for her, so I usually use toys or just praise. Since she loves to play, the toys work really well…I just make our training sessions into play time. She doesn’t know the difference but she still learns.
I need to try toys with Cricket more. She is just so OCD…she gets completely focused on whatever it is she wants….treat or toy. But it’s always worth a try!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
“(and I’m trying to train my hubby to do it more)” … I almost laughed out loud at that statement! Training a human – especially one’s spouse – is usually MORE challenging than training a dog! Or, in our case, multiple dogs. 🙂
Great tips, Jan! I am a dog trainer — at least certified by the Animal Behavior College as one — but training my own dogs is always a challenge since I get little to no help from my other half in that regard. But I do get satisfaction when they ignore him and listen to me. Hehe! Men! 🙂
Well, my hubby loves to get Luke to do his tricks…after I’ve done all the work of training Luke to do them! It’s all fun and games after that. Men are kind of like kids sometimes, aren’t they? 🙂
M. K. Clinton says
Bentley knows basic commands and will perform them when he thinks the rewards are worth it. Pierre does a variety of tricks that his mom taught him. They both agree with Cricket that cute should be rewarded!
Bentley sounds like a typical hound dog! 🙂
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Awesome post. It can be difficult to train multiple pets at one time, thats one thing I know for sure!
Sometimes I will separate them to do single sessions, but there are times when I like to have them all together. Sort of depending on the day, and what I am attempting to do.
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
easy rider says
Easy is like Sheba.. as soon as he hears something what could be a treat, he sits… without any command… and wherever it is, we have a sitting dog who waits for a treat :o)
And if you weren’t planning on giving him one, now you’re guilted into it! 🙂
Luke is so much like Bailie! She steals stuff and prances around with it playing catch me. If Mom offers a treat, then she will gladly drop it in exchange.