HOW TO TRAIN MULTIPLE DOGS IN A HOUSEHOLD
As a trainer, I often hear concerns and complaints about having more than one dog and the difficulties that causes when it comes to training.
This article is about a great way to teach multiple dogs multiple things, all at the same time. It will also help your dogs to learn about taking turns, waiting patiently, being in a crate, and many other things.
There are other descriptions of "Crate and Rotate"…many folks who do fostering and rescue will crate and rotate their foster dogs with their owned dogs, for safety. This is a variation on a theme.
Here is how to do it:
Let's say you have two dogs. It is best to have two crates, but you can get away with one crate (one less than the number of dogs you have, like Musical Chairs!). Make sure you have a nice selection of different treats, and your clicker.
Put Dog A in the crate, and give treats. Stand right outside the crate…no distance at all. Do a few skills with Dog B…stuff-a-dog, finger target, hand target, focus, leave it. Do perhaps five skills, and each time you do something and Dog A is quiet, give Dog A a treat. You don't need to click Dog A…this session is so short that it will only last about 15 seconds.
Now, let Dog A out of the crate, and have Dog B go into the crate. Give a treat or two, close the door, give another treat, and do about five skills with Dog A, treating Dog B any time he is quiet….you can treat Dog B when you treat Dog A, if he is quiet.
Make sure you do not allow a barking, whining, or crying dog out of the crate. These sessions are intended to be so short that the dogs almost don't know what's happening! If you have crate-resistant dogs, or dogs who don't know about the crate, you might want to start out with higher value treats for dogs in crates and lower value treats for the dog who is working outside the crate.
Congratulations! You just completed Round 1!
Do the same for Round 2, doing different skills or the same skills in a different order. If both dogs did very well, no issues, during the first round, you can add a few skills (meaning, it will take a few seconds longer for each dog's turn out of the crate).
Over time, the Rounds will take longer and longer. Work up to 30 seconds to a minute per dog. Make sure the crated dog has a steady supply of yummy treats while he is being quiet in the crate.
The next step would be to take one step away from the crate while working. You are going to be SLOWLY increasing your distance, one step at a time. As you do this, your sessions will again be very short. When increasing your distance from the crate, it is best to stay there and do multiple Rounds at that distance, slowly increasing your duration (number of skills you do), up to the desired amount of time, and then increase your distance by a step and go back to the really short sessions.
Eventually, you can work one dog on the other side of the room from the crate for some time, with the other dog in the crate, quietly waiting for you to throw treats at him, or walk back to him and give treats. The next step would be to go just outside the room (and when you do that, you will go back to super short sessions).
If you have three dogs, you should have at least two crates. Dog A and Dog B in the crate, Dog C out working. When Dog C is done, she goes into Dog A's crate, and Dog A gets to work for a short time, and then goes into Dog B's crate. And so on.
This strategy is very effective, as it allows you to work one dog at a time without having to wrangle other dogs who want the treats, too! Everyone has his job and his space…perfect!
Now go try it!