Two (Or Three or Four) Is A Crowd
One of my most popular behaviour consultation requests is for dogs that reside in the same home and are not getting along – in some cases, the situations in which reactivity &/or aggression occur are specific whereas in other cases, the dogs are strictly separated at all times. This is a very complex consultation as there are so many factors to take into account, but there are often similarities that these situations share. I’ll discuss those below, but if you are living with multiple dogs that do not get along and you would like help, please contact a suitable canine behaviour consultant after a through veterinary visit to rule out any health issues.
Someone Has Pushy Pants
One or more dogs will be what I call “budgers” or “pushy pants” – if you are giving attention to one dog, this particular dog likes to “budge” his/her way in so that he/she may get the attention. Handing out treats – this dog has trouble waiting for his/her own. Pushing out the door, pushing in for pets, pushing dogs out of the way for the best spot on the couch – this can become a problem when the other dog is frustrated or becomes aroused. One of my first steps in these visits is to implement an impulse control program – often times, “Sit to Say Please” or “Nothing In Life Is Free” is beneficial for both owner and dog in teaching some patience. We start with It’s Yer Choice puppy exercises and work up to place/ mat training and waiting for a release. Then we add in distractions, working up the hierarchy to the biggest distraction of all (with safety measures in place). Depending on the dog’s history and behaviour, this can take some time.
We are going to do A LOT of rewarding of stationary behaviours - still is good. Learning a solid “stay” in a
lot of situations is good. This goes hand in hand with impulse control, and generalizing stationary commands to plenty of situations and rewarding the heck out of them goes a long way towards peace.
Are Individual Dogs’ Needs Being Met?
I spend time with each of my dogs individually each day. They are very different personalities and have different needs. Shorty likes to hunt for critters while out walking, and Mulder likes to multi-task with obedience and ball throwing. Mulder requires multiple daily individual training sessions in something he likes; Shorty likes doing some tricks for kibble and snuggles. Both dogs have mental stimulation needs that need to be met each day. Individual time in multi dog homes is key (it’s not true that more dogs are less work – just not true!).
Systematic Desensitization and Counter Conditioning
Once everything else is in place, then we can begin the nitty gritty work of teaching the dogs that when the other is present, good stuff is coming for them. This process takes a lot of thought, with attention paid to both dogs’ body language,thresholds and plenty of safety precautions in place. This process needs a qualified set of eyes, whether via online platforms or in person.
These are simply my anecdotal findings – management and training are the key to happy, multi dog homes.