Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Pets Than People...

Managing a multi-pet home can be challenging and I can definitely relate. I share my home with at minimum 3 dogs at a time and generally we will have an extra dog and one or two cats hanging around too. Here's some practical tips on how to live in harmony when the pets outnumber the people... 

The most important first step is making each and every single dog has attended at least 1 obedience class. This allows you to bond one on one with your dog without the other pets competing for attention. It also allows you to create a basic foundation of training with your pet. All dogs should learn their name, sit, down, stay, how to walk on leash and recall. A good obedience class will give you those foundation skills in a rather short order. 

It's also important to realize that training is a lifelong process for dogs. My own dogs attend classes regularly to enhance our bond, practice new skills in a distracting setting and to enjoy dog sports. If you're not a training addict like me that's alright but remember you will still need to spend time polishing your basic skills with each dog individually. 

Karen London, PhD and Patricia McConnell, PhD also recommend giving your dogs a "group" name. This allows you to address your dogs all at once if need be. This comes in handy when you're at the park and need everyone to come at once. It can also be helpful when your dogs start to misbehave and you want their attention. A group name can be something as simple as "puppies" or "kids". I use "aussies" to address my boys. Heidi is rarely in on the action with them and generally just needs her individual name. 

Remember when dealing with a home with dogs of a different breeds, ages, sizes, genders that the rules for one dog might not be the same for another. That's alright! My pint size Schnauzer is definitely allowed to do things that my 60lb Aussies are not.  My puppy also has different rules than my trustworthy adult dogs and that's alright too. He'll have his chance to earn the same privileges. My puppy tends to get more training time and exercise time to make up for his extra rules. Life isn't always fair and that's alright! 

If you're experiencing any aggression type issue with multiple dogs in the house make sure to contact a qualified positive reinforcement trainer to give you some guidance. 

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