Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Training Multiple Dogs - Positive Reinforcement Pet Training

Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a great day! We actually got that rain storm I was telling you all about! Since it's pouring outside I decided that I'm going to share some tips for teaching multiple dogs to settle and to take turns being trained. That way you can train two dogs at once without being interrupted! This is great for teaching dogs to control their impulses.

Training multiple dogs at the same time can be challenging but it doesn't have to be if you set them up for success and prevent unwanted behavior by proofing. When we got Phoenix I knew that we were going to have a lot of stuff to work on but there was also Zoe to consider as well. Zoe loves her training sessions and I would still need to work with her, too.

Zoe waits patiently while Phoenix is training

I went with the Kikopup method to teach each dog to be calm and wait their turn while the other dog is working. When we first started working on this I would tether Phoenix because she didn't have a solid settle or stay yet and I didn't want her constantly interrupting Zoe. Using the tether would prevent her from breaking her stay and keep her from practicing unwanted behavior.

In the video above, I am proofing Phoenix for not jumping off the couch before she is released while also working with both dogs on some of their tricks. I am also randomly rewarding Phoenix for staying on the couch while I work with Zoe. We also practiced switching and only leaving the couch when the dog hears her name and release cue.

 So the steps I would follow for training a new dog would be:
  • Teaching them a place cue for settling  (place can be a dog bed, mat or even the couch)
  • Teaching a release cue
  • Build Duration of the settle
  • Add Distance to the settle
  • Add a Distraction (another dog, etc)
  • Proof it consistently until it's a default and maintained behavior, so the dog stays until released. 
(The steps can be broken down even further depending on your dog's needs)

Basically I've taught my dogs to go to their place and wait there until they are released.They have also learned to wait their turn and I can release one of them at a time without them both jumping down. If a dog makes a mistake, it's okay. I just have them go back and we try again. Now that both girls are pretty good at this, I make sure to randomly reward them for staying on their place but in the beginning you want those rewards to be pretty frequent. I will also reward the dog who gets interrupted if the other dog accidentally makes a mistake.

The other thing about training this is that when you first start working on one dog settling, have your other dog who is working do more calm behaviors. It will be easier for the dog who is settling to maintain their settle if the other dog isn't doing anything exciting. If you notice in the beginning of my video I am doing setups for heelwork for the most part. It's very boring and not all that exciting, then I gradually build up to Zoe doing faster paced, more exciting tricks. Make sure to reward both dogs! You are rewarding your settling dog for staying where they are and not interrupting. Eventually you will figure out a rhythm that works for both you and your dogs.

Phoenix waits her turn.

It is okay to use a tether or crate your dog until they are solid on this while you work with your other dog. I feel that it's really important to spend one on one time with each dog without being interrupted constantly. Dogs can learn to relax while other dogs are working. Although, I'm not sure we are there yet with Phoenix. She is not very relaxed and if you watch the video above, she is very much anticipating her turn. Which was why I kept releasing Zoe instead. So we will keep working on it until she's feeling more relaxed about it. I am very happy she did not break her position before being cued, though!

This month we are joining the Positive Pet Blog Hop hosted by: Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days and Tenacious Little Terrier the them is Training Multiple Pets but any positive posts are welcome. Don't forget to stop by all the other posters and see what they have going this month!


  1. An excellent post!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  2. When I first started training two dogs, I worked really hard on their individual releases. Then came three and I have totally slacked on it! I have separate release words for all three dogs and a group release word but your post has reminded me that I need to spend some time brushing up on "I am releasing you, but not you." My experience has been that even that simple practice can do wonders for getting a dog to be patient about waiting their turn. On Phoenix's anticipatory wait, do you have two separate "stay" type cues? I had a great instructor ages ago who suggested this. One cue means keep paying attention to me because I will ask for something soon and one means just chill here. Those separate cues have done wonders for always eager for the next cue Wilhelm. Maybe that would make a difference for Phoenix. Thanks for joining the hop and for your great duo training tips!

  3. This was an excellent post for someone like me, who owns two wilful pups, who fight to be the centre of the training session.


  4. I kind of did this with our foster dog but he was perfectly willing to settle if there were treats. He was like I just sit here and do nothing and still get fed? Huzzah! Mr. N still gets hyped up watching training.

  5. Such a smart idea. I haven't yet tried it. Typically, I'm working with one dog while the other is nailing the same command, over and over again, which I always worry about. What if the good dog gets "un-trained" after performing for nothing? I'll switch to this method instead.

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

  6. What a great post! I teach my guys to sit or down stay on a stool while another works. The elevation seems to remind them that they're staying put for a reason. ;) It's almost easier to train certain things like recalls with multiple dogs since it's a race!

  7. Great tips. We generally just train one dog at a time with the others being tethered or crated.

  8. Great post! I need to work on this with our pups, as is I take one outside and leave the other in the house.

  9. Awesome tips you guys!!! And yea, we had rain for 2 days straight here!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  10. Love to hear people talking about positive reinforcement training! Your babies are sweet!

  11. I puppysit Bain's friend, Eva, on occasion and I have been thinking about trying to get the both of them to do tricks and work on training now. Great tips, will incorporate this into training.

  12. Oooh, oooh! Our person does this too! I like the part where I just need to lie on my mat and get treats, but I like the training part even better!!! Zoe and Phoenix, what is your favourite part?


Hi! Thank you for commenting!
All comments are being moderated for spam.
Thank you for understanding!