How do you train in a multiple-dog household?

I am a lazy trainer.

This is perhaps my least favorite attribute of myself as a dog owner. Now that we have two, I’m finding it even harder to make time to work with the girls on new behaviors. Since the nipping incident,* our commitment to working on P’s classical conditioning protocol for reactivity has been strongly renewed, and that has been encouraging and motivating. But everything else? Eh. Not much progress.

We tell people all the time, “Oh, Eden is SO smart,” and then they say, “Really? What can she do?” Umm… she can sit… and maul you at the front door when you come in? Oh, yeah, and she’s also really good at digging giant holes in the backyard… Yeah. Definite second-dog syndrome sufferer.

(*Side note: Thank you all for your gracious and kind comments about the nipping incident. You were honest with me about the difficulties we’ll continue to face with Pyrrha and children, but also encouraging that this is something we can continue to work on and be very vigilant about. Meant a lot to me.)

The babes.

One of my main training dilemmas/deterrents right now is the difficulty of training one on one.

Pyrrha is extremely attached to me — as in, obsessive level of attachment. She is uncomfortable and anxious if I’m not in her line of sight at all times. This is one of her many fear burdens. Eden, being much more laid-back, is fine doing her own thing, but she also doesn’t like being excluded from the action (and will voice her discontent quite enthusiastically).

What I’ve done in the past, when I want to actively work on new behaviors, is crate one dog, and then go into another room with the other dog and close the door. What’s happened so far is the crated dog pitches a fit with lots of barking and crying, either from mere separation or the knowledge that someone is getting treats and it isn’t them. This usually results in the dog being trained feeling rather distracted by all the commotion beyond the door.

Potential solutions I haven’t tried yet:

  • Give the crated dog a high-value bone or stuffed Kong, in the hopes that this will distract her
  • Train out in the backyard, in the hopes that this will reduce crated dog’s distress and minimize the noise distraction
  • If I’m working with Pyrrha, ask Guion to go play Frisbee or fetch with Eden, if he’s home (this solution has limited applicability, however)

I know there are little videos and podcasts on how to train with multiple dogs in the room at one time, but those dogs have killer down-stays and self-control, neither of which our pups have mastered yet (see introductory text: “lazy trainer,” etc.). So, those things need to happen first before we can reliably work on simultaneous, double-dog training sessions.

I really do want to work on this and renew my commitment to our girls. They could be SO much better trained than they are, and I take full responsibility for that failure. A partial motivation to revisit this conundrum is that I’d like to take Eden to an intermediate training class with our beloved trainer, but I don’t want the trainer to be disappointed by how little Eden has learned since we were last in class! Yeah. Chalk it up to the strong motivator of Dog Lady Shame.

So, help! Those of you with multi-dog households: How do you make solo training time happen? Even if you don’t have several dogs at home, how do you think I could manage this more effectively?

Pup links!

“Rancho Dobe’s Storm,” Greenwich, CT, 1953. Photo by Peter Stackpole for LIFE Magazine.

Dog-related links from around the Web this week:

Do Unto Others: Intimidation in Dog Training. A thoughtful post about the reciprocal relationship between aggression toward your dog fueling his aggression toward others. This just reminded me that we so often forget the impact of our body language and actions toward our dogs. If only more dog owners could read and know and believe this. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)

Life List Item #35: Compete with My Dog in Agility. Check! I am so proud of Kristine and Shiva! This is such a fun, exciting post. Warm congrats to you both! I know how hard you worked on this. (Rescued Insanity)

A Lesson in Timing: The Tunnel’s End Nears. Ximena, as always, outdoes us with her seriously thoughtful and sincere approach to training–in particular, timing and how very important it is. Such a good reminder (and not to mention intimidating)! I have already learned, from our first weeks in class, that I am NOT good at timing and it’s really something I need to work on. (Identity: V+E)

10 Top Dog Training Tips You Can Use Every Day. Great, practical reminders from Pamela to improve our day-to-day training regimens. I particularly liked her reminders to incorporate training elements (treats, rewards, other motivators) around the house, so you can’t help but train throughout the day. (Something Wagging This Way Comes)

Fishing for German Shepherds. Jura sent me her lovely photos of this handsome German shepherd swimming in Hanoi. Gorgeous dog! It’s so interesting to see how dogs live around the world. Thanks again for sharing, Jura! (Hound in Hanoi)

Facebook Pup Learns to Herd. Mark Zuckerberg’s puli, Beast, attends his first herding lesson and you can see the photos on Facebook, of course. (The Bark blog)

SilhouPETte Charm Necklaces. I’m not really one to get into breed paraphrenalia/clothing, but I would totally wear one of these pretty necklaces with Pyrrha’s profile. Would you? (Pretty Fluffy)

Dog Shaming. Despite the sound of the name, this is my new favorite dog-centric Tumblr: Photos of dogs with signs detailing their misdeeds. I can already think of a few signs I’d write for Pyrrha… (Dog Shaming)