Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sharing Is Caring... Apparently...

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but this isn't Parker.  I realized that Park only knows a little bit about the training magic I use to teach him to share, so it wouldn't be all that helpful for the other humans out there.  To be honest, I wasn't entirely aware of the training plan I was following at first.  When I brought Skye home, I was more concerned about teaching her that following the rules meant good things happened, and that the fun stopped when she broke the rules.  Parker followed the same protocol, but for a different reason.

Then when a certain someone came to stay, the problem resurfaced.

Parker knew this guy was trouble.

Sinatra's possessive behavior was pretty obvious and in small ways it applied to me as well.  Parker reacted to this by becoming more jealous and needy.  When I picked up on that, I made a real training plan.  Recently my pal Ginger Rogers had a run-in with jealousy from her foster brother Turk.  While it is normal for conflict to happen on occasion, we the humans need to evaluate the situation, learn from our mistakes, and move on.


Don't just set rules, teach them!  Just because you sat down and decided that things are going to change doesn't mean your dog knows.  I decided that Parker and Sinatra needed to accept that they both can't get attention all the time.  But for that to make sense, I had to break it down.  I began by having both dogs sit.  One would get attention, the other dog got a treat.  Then swap, swap, swap.  In the morning, when both dogs wanted all the love, I ignored them both.  Whichever dog was calmest got first access to my affection.  Any jealous behaviors landed the offender in a crate for a minute, while patience resulted in a share of the love.

What are jealous behaviors?  Parker talked a little bit about this yesterday, but your dog may show something else.  Just remember that dogs use a lot of body language that we won't notice unless we're looking for it.  Sinatra loved to use body blocks; he'd just get in Parker's way, even if he didn't look like he was trying to get to me.  Some dogs give looks, others do lip curls or low growls- depending on your dog's personality they could be very obvious or extremely subtle.

Create safe zones for alone time.  In our house there is a large crate, a small crate (the man cave), and the couches.  There is no dog-dog interaction in these areas other than cuddling.  If Parker wants Skye to leave him alone, he goes in the man cave.  When I dog sit, my dogs know they can get on the couch and I won't let the annoying puppy bother them.  If Sinatra went in his crate with a bone, Parker was not allowed to approach the door.  It took some vigilance on my part, but all my dogs know 'crate' or 'go lay down' so that if they break a rule I can send them away without ever touching them. 

Also, add alone time to your dog's daily routine.  Put one dog in their crate, bring the other for a walk.  Later, bring the other dog in the car when you run errands.  Get the dogs used to being together and alone, but make together time special.  Train together, play together, go fun places together.  Alone time should be routine, but save your best stuff for together time.  When you have multiple humans, your job is that much easier.  One person per dog cuts down on jealousy automatically.

Exercise.  I am not a fan of Caesar Milan's training methods for plenty of reasons, but he does make a great point about exercise.  When our parents had dogs, they ran loose in the neighborhood.  They probably covered miles each day, interacting with dogs, people, chasing squirrels all they wanted.  Now, most dogs are lucky to get an hour of on leash exercise each day and they can't evolve fast enough to meet our lifestyle changes.  If your 4 dogs are getting minimal exercise, you're going to see more conflict in the house.  Boredom and excess energy can lead to bullying or an increase in resource guarding. 

Since Sinatra couldn't do day camp, he needed his own exercise routine.  Each morning (sometimes at 5am) I would walk him with Parker for 45 minutes before work.  Mid day he and Skye would play fetch out in a fenced in yard at work, then in the afternoon he got another leash walk or 5 minutes with the flirt pole.   

Don't be paranoid  Dogs have an amazing capacity to bounce back.  Yes, you need to establish rules and boundaries to teach your dogs that life isn't always fair, and that's okay.  They get what they want when they follow the rules.  But don't assume that one slip-up will dictate the rest of your life.  Your dogs should still interact with each other if they've had a fight.  They can even have a better relationship in the future- that's the great thing about dogs!  Now, after repeated conflicts that result in injury, you need to reassess the situation.  But a spat is exactly that.  Trust that your dogs are learning from your training- they won't stay the same as time goes on.  Sinatra would have attacked Parker or Skye over a bone when he first came home, but learned to happily share and interact as time went on. 

The best resource I can recommend is Patricia McConnell's book Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multidog Household.  It is cheap and full of great training exercises you can do to teach your pups that life is better together.  Plus, it's only like 20 pages long, so you can actually read it in one sitting!

Just remember, dog's aren't people.  They need to be taught our rules, or else they'll resort to their own.

I guess he's cool.


  1. Oh wow, very helpful! I have a semi-grumpy dog, and I've been really nervous about adding a second (foster? forever) dog to the home, but this put my mind at ease a lot. Thanks so much for writing this post!

  2. We've done some of those treat/attention exercises to teach Hurley that he can't steal whatever he wants from Sadie. I've only done it a couple times but I'm already seeing an improvement in his behavior towards her (she lets him have whatever he wants but he needs to learn he can't just take whatever he wants if another dog has it) and he watched her chew on a bone for a while the other night for the first time without me having to intervene. It's amazing how quickly they can make progress if we just spend a bit of time showing them the rules!

  3. I've been working on two dog training for just over a year. Fairly inconsistently, but it is finally starting to pay off. Now I can do brief training with one dog while the other one sits and waits his turn. Keeps them focused on ME and prevents Mango from bullying Dexter out of the way. Patience, patience, patience.

    This is a great post, lots of good information and some reminders for me on how to do things better.

    Mango Momma

  4. it is amazing how repition pays off when mom thinks we weren't listening
    Benny & Lily

  5. I love this, with fostering we have had to learn ways to properly manage two dogs, and I love reading new information on how two do it better! We have been lucky to have minimally jealous dogs, our Molly is definitely a body blocker but that is about the extent of her jealousy. Thanks for the great info and WE LOVE YOUR XMAS CARD! It is hanging on the fridge :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I've been on vacation so I am just now seeing it, but you have some GREAT tips and I will be emailing a link to this post to Daniel (since he is with the dogs while I'm away) so he can get started with this right away!

  7. We are going to check the book out. SOMEONE in our household is an attention hogger :) Thank you for the tips!

  8. We work every day on maintaining peace in our multi-dog household, and I think it will continue to be something we work on for as long as the fosters are with us!

    You are right about dogs bouncing back after fights....I was so worried after Fozzie and Sandy had their big spat, but now they are back to playing nicely together again. The best part is that I think it really did improve their relationship--they are now more careful about pushing each other's boundaries because neither one of them wants to go through a big scrappy again!

  9. That second picture should be in a calendar!
    You are right about not being paranoid. When we brought our foster home she displayed food aggression the first three days. I called the foster who had her before and she said, "She will do that the first few days. Just correct her." She hasn't done it since! If we had let her get away with it I'm sure it would have always done it--because we taught her our rules she didn't! And she learned very fast.
    "Just remember, dog's aren't people. They need to be taught our rules, or else they'll resort to their own." And that is fantastic advice! Great way of putting it.

  10. Thanks for sharing! Knowing what signals to watch for and establishing yourself as the leader is so important. The latter is the hardest for me -- I feel like my dogs challenge me all the time.

  11. Koly and Fe have mastered the Body Block move. Kol will just shove Felix out of the way, but Fe is craftier. He's slowly worm his way into your lap until he has completely displaced Kol.

    We try to be as balanced as possible, but your tips to help address this are invaluable. Thank you for sharing!


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