Don’t Overlook Your “Easy” Dog

shutterstock_159927818Have you ever seen a parent in the supermarket with two children - one perfectly behaved, and one throwing a tantrum? Which one is typically getting the attention while the other stands quietly by? Years ago, before breaking into the dog training and behavior world, I worked as a nanny. And I can tell you that the "easy" kids typically take a backseat to their more behaviorally challenging siblings and peers (and understandably so).

I'm aware that I am overly generalizing, and I'll be using the word "easy" in an especially generalized way, so I'll preface with this - every dog and every child, regardless of his or her behavior challenges and personality quirks, is inherently wonderful in their own unique way. But let's also be realistic - it's a fact that some children and some animals require less "parenting" than others. So my point is this - don't forget about your "easy" dog while you're busy tending to your more difficult dogs.

We have three dogs in our home. One is my boyfriend's working dog, a Belgian Malinois. He's the canine equivalent of a teenage boy jacked up on Mountain Dew, testosterone, and methamphetamine. One is our boxer mix who is highly sensitive to any new environment, can be leash reactive, and is wary of strangers. And then there's Daisy, our highly social, former therapy dog who is phased by nothing. Can you guess who's throwing the doggie version of the grocery store tantrum and who's standing quietly by?

So yesterday, I took Daisy for a walk by the river - just the two of us. It was peaceful, we passed by people and other dogs without issue, and she couldn't have been happier. It was also nice for me to be able to go for a walk without having my dog training brain in full gear. And I realized how much Daisy has been missing out on because I don't spend enough one-on-one time just with her. Since I retired her from therapy work, she has gotten less individualized time with me. And because she's the "easy" dog in the house, her individual wants and needs can easily be overlooked if we don't make a conscious effort to give her that time and attention she deserves.

I can't be the only one out there who struggles with making special time for the "easy" dog in the house, right? So I've come up with a few quick & easy ideas for spending quality one-on-one time with the "easy" dog in your home:

  1. Go for a walk together. You'll be amazed at how calm, peaceful, and stress-relieving a walk can be, especially if you're used to walking with a reactive dog. If you can carve out a few minutes of your schedule to give your "easy" dog a one-on-one walk, it could be beneficial for both of you.
  2. Have one-on-one mini training sessions. Training in a multi-dog household can be chaotic, which is why I'd recommend training your dogs separately as much as possible. (If you have a certain behavior that requires participation of multiple dogs, build up the behavior in each dog individually before adding the additional distraction of other dogs being around.) Take just a few minutes each day to work with your dogs individually - you'll be amazed how much easier it is when you're working with one dog at a time!
  3. Participate in a dog sport together. You don't need to be a dock diving champion to enjoy a sport with your dog. Take a few classes at your local positive reinforcement-based facility and see how much fun your dog can have at agility, nosework, or another canine sport that fits your dog's personality.
  4. Allow them special privileges. This one will vary by household. In our home, Daisy is the only dog allowed to greet visitors at the front door. She's the one dog in our home that truly enjoys meeting new people, so we allow her that privilege.
  5. Play a favorite game. Different dogs prefer different games. Some like to play fetch, while others like to find their way through an interactive toy. Find what your dog enjoys and give them some special time to do their favorite things.

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Positively Expert: Alex Andes

Alex Andes is the owner and head trainer of Peach on a Leash Dog Training & Behavior Services in Atlanta, GA.


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