The Name Game for Multi-Dog Households

shutterstock_112320443Whether you live with two dogs or eight, it's likely you feel surrounded and overwhelmed at times. I share my life with six energetic, intelligent dogs and frequently travel with up to five of them at a time, which means I have a few tricks up my sleeve for maintaining sanity. The one I use most often is solid name recognition which I use to let individual dogs know it is their turn for reinforcement. Reinforcement might mean their dinner, a special treat, a turn with a toy, or that it's time for them to go through a threshold.

I start the training out by playing the "sharing is caring" game. I use a cup of yogurt (peanut butter, canned dog food, whatever) and say each dog's name before letting them have a few licks. When someone gets pushy or tries to get some out of turn, I take the whole cup away. You'd be surprised how quickly everyone learns to wait their turn. Do not try this with dogs that become aggressive toward other dogs when food is present. Here are my dogs having some yogurt:

When your group is good at that game, start to use the name cues to release them out doors. I'd work this individually, of course, and then bring the dogs together one by one. Similarly to the sharing game, no dogs that are likely to act aggressively toward each other in this scenario should play this game. In the video below none of the dogs make a mistake, but if they did I would either close the gate before they got out, or ask them to go back to the other side and wait their turn. If one of my dogs frequently made mistakes, I'd work on their name release skill separately before asking them to perform it in the group again.

You may notice there are only five dogs in my video, when I said I have six. One is 16, mostly deaf, and off doing whatever she pleases. 

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Positively Expert: Sarah Stremming

Sarah Stremming is a dog trainer, a blogger, and an agility competitor. She teaches online classes and coaches people regarding behavior solutions for their performance dogs, all through her web-based business, The Cognitive Canine.


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