Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lessons in dog training

My hobby is training my dogs.  I love agility and that is my primary focus for training, but also I have to train my dogs to just get along in the life that I lead. 

Training one dog is relatively easy (unless, like me you are lazy).  Adding a second complicates matters 2 fold.  Now you have to train the first one to do the things you thought you had solid and on top of that, you have to train the new one.  If you have dogs that bark, now you have two dogs barking at different things....or the same thing.

Let's say you've got those two trained and you add a third.  The first two are getting up there and are pretty easy, but the third is a challenge.  Jump ahead three years and add a spicy little imp.  Fin was the easiest dog ever.  She fit in right away and all the shelties agree, Fin is a keeper.

Adding the forth dog really gets to test whether you actually did a great job in training the first three... Nope, I didn't.  Even though I really thought I had things under control, I actually let things slip because everyone got along.

Now, 5 years living with four dogs.  Things are somewhat easy.  There are problems (of course), but nothing that bothers you enough to fix. 

Now, just because you've lost your mind, you add a fifth.  You are thinking, the first two are really old.... glass of wine (or two) is looking mighty nice right about now! How much trouble could it be??

Well loads of trouble as it turns out. 

Multiple dog families really test your ability to maintain the skills you have taught your dogs.  Interestingly enough in the 4 months that Olive has lived with me, Fin and Tazz have forgotten their recall.  Niether dog will sit on cue like they should, and basically bark a lot more then they used to.  When I ask Fin to lay down so I can put the food bowls down, she barks at me (hmmmm, wasn't she my easiest?).

On top of the training, I am currently dealing with personality differences that are testing my mettle. 

How do I do it?  Well, pulling a little rabbit out of my hat, that rabbit is holding a book called Don't shoot the dog... then the rabbit hands me Rough Love...the the rabbit looks at the five dogs, laughs at me, wishes me good luck, and jumps back in the hat.

We are back to the basics on the three youngest dogs (the old ones get to do what they want).  It is the little things that make a difference.
  • Wait until I release you. Consequences for not waiting.
  • No barking/reactivity at weird things (like changing the garbage or walking down the hall).  Consequences for barking is crate time-out or use crate as a preventative.
  • Sit means sit.
  • Down means down.
  • Do not get up on things unless asked (the hardest for Olive).  Ok, this rule is for Olive only.
Although rules aren't that much fun, they do make for a much better quality of life.   Rules are in place.  Damn rules.  Rules are hard.


corbinwooten said...

Timely post. My two have definitely regressed in the past few months (I think it's due to our living situation--lots of things set them off).

We plan on adding a third in the year to come, but I'm so worried because of the bad habits my two have.

I've gone back to some serious impulse control activities, but in some cases I'm unable to work below their threshold (we can hear the neighbor dogs barking from inside our house).

Hope it works out for you!

Elf said...


Yet another reminder why I don't want to go get another dog just yet. :-)

Anonymous said...

This post inspired me to start training my dogs to behave more appropriately when the door bell rings. Sunshine charges to the door like a bull and Bling stands in the back barking. Last night I got them both to back into position when I touch the door knob. Bling actually started to sit and stay when I unlocked the door. I will be inviting you over to ring the door bell. Thanks for the motivation. Laurie