Training Two Rival Dogs at One Time
Training Two Rival Dogs at One Time
People frequently think that having more than one dog is beneficial.
They get multiple dogs for different reasons; some people just like having more than one dog, and others actually assume that all dogs like the company of another canine.
Whereas the majority of dogs do enjoy a large pack and don’t mind sharing space with another canine partner, some dogs do not like to share.
I have found repeatedly that the longer the dog was a singlet dog with his family; the more problematic it is to add another dog to his family pack.
Even dogs that enjoy playing with multiple dogs in other venues, may have trouble sharing EVERYTHING he has in his environment.
Children can be the Same
Children can have the same problem
Often the news and addition of another child can frustrate and anger the existing child.
The child can be social with other children during play, and yet be scared, worried and angry at the thought of having to share everything; especially his/her parents and time.
I Get It
I get it, I mean, it is kind of nice to be the “one and only” and not be forced to share almost everything you have.
And, the more used to being solo you are, often the more difficult it is to learn to share.
However, even the new dog added to a situation may not want to share, or just may not want to share with a specific dog.
After all, not all dogs get along.
Ironically, I have two rival dogs, and their training has been very difficult.
Unfortunately the dog I brought in was not very accepting of my current dogs.
I find that situation being more difficult to overcome than the understandable condescension an existing dog takes to a new arrival for the reasons outlined above about not wanting to share.
He came into the house 6 months old cocky and unwilling to find any kind of compromise.
My female dog is also very dominant and confident and very unforgiving.
Learning to find common ground and work with both of them has taken a considerable amount of time and patience.
Don’t Let them Fight it Out
The whole “Let them fight it out” is a very dangerous myth.
I suppose it works in some very small and specific occurrences but in my opinion, having seen the damage and death fights can sustain, it is not worth it!
Dogs can create severe damage to one another and kill another dog in a very short period of time.
And, even if you are lucky that the dogs don’t kill each other, a fight like this can rack up thousands of dollars worth of bills, and it usually makes the behavior worse.
That is right, even after a devastating fight the vast majority of dogs will fight again and again if given the opportunity.
I Listen to My Dogs
I listen to my dogs.
If one is growling or posturing to the other and the other dog is mirroring these behaviors I believe the information they are giving each other.
So often people are convinced that their dog growls and lunges but would never bite.
Recently a former student of mine who has a very reactive dog (with other dogs) whom I warned about taking the behavior seriously, was seriously bitten in the leg when he stepped in front of his own dog. I wish he has listened to what his dog was trying to communicate.
So I don’t force, I don’t push, but I also don’t allow that kind of communication to be ongoing; which of course would make it worse.
So those are the what not to do’s how about the what to do?
How To Help
Obedience, obedience, obedience!
The reason that I have survived my dogs’ rivalry is that I insist on a strict, yet fun, schedule of obedience.
Obedience should be adhered to, but my dogs should feel like it is a playful game to listen to me.
Train Your Dogs Separately At First
I also train my dogs separately, this is very important!
It is challenging if not impossible for a dog to sincerely learn, meaning understand a new concept, when he is competing with another dog.
This is true of dogs that are not rivals, too.
Even dogs that like each other want to compete for time and treats.
And, it is equally impossible for you to divide your time between two dogs that are truly learning.
When a dog learns, he must be rewarded for showing the appropriate behavior and he must be rewarded in a quick and timely fashion for him to understand what you want.
Interestingly I have videos of my very own self working with one specific dog while another one of my dogs was in the room and ironically I didn’t even notice how hard my other, older dog was trying to do what I ask until I saw the video. My focus was on the younger dog. I almost felt sad for him.
Watching those videos totally solidified my feeling that in order to meaningfully work with two dogs they must know and understand the concepts.
If the concepts are new, you must be able to give your undivided attention to the learning dog.
Putting Them Together
Once the training is solid and 95% reliable then I begin to work my dogs together.
Of course I don’t always keep and work my dogs separately. I have to work with them together, but it requires that they know and understand and can work through a multitude of distractions.
Remember that competition between two dogs is high, so if your dog can’t work under a level of medium to high distraction, he is likely going to struggle with competing with your other dog.
And, if they don’t like each other anyway this could be a dangerous thing!
So for rival dogs, I make sure my obedience with each dog is infallible.
I refuse to work them together until it is reliable with each dog!
That ensures that if they are to have a problem with one another during training, that I will inevitably be able to control them through obedience!
So when there is posturing or growling or other undesirable behaviors I can ask for a blanket “down” and both dogs will drop without hesitation.
Imagine that for a moment…
That is the kind of obedience you are striving for, resilient, unbreakable obedience that is truly reliable under stress.
The Good News
The good news is that it is possible.
My dogs have gone from basically hating each other’s existence and not being capable of sharing anything; to going outside without issue, playing under direct supervision and being able to go running both in heel position on my left side without incident.
Actually I have never allowed an incident.
I have prevented them and stepped in in all circumstances.
And, when in doubt, I kept the youthful puppy on a leash or a tie down to keep incidents from happening.
I am now quite proud that they can run in the same yard without any kind of angry display!
I won’t say that it is not work, but I will tell you that it is worth it in the end, although I remain objective and careful still at all times!
Because, ultimately I know it is through my hard work and diligence that they have begun to accept one another, yet I am also aware that their primal feelings for each other have probably not totally changed!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.