Ask the Trainer | Additional dog creates chaos |

Ask the Trainer | Additional dog creates chaos

Dear Carla,

We recently added a third dog to our household and itand#8217;s created chaos! All the dogs are rescues. Our two older male dogs have been together for a few years and are relatively calm. The new dog is an energetic two year old female and she is teaching the boys bad habits! Barking at visitors, stealing food off the counter and running out the door are just a few of the the problems. I love this new dog, but sheand#8217;s driving me crazy.



Dear Overwhelmed,

Living with multiple dogs is considerably harder that living with one. One dog may bark at the door, but a group can work themselves into a frenzy. Also, the more dogs you have, the harder it will be to get their attention because they are less dependent on the humans in the house for companionship. Much of the traditional advice about living in a multi-dog household centers around and#8220;dominance;and#8221; deciding which dog is the and#8220;alphaand#8221; and reinforcing that dogand#8217;s position in the pack so the other dogs will understand their place. This concept is rooted in a common comparison between wolf and dog pack behavior, which is a very complicated subject. Suffice it to say, dogs arenand#8217;t wolves.

My advice for living with multiple dogs is to provide structure and training. Dogs like predictability. Predictable schedules and rules will help enormously. Create and stick to a regular feeding schedule and be sure to give each dog a quiet space to eat and finish without the pressure of the other dogs breathing down their neck. When you start to train, you will need to work with each dog separately before you can implement any kind of group cue. I like to work with one dog while the others watch from behind a gate. This builds motivation (is it my turn yet?). Teach your dogs they will get what they want if they are polite and patient. Want to go outside? Wait nicely at the door until I tell you to go out. Do you want dinner? Sit politely and wait until I tell you to eat.

If you arenand#8217;t sure how to get started, consider attending a positive reinforcement based basic manners class with your new girl. You can take the knowledge home to the other dogs. Also, a great read for anyone living with several dogs is and#8220;Feeling Outnumbered and#8212; How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Householdand#8221; by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen B. London, Ph.D. This short book is packed with practical advice.

and#8212; If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email Carla Brown at

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