When you live in a multi-dog household, one of the most beneficial things to teach your dogs is to calmly and patiently wait for their turn to train. Some people choose to just ignore the barking in hopes that it’ll build the dog’s desire to have a turn training. Unfortunately, barking is one of the many behaviors that ignoring the behavior doesn’t do anything to help the dog bark less. In fact, barking is inherently fun for a dog to do and the more the dog practices barking, the more situations that the dog may choose to bark. Barking is arousal. Arousal is a good thing when you have the right amounts. Too little and the dog might be easily distracted. Too much and the dog is unable to think. An over-aroused dog is just reacting to the environment and isn’t able to function and process information at the ideal learning state. When a dog has been barking in a crate for a long period of time prior to the opportunity to train, the dog is much more likely to be over-aroused and unable to make the desired choices during training.
We can also help a dog be quiet while another dog is training by using management. We can place the non-training dog in a crate out of hearing range or we can give the non-training dog a bone to chew on to occupy the dog while the training dog is earning rewards. The dog who isn’t training isn’t making any choices in this regard and hopefully the distance or the bone occupies the dog enough to meet the goal. When it gets too hot to put the dog in the car in the crate or when the new dog learns that training is a lot more exciting than chewing on a bone, what do you do? Management fails to work at some point.
Choice is a powerful thing. Going to jail takes away lots of our choices. Living in a group home takes away a lot of our choices. When we have choices, we feel empowered and in control. When we set up our training scenarios to allow the dogs to make choices and we reward them for making the choices that we desire, we can slowly grow the dog’s skills to incredible levels of reliability. Dogs can learn to choose to be quiet while another dog is training and they can learn to choose to stay while you train another dog.
Here is one of my client’s dogs learning to stay while I train another dog. This is her first session. Initially, the dog who is staying earns just as many if not more rewards than the dog who is training. When the dog who is staying is able to do 4 training sessions at an 80% success rate with this amount of time between rewards, at this distance between me and the dog who is staying and at this excitement level from the working dog, then I can change one of those factors and make it slightly more challenging.