One of the most difficult thing about living in a multiple dog household and working full time is finding enough time for one-on-one training. Individual is ideal, but in day-to-day life it isn’t practical. I’m a firm believer in training every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. My personal goal is a few exercises before and after work, but due to time restraints it’s often in a group setting. On the positive side, the group forces your dogs to focus on you and not each other. This can be difficult for them to master, particularly when you are just starting out or when they are puppies.
A normal quick session for my dogs are obedience drills, sit, down, wait, and stay. During some sessions we will deviate and practice tricks instead. On the weekends or days with more time I often do combination.
We started these drills because we have a busy household. At the time our oldest was living at home and she did most of Ella’s original training. This was great, but it also meant that her commands were not as strong as Luna’s. I hadn’t spent as much time with her as I should have, and Ella’s a terrier. She is notorious for choosing when she does and doesn’t want to do something. And she knew just when to pick at Luna and destroy a session. Still does some days. Looking back it's kind of amazing she passed her Canine Good Citizenship on her first try.
This was before Charlie came to live with us, and by then we were up to four. It was time to get the whole pack to focus, even when the distractions were each other. When we started it was all I could do to get everyone to do sit and down in unison. Hell, half the time Ella still wouldn't sit on her own. And forget down. If you didn't have a treat for a lure, it wasn't happening.
It all came down to patience and the little things, both in a group and outside of it. Making everyone sit for their food. They learned that a treat meant work. Now, whether it's their morning dental bone or something small when I come home the sit is automatic 99% of the time. We progressed to downs until all the dogs were firm on the basics, even the monster.
Here's a list of our favorite drills. Feel free to leave your own in the comments, we are always looking for new ones to try!
My husband teases me because I really do use the command gather. He says I should just call ‘gather children’ to the dogs. I use this on a daily basis, pretty much anytime treats are coming out. Gather calls everyone to me. It’s similar to a front, but since there are three of them they sit in a half circle. We practice sits and downs in a group, no treats are given until everyone completes the command.
I normally work this drill from a gather, but sometimes with them spaced apart. The dogs will wait as I call the others to me one at a time. If one breaks before they are called everyone returns. This one took the longest to master.
Place your dogs in a sit or down a few feet apart from each other. Then weave through and around them. I release them one at a time after I return to them in heel position.
This one is trickier for Ella. Only one dog is ‘active’ and working on tricks while the others wait in their place. For my dogs this is their bed in our living room. Start this in slow intervals, doing only do a few tricks at a time before switching out. My eventual goal is to remove the place and be able to do this outside on a stay. Luna and Charlie are there, but Ella is still working on it.
Lisa (and Luna)