My dogs were not calm. I had been busy with work, teaching, family and life. They were acting out. I was giving them general love and care but no individual attention. So, one by one, I took each of them for a five-minute walk. We played their favorite games, worked on agility or played ball. One at a time they received my complete and undivided attention for five to 10 minutes. Then all was calm again.
We live in busy times and it is becoming more the norm to have multiple-dog households. It is easy to get used to "the group" and forget that each dog needs individual attention. Taking even five minutes a day to give each of your dogs one-on-one time can lead to huge benefits.
> As mentioned above, once a dog receives your undivided attention, they calm down and stop asking for it.
> When training dogs for basic manners, tricks, agility or other tasks, it is always easiest to train one at a time. Your timing will be much more precise and your communication with one dog at a time much clearer.
> When walking multiple dogs, one dog can often instigate barking or lunging and then the other dog joins in. If this is the case, it is very important to walk one dog at a time. It will give you a chance to do some focused work with the reactive dog to change their behavior and will prevent the non-reactive dog from learning behavior you do not want.
> In multiple-dog households, if the dogs do not have one-on-one human time, they tend to develop relationships more between themselves rather than with their humans, and the human ends up on the "outside." This is especially true if one has siblings from the same litter. Siblings will form a very close bond, and it is absolutely important to separate them for some time each day and develop a unique relationship with each of them.
> If one dog is always hogging the attention and the other is always quietly on the sidelines, it is healthier for the relationship between you and each dog and between the dogs themselves when they are given separate, individual time with you. The attention hog will learn some self-control and the quiet one will gain confidence.
> It is important to spend individual time with each dog every day rather than picking one over the other. You do not want to develop favoritism or resentment. In other words if you have three dogs, put aside 15 minutes a day to spend five minutes with each dog.
> Even if you have just one dog, you will find that five minutes a day focused on your time together will enrich your relationship and lead to a calmer, better behaved canine.
Our dogs contribute so many wonderful things to our lives and offer their companionship constantly. Find those five to 10 minutes a day in your busy schedule to give to your dog, and you will see amazing results!
Louisa Morrissey is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and owner of Skijor n-More. She is also a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a licensed Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer. www.skijornmore.com