Having a multi dog household can be a challenge in many aspects. From walking routines to the added expense of vet and other pet care, sometimes you might think to yourself “this would be so much easier if I just had one dog!” Here’s the reality: Yes, it would be easier. But who likes easy!? Everyone knows two (or three, or four!) are better than one.
One of the biggest challenges dog owners of multiple dog households face is teaching dogs how to peacefully enjoy bones together. Some common problems include but are not limited to:
1. One dog keeps stealing the other dogs bone so he can have two for himself
2. One dog keeps bothering the other dog after he’s finished with his bone
3. One dog (or both) becomes aggressive in any scenario related to having and chewing bones
4. One or both dogs cannot lay still while chewing bones (meaning, they are hyper vigilant and anxious about the other dog taking their bone).
Let me remind you that resource guarding (protecting one’s bone) is a normal and natural behavior in canids. However, for the safety of all parties involved it’s not a behavior we desire to see within the artificial pack that is our multi dog household. It’s scary to see dogs bare teeth at each other in a threat display, and even scarier if a fight were to ensue over said bone. So what can be done to set our dogs up for success and prevent bone stealing?
Step 1: Utilize a tether (leash) indoors to control the movement of all dogs involved.
Physically securing a dog who is likely to get up and bother another dog, or a dog who is tempted to bone steal after his bone is finished, helps for two reasons. Firstly, the bone stealing dog is never allowed to practice the bad behavior, and is set up for success to practice the appropriate behavior which is laying in their bed with their bone and not going anywhere with it. Secondly, making sure the bone stealing dog is secure will prevent the other dog from feeling nervous or defensive — he will see that the other dog is under control, which allows him to confidently enjoy his bone. I recommend you do provide a physical mat or bed for your dog to lay in while he is tethered enjoying his bone. The mat will be necessary for later training. The mats should be placed at least 10-15 feet apart at first to ensure the dogs are comfortable chewing bones that close. Increase the distance if either dog is showing stress signals or becomes aggressive.
Remember, you are the referee in the game of having a multi dog home. Your role as *pack leader is to set your dogs up for success, reinforce good behavior and instill a confidence in your dogs that you will take care of them meaning that you will never put them in a position to feel defensive or aggressive towards each other. It is your job to protect and guide your dogs.
But what do I do if one dog is glaring or staring or being nasty to the other dog from across the room? Take away his bone. This is a perfect example of negative punishment. If one dog is being rude then his prize gets taken away. Let him think for a moment about why his bone got taken away. When he calms down, return his bone to him. If he gets nasty again looking at the other dog his bone gets taken away again. Taking away his bone punishes him for being a jerk towards the other dog.
Step 2: Transition from tether to a drag line
After several weeks and opportunities for your dogs to practice calmly chewing bones without any resentment towards each other, you should keep the dogs leashed but the leash no longer needs to be secured to another object. It’s important your undivided attention is on the dogs during this step. Have some high value treats (chicken, hotdog, cheese) available in case one dog finishes his bone before the other dog. The dog who is now boneless should be rewarded with the high value treats being tossed by you onto his bed. You are rewarding him for staying in place and not getting up to bother the other dog who is still chewing a bone.
Should the boneless dog get up, quickly get to the dog and jump on the drag line (put your foot on it — we recommend you’re wearing sneakers which provide better traction for stepping on a moving line). Tell him “No,” and use the leash to take him back to his mat. Ask him to lay down and stay. If he can maintain his position again without bothering the other dog reward him with a high value treat. Always remember to give lots of verbal praise and happy eye contact.
Step 3: Allow dogs to chew bones together without leashes
After several more weeks of practice you should now feel confident enough to ask each dog to go to their place, lay down, and stay before you provide them each with a delicious bone. Because you have spent so much time reinforcing good behavior, and when necessary using your leash to enforce the preferred behavior, your dogs should know what the expectation is at this point.
Sounds simple. Right? That’s because it is. Remember, training dogs to chew bones nicely is about setting the dogs up for success and preventing errors that could lead to the dogs becoming defensive or stressed. With time and practice there’s no reason your dogs can’t chew bones peacefully while close together.
*please note that we do not believe that dogs are “pack” animals because research has proven that domesticated dogs do not behave like wolves. The presence of an alpha is irrelevant in pet dog training as far as we’re concerned, yet, by using key words like “pack” or “leader of the pack” we increase the chances that someone who is attracted to such nonsense will find our blog post and educate themselves about how you can train a dog without dominance, harsh punishment or traditional corrections. Dogs are, however, social animals. And as such, they do enjoy our companionship, interactions, love, and time spent training positively!
Need help with your dog or puppy in Miami, Florida? Call 786-529-7833 (RUFF). Applause Your Paws is Miami’s favorite Positive Reinforcement dog training company. Our team of expert dog trainers can help with any problem behavior, obedience, and manners. www.applauseyourpaws.com @DoggieDeeva www.facebook.com/applauseyourpaws firstname.lastname@example.org