How to Become the Leader of the Pack for a Multi Dog Household

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: July 17, 2017

Goldie (left) is a five-year-old Greyhound who lives in Omaha with four-year-old Boston Terrier Gus and one-year-old Shih Tzu puppy Kooper. Their guardian set up a dog behavior training session with me to train the dogs to stop barking, having accidents in the house, and help him learn  to stop being an excitement dog.

Knowing that this was an unusual combination of dogs, breeds and ages, the greeting caught me a little bit by surprise. Watch how the dogs greeted me in the video below.

When I sat down with the guardian, I quickly saw that she used a free feeding method. I asked her to pick up her dogs’ food so we could incorporate structured feeding. One of the main concerns that the guardian had is that she was letting her dogs 25 times or more a day and in the middle of the night. When dogs don’t have a feeding routine they may have to go to the bathroom at odd times, by using structured feeding you can get your dogs onto a schedule for potty breaks.

One great dog training tip that I shared with the guardian when a dog has a reoccurring problem; to keep a journal. In this case the reoccurring problem was having accidents in the house. The journal should consist of all of the details surrounding the incident: time of day, how long since the last potty break, how long since the last meal, what the dog was doing right before the accident, what was going on in the room, any sights, sounds or smells, etc. By cataloging all of the information about an unwanted behavior, after a couple of days you may be able to identify trends or certain triggers leading up to the unwanted behavior.

Another thing that I learned was that the dogs didn’t have any rules or boundaries in place. Some of the results of the lack of structure was the dogs invading the guardian’s personal space, demand barking and getting over excited when guests arrived. When dogs do not have rules they often try to take on a leadership position in the house.

To shift the dynamic of leadership, I showed the guardian a leadership exercise which you can watch in the video below.

I suggest when the guardian practices this in the future she makes sure that the cats are in another room. Because he is a small dog the camera angle didn’t show that during the leadership exercise, Kooper laid down immediately. Full disclosure we had practiced this exercise a couple of times before filming, which is called a “warm” training session.

As you can see in the video above, Kooper was reluctant to get the treat reward when I gave him permission.Sometimes this occurs with dogs who are insecure or not confident in the exercise, but with a little bit of practice Kooper will get the hang of this exercise.

By the end of the session, all three dogs calmly laying on the floor, stopped demand barking and had started their new feeding ritual. It will be important for the guardian to keep practicing the leadership exercise to help her dogs adopt a follower’s mindset.

By incorporating rules, structure and the exercises that we went over during our session Goldie, Gus and Kooper should continue their good behavior and stop barking, going potty in the house and getting over excited.

You can see the dogs’ Roadmap to Success video below.

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