Many dog owners have more than one dog. They often find it difficult to have both of them listen appropriately while in each other’s presence. This does not have to be the case. Dogs can easily learn to respond to cues simultaneously and often in tandem. It becomes a fun game they look forward to. For example, there may be a specific time of day or evening in which they receive a snack. They can both learn to sit or perform another behavior prior to receiving that snack.
Lure and reward is the fastest means of achieving training goals. You will see immediate results. It all begins with targeting. The dogs need to know that watching your hand or another object, such as a target stick will yield rewards. If you use a reward that has a very high value to both dogs, they are highly likely to forget about each other and concentrate on earning the reward.
Begin by placing a small high value treat in each hand. The reward can be a piece of freeze-dried liver, cheese, or other treat the dogs love. Allow each dog to sniff a hand. When they touch their nose to the hand, make a unique noise or word, such as “Yes!” or “Good!”, as a means of letting them know they have completed what you want and a reward is on the way. This is called a marker. Be sure to be very enthusiastic when you say it in a high tone of voice. Then allow the dogs to take the treats from your hand. Repeat this at least three times.
Next, move your hands side to side. The dogs will strive to continue watching your hands. Again make the unique sound or word and allow the dogs to take the treats from your hands. Your dogs have now learned how to target.
We now go to the next level: luring them into a specific behavior.
Begin by showing your dogs your hands in front of you. Once you have their attention back up a few steps. As they come toward you praise them, stop moving and use your marker, then give the dogs their treats. Repeat this a few times, increasing the amount of steps you take backward with each successive exercise. When your dogs respond quickly you can then add a verbal cue, such as “Come,” to accompany the action.
It is also helpful to use a name in which both dogs are addressed at the same time, other than their individual names. For example, your dogs are named Sparky and Amos. You don’t want to confuse them as to their names, so don’t say, “Sparky Amos, come.” Instead, try “Dogs, come,” or “Puppies, come.” Save the use of their individual names for when you work or address them one at a time.
Once you have the dogs coming to you as you back up it’s time to test their understanding. Allow them to run off and play, or get someone else to interact with them. Put a treat in each hand and call them to you. It’s highly likely they will not only turn their heads to look, but will also come running.
If your dogs haven’t already offered an automatic sit when targeting on your hands, you can lure them into position by placing your treat filled hand over their heads, closely between their eyes. As they look up their rear ends will lower. Quickly mark this response and offer the treats. Repeat this several times then add the sit command as follows, “Puppies, sit.” With repeated use of the verbal cue with your visual cue they will quickly learn the meaning.
Now you have two dogs coming and sitting in tandem. This is not the end of their capabilities. The sky’s the limit!