I am often asked how to handle training with multiple dogs in the same household. As a multiple dog household myself, it’s something I practice regularly.
In the early stages of training, best results will be achieved if you are giving your full attention to one dog at a time. This means, especially for new dogs to the household, that the other dogs should be elsewhere during training. If there are other human members of the household, this is a great time for them to walk the dogs, play in the back yard, or do other things with them. That way, the other dogs don’t feel left out while you are giving your undivided attention to the dog who needs it most.
If it’s just you and there’s no one else to help entertain your other dog(s), then this is a good time to give them each a favorite chew, filled Kong, or other item to help keep them occupied.
Since you live in a multiple dog household, it’s essential that all of the dogs learn to respond reliably in the presence of the other household dogs since that’s where they most likely spend the majority of their time. Once each dog is responding well individually, it’s time to start working in sessions with two dogs. If you have more than two dogs in the house, then work in pairs but switch it up. When ready, you can work in the remainder of the dogs.
If you already have at least one dog who is very well trained, you might be able to add him/her into the training sessions sooner since they require less of your focus. In this case, the well trained dog becomes your model for the untrained dog. If your new dog sees the other dog being rewarded, s/he might very well figure out quickly what the other dog is doing in order to get rewarded. When I have a dog staying with me for some training, I will often use Romeo to not only model behavior for the dog but also to add some extra distraction with which to work.
With our new addition, Zuzu, most of her training sessions (January 2014) are without Romeo or other dogs around. However, I am also doing some sessions already with Romeo nearby in a down/stay or on the other side of a baby gate so he is present but not interfering with my focus on her.
Remember that you expect your dog’s undivided attention when training, so be sure to commit to giving him/her your undivided attention in the early stages of training as well!