“Our dogs are now out of control and it used to be a calm pack – we have no peace and don’t know where to go from here.” said Bill.
“We took in a pregnant momma foster dog unable to be placed in a home elsewhere and she’s had 3 puppies. We’re huge dog lovers so we decided to keep them all.”
I’ll admit, it was a bit overwhelming on the first visit. I pulled into the client’s driveway and phoned to make sure everyone was there – Mom, Dad and the two high school age daughters.
The mom answered the phone and said, “Come on in, you’ll be able to see exactly what one problem is when you ring the doorbell.”
Wow! She was right about that problem! All 7 dogs chimed in with their 2 cents worth of barking.
If you have multiple dogs, I know you’ve cringed at the sound of your own doorbell ringing – just like my client. Plus, I’ll bet you’ve tried to beat the person to the draw – that is, get to the doorbell before they ring it?
Can’t be done! I even know some UPS drivers who like to get a rise out of our dogs. It gives them the thrill of getting the dogs riles up.
Many a dog owner has tried to beat the doorbell and failed miserably. Remember the article I wrote about Sammy, our black lab? I taught him to go to his bed when he hears the door bell.
When I finally entered my clients home, and got settled, I wanted to find out what each person felt was an issue, besides the barking. As you can imagine, the barking stayed at the top of the list with all family members – especially Bill who said, “I can’t seem to relax at the end of the work day in my own home. The dogs often begin rough-housing with each other and I wind up yelling at them to stop. This just makes everything worse. Every one gets very frustrated.”
Luckily, they have a great back yard so I suggested that play times be held in the back yard so that we eliminate the rough-housing and play inside for the time being. Inside time became obedience training time – on leash to control all the dogs – including the home dogs.
With mom, dad and the two daughters as willing participants, spreading out the dog training was easy. Everyone saw this as a great start to improving things overall.
I introduced the family to clicker training. Why? Because it tends to get dogs focused and on-task of making the click happen – to get the treat. For these dogs, it had an unusual calming affect. They took to it like a duck to water.
If you’ve not tried clicker training with your dog, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. It’s not something you use forever but it’s a starter tool that can really help a dog feel as if he has things under control – “I make the click happen (by doing a sit or down) and I get a treat.”
Now that dog training assignments were worked out, I asked the family about other issues. Their daughters brought up pee/poop accidents. The two younger home dogs, who belonged to the daughters, were the culprits. It’s very common to have house soiling issues with home dogs when 4 new dogs arrive and there is no structure to begin with.
I suggested that the home be kept on a leash when the family was home and not given the run of the house while everyone was gone. In addition to more control on leash, I recommended that they begin an earn-to-learn program where anything their dogs want; food, access to furniture, toys or affection from the owners, must be earned with simple sits and downs. Adding this much needed structure would give their dogs a sense of working for the owners instead of the owners always following their dog’s lead.
Thinking about getting a second dog or bringing a foster dog on board temporarily? You might want to assess your relationship with your own dog first – to make sure you have provided him with the structure needed so that he won’t become insecure in his sense of place when you bring in other dogs. Having him earn the things that are important to him like his food and your love and affection by doing a sit or a down will provide him with confidence, a strong sense of place and a more willingness to accept new dogs into his domain.
Bringing foster dogs into your home will of course make those dogs eternally grateful for a second chance at life and a new beginning. So you don’t wind up with dogs out of control, one of the best things you can do is to provide them with the same rules, boundaries and expectations you set for your own dog. Everyone will be glad you did.
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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients. Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years. One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant. Jane Wagner
(c)Jim Burwell Inc