Learning to Share
What to do when your dog wants ALL the things.
Before his eyes even opened, it was "every pup for himself!"
Newborn puppies muscle in and shove the others out of the way to get to mother's milk. Later, they push their way into the food bowl to gain access to the food. It's survival. Pups who don't, won't get enough nourishment and won't thrive. If there's not enough to go around, the weak die.
The bigger the litter, the more assertive they have to be to get what they need. Forehead-to-forehead, cheek-to-cheek, they push and shove and grab and keep. As they get older, some growl. Resource guarding - growling and going still over food and possessions and maybe learning to fight to keep what they need - can begin early. Especially in large litters with too few resources.
But now he's left his litter and moved in with you. You are in charge of when and where he eats. The cat's bowl is not his. Mealtime is not a free-for-all. Your puppy will need to be taught the difficult task of learning to wait his turn and eat out of his own bowl. You will spend a lot of time at every meal guiding him back to his own bowl and making sure he isn't shoving his face into anyone else's dinner while they are eating it. He'll also need to learn how to wait for his turn to be petted or have a training session. He needs to learn to share attention and affection. Puppies are like toddlers. "No! Mine!" Be gentle, be patient, be persistent. This will take time.
NINE puppies jockey for position at the milk bar.
For serious issues between housemates, seek help from a professional trainer. We have trainers who do private lessons and behavior consults!
Sit, wait for permission to eat - from your own bowl.
In multi-dog households each dog should have its own bowl that is set down in the same place at each meal. Take note of how long it takes on average for each to eat, who wanders off, who finishes first, and who eats slowest. You may set all the dishes down while all the dogs wait and give a group release to commence eating. Or, you may have all sit and wait and release them by name, giving the slowest dog a head start, ending with the speediest dog, so they all finish at about the same time. This helps impatient dogs learn self-control and eases the stress of them getting done first and having to painfully endure watching another pet slowly chew the last of their food. It's also much nicer for the dog who likes to enjoy his meal without a shark-dog circling while he eats. For those who gulp and choke and gag on their food, there are many styles of slow-feeder bowls available.
Sharing treats and training time.
Eliminate "me first!"
Teach the dogs to wait their turn.
Work with one pup individually until they understand the rules of the game before you add a second.
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT.
Puppies who are focused on remaining STILL to get what they want, are not competing with each other.
Sit or down and hold position. Wait.
Hold still while being fed one treat after another.
Sit and wait. Eat a treat and then watch and hold position while your person places a treat briefly on the ground and then picks it up and delivers it to you.
Still puppies get treats. Puppies who move don't get treats unless and until they are still.
Place one treat on the floor. Feed a second treat from your hand, pick up the first treat from the floor and feed them that one.
Place one treat on the floor, then a second on the floor, feed a treat from your hand. Then pick up and feed one treat at a time from the floor.
Ask for a trick or give a cue before reaching for the next treat from the floor. Ask for two behaviors before picking up two treats.
Puppies learn to wait to be fed each treat, one-by-one, watching you reach for each treat while they wait.
One for Benny ... One for Howard.
Watching another dog eat while you aren't eating is HARD! Wanting ALL the treats is normal.
Sit on the floor with one pup on one side of you and one on the other. Extend your legs to create a boundary. Pups sit and wait.
When the boundary of your legs is no longer needed, stand up, sit in a chair. Move to different locations to generalize the lesson.
Say the pup's name that you are going to feed and feed that pup. Say the other pup's name and feed that pup.
Feed the one who will struggle most first. Feed the steadier pup while the first pup is still swallowing his treat. Alternate. When they are waiting nicely, randomize. Benny-treat. Howard-treat. Benny-treat, Benny-treat. Howard-treat, Benny-treat. Howard-treat, Howard-treat.
REMEMBER TO RELEASE when the game has concluded so they know exactly when they are free to wander off.
Pups are learning to listen for their own name and take turns. Their name means it's their turn. Another pup's name means that treat is not for them.
If you have several dogs, work with different pair combinations until every dog can work alongside any other pup. Easy combinations at first. An impatient puppy paired with an adult who is good at the game will be easier than trying it with two puppies who can barely hold it together. If you know you have pups that struggle more with each other, practice until they are REALLY good at taking turns with easy combinations, before you try the tricky ones together.
When sharing between two pups is easy, try three.
Put the steadiest dog in the middle. Space them out so they have plenty of room. Steadiest dog facing you, other two on your left and right.
Are you working with a dog with a history of resource guarding?
If there is risk, practice with the tricky dog inside a crate or from the other side of a baby gate for safety. Or leash the dog to a solid object just in case. Leashes should be long enough that there is no tension as long as they don't try to move to take another dog's treat. It should feel like there is no leash. Muzzle for safety with a basket muzzle that you can feed treats through.
The dogs are learning to work FOR YOU, not compete with each other.
This exercise will help with learning to share the space around you.
You lie down here, and you lie over there, and you'll both get plenty of petting.
It will help when you are handing out chewies or playing fetch with two balls and two dogs.
Benny, sit and wait. Howard, get it!
This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given: © CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com