Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ask The Trainer


question: we want to get 2 puppies, my question is: is it easier to train one puppy and then add another one later or to train 2 at the same time? I have 2 young adults to help me.
answer: For two decades I adopted older dogs from rescue and trained them to live in my world and handled the behavior issues that they came with. 2 1/2 years ago, I decided that I wanted to train a dog up from puppyhood again and not have to deal with "issues". So I got a 9 week old puppy. Six months later, I got another puppy and six months after that I got yet another puppy. The youngest is now 1 1/2.

Ruth, the first puppy, got her puppy training alone. Brynda, the second puppy, got her puppy training with Ruth right next to her and Micah, the third, had two dogs helping him. I can say without qualification that it was easier to train Micah then Ruth because I had the examples of the other two showing Micah what to do. Now they are all learning different things. Ruth loves to fetch and I'm going to be getting her into flyball.

Brynda is my "therapy" dog and goes with me to assess the emotional state of troubled dogs and lets me know what they are actually thinking and emoting about. Micah is learning freestyle dance. So they are all training separately.

Right now in puppy class are a brother and sister pit bull mixes. Buddy, the male, is having a harder time learning then his sister, Coco. He learns best when she isn't there to distract him. He's still slower then Coco to pick things up, but when he gets them, he really "get's it". Last puppy class there were 5 puppies. Only one of the puppies had a hard time because of the distraction of the other puppies, but she was also the one that learned the fastest. I think she did it fast so that she could play with the other dogs, that was her "reinforcement" for doing her exercises.

So, honestly, the answer to your question is "it depends". It depends on the personalities and learning abilities of each puppy - even from the same litter. Even learning the housetraining, chewing training and other puppy manners is individual. Ruth was a no brainer, Brynda at the age of 2 still has potty problems and Micah hasn't yet learned to lift his leg like normal male dogs but he rarely had accidents in the house. Neither Ruth nor Brynda chewed inappropriately, but Micah ruined a few socks, pillows and slippers before he understood that he wasn't to chew things just because they smelled like me.

However, as far as time and the impulse to pull your hair out by the roots - get them together. Then you only have to supervise them for 4 months and it's done - I slaved for 18 months till they were all adult enough that I could leave them alone without crating them. You also can generally get into a puppy class with one at half price.