Running a multiple dog household can be a challenge, especially when introducing someone new. When you have more than one dog to feed, meal times can often be seen as the most hectic time of the day – but Dog Listener Lucy Proctor has let us in on a simple trick to keep your cool, and actually use this time to your advantage:
First things first, whoever is in control of the food is the leader of your pack – that has to be you. It’s quite easy actually, but you have to be consistent.
When introducing your new dog, as long as they don’t have a fear of crates, pop them in one large enough for them to move around in. Make sure there’s room for a bowl too and close the door so they can’t jump out. Pop a treat in but don’t look at them or talk to them, just get on and start dishing up the food in their bowls.
Your other dogs should be sitting patiently a few feet away and not crowding you. Keep some treats handy while you’re dishing up. As long as the dogs remain calm and quiet, you can praise them and drop a treat in the crate every few seconds. This affirms they are doing what you want them to do.
As soon as any of the dogs bark or start dancing around demanding that you hurry up and feed them, you immediately and calmly walk away out of the kitchen. Ignore them until they calm down again. Keep doing this until they get the message that whilst they are all calm and quiet, good things happen. But if they start trying to control you, it all stops and they don’t get fed. Feeding time is effectively cancelled until they get the message.
The first time I tried this technique it took my two newest dogs about thirty to forty minutes to get the message. It’s that quick and powerful. It lessened greatly with each meal. (In the meantime, I imagined my other two dogs talking through gritted teeth saying “For goodness sakes guys, just sit down and shut up will you? We’re starving here!”).
You might think it slightly cruel to punish the well-behaved dogs for the naughty dog’s behaviour, but they learn from each other. So to have good examples literally shows your new dog how to behave which in turn speeds up the process tenfold. It also reminds them that you are in control should they get any ideas above their station and join in on the act.
For my pack, it took just three meal times for everyone to get the message and remember what to do. By the fifth mealtime, I was able to dispose of the crate. See how effective that is? Now you have calm dogs at meal times and it only took a few days. There was no shouting, no telling off, no huffing and puffing, just calm energy. Always remember to lead by example.
Now you can look forward to many happy mealtimes to come!
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