Four puppies- one black and white, two tan and black, and one white- run around in tall green grass in a back yard.
The only thing that is better than the love of a dog is the love of two dogs! Being a pet parent to two adorable pooches can be a wonderful and rewarding experience as it means double the fun, double the love and double the shenanigans. However, it also means double the time invested in training and cleaning up after them, especially during the initial potty-training phase.
The biggest challenge of potty training two dogs together is accepting the fact that they will learn at different paces. It may also lead to multiple distractions and interruptions in the process as they may end up playing with each other most of the time. Living in a multi-pet household also comes with other challenges like scent marking, competition for resources, learned undesirable behaviors through imitation, etc.
While potty training two dogs together, we must remember that each one of them is blessed with their own unique personality and ability to grasp new concepts. It is necessary to train the dogs at a pace that they are comfortable with. Rushing them into it can be stressful for everyone as it will only slow down the entire process. Be realistic about what you can and cannot expect from your dogs. Each dog will have their own way to communicate their preferences and when they need to relieve themselves. Being mindful of this is the first step towards achieving success in potty training.
Understanding Individual Personalities
Certain aspects of canine behavior like body language, flight or fight behavior, etc., stays uniform across all dog breeds. However, each dog has a unique set of personality traits, such as some are eager to please, some are shy, some fearful, some independent, some easily distracted, and so on. Recognizing and accepting your dogs’ personalities can help you tailor your training style and techniques to match your dogs’ needs and preferences. When it comes to training and managing multiple dogs, a one-size-fits-all approach does not always work.
Let’s understand how different personalities affect potty training:
Confident dogs are generally fast learners and take well to routine and training. They tend to be more receptive to communication and are adept at responding accordingly.
People pleasers are the most sought-after dogs as they would do just about anything to make you happy and earn a treat. Potty training a dog that is willing to please is generally a cake walk.
Shy and fearful dogs can be tricky to train. Dogs are at their most defenseless when relieving themselves. Thus, it can be difficult for a shy dog to be trusting of their environment and learn to pee and poop on cue.
Independent dogs are those that have a mind of their own. They are like rebellious teenagers in the body of a dog. They are strong willed but may respond to a rigorous routine and consistent training. Make sure to start training from Day 1 if you have an independent dog.
Easily distracted dogs also make challenging subjects. These are the dogs that usually end up getting distracted and over stimulated in outdoor environments and may relieve themselves as soon as they reach home.
Two white puppies with brown patches on their eyes and ears are on a black and white bedspread. One of the puppies is sniffing a white alarm clock that reads 7:00.
Establishing a Consistent Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit. They learn new habits and behaviors through a process called conditioning where they consistently associate these behaviors with certain consequences. Routines provide dogs with a sense of predictability, stability, and security which are super important in making them feel comfortable in a household. Streamlining multiple dogs into a structured routine helps establish a set pattern of meal times, play time, crate time and potty time. This combined with learned behaviors through imitation can help shape desirable behaviors in both dogs. Conflicts happen between dogs when there is uncertainty. While raising multiple dogs, a fixed routine helps minimize conflicts and fights over issues like resource guarding as it makes life predictable for all the dogs involved.
Raising and training multiple pets under the same roof can be tricky because of the variation in needs, preferences and personalities of the dogs involved. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of dog training, it is important to establish some amount of consistency and uniformity in their routines. Apart from reducing and avoiding conflicts, it helps in balancing out time and attention given to all the dogs, helps in managing undesirable behaviors stemming from uncertainty and lack of structure, simplifies routine tasks such as feeding, exercise, walks, appointments, etc., and also helps prevent the stress which could come from an otherwise chaotic environment.
A routine helps make life more manageable for multiple dogs and dog owners. Establishing a routine that works for everyone can be tricky at first, but here are some tips to remember:
- Create a consistent feeding schedule: Feeding all dogs at the same time can help adjust their body clock and help streamline their pee/ potty breaks. It also reduces the likelihood of resource guarding and possession over food. Feeding multiple dogs at the same time in different dog bowls also teaches them the concept of sharing and respecting each other’s boundaries.
- Keep playtime and walk timings fixed: Depending on their energy levels and exercise requirements, it is a good idea to sync your dogs’ playtime. Playing together not only improves the inter-pack bond, but also helps in converging their pee and potty schedules.
- Downtime in the crate: It’s a well-established fact that crate training and potty training go hand in hand. While ample exercise is crucial for every dog’s physical and mental well being, downtimes are equally important. Downtimes in crates have multiple benefits such as building bladder control, preventing overstimulation, ensuring ample rest, avoiding inter-pack conflicts, etc.
- Quality time over quantity: One of the good things about raising multiple dogs is that they get plenty of time and opportunities to bond with each other. However, it may also take away the chance to foster a bond with the pet parents. It is important to spend quality time with each pet to ensure a strong bond between the dogs and the humans. Some recommended activities that qualify as quality time include training, brain games, physical and mental stimulation, walks, etc.
- Keep room for flexibility: It is highly possible that the routine that you establish for your dogs may work wonderfully well for one dog but may not work for the other. Make sure to accommodate each of your dogs’ needs to the best of your ability.
- Dogs that train together, stay together: Training is a necessity in a multi-pet household. Your routine must include ample time for training your dogs individually and together. This is essential for peaceful coexistence.
A white fluffy dog wearing a blue harness and a chocolate brown fluffy dog wearing a red harness sit on short bright green grass as their owner holds their leashes.
Separate vs. Concurrent Training
When raising multiple dogs together in the same household, it makes sense to converge their schedules and training together in the interest of time and convenience. However, this statement makes more sense if the dogs in question are littermates or of more or less the same age. Pack management is a skill that is usually learned on the job. Once you identify your dogs’ individual personalities and needs, the next step is to have a management and training plan in place to achieve reliable and long term potty training success. This training can be done separately or together. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.
Potty training separately
- ability to give individual attention to both dogs
- ability to tailor the training as per the dog’s individual needs
- enables you to thoroughly understand your dog
- focused supervision
- allows you to train at your dog’s pace
- works well for a multi-pet household with different age groups of dogs
- may be more time consuming and could be difficult to manage for a single member household
- the other puppy could regress in the absence of ample attention
Concurrent potty training
- works well for littermates or dogs of the same age group
- helps in syncing up the dogs’ body clocks
- added convenience
- fosters mutual learning
- efficient use to time
- provides a bonding opportunity
- it does not allow you to train at your individual dog’s pace, which may eventually affect the learning process
- it may foster a bond between the dogs but may not give you a chance to establish a strong bond with them individually
Take into consideration the following while determining the most suitable approach for potty training in a multi-pet household:
- Your dogs’ respective ages
- How far along is each dog in terms of potty training
- Each dog’s preferences in terms of designated location and surface to pee on
- Individual personalities
- What motivates the dogs
- Whether or not they get along. This is important as dogs may refuse to relieve themselves in the presence of anyone that they see as a threat or conflict
- Individual learning speeds
Regardless of the number of dogs in the picture and where you are in terms of potty training with each dog, remember that three things define potty training success: a consistent routine, reinforcement, and prevention of accidents.
Managing Competition and Resources
One of the biggest challenges of a multi-pet household is the possibility of competition over essential resources such as food, toys, humans, potty spots, resting spots etc. It is important to recognize that some amount of conflict is absolutely normal in multi dog households. However, it is also important to know when it is time to interrupt in order to control and manage these conflicts.
Competition over potty spots may happen in several households. While some do not mind sharing a common designated area, many dogs do not like overlapping smells, which may eventually give rise to issues like resource guarding and marking.
When multiple dogs are trained together, you may notice that they may compete over attention, treats, and even potty spaces. While some dogs may start marking the designated spot and surrounding areas to claim territory, some of them may just refuse to use the same spot to relieve themselves.
Closely monitor how your dogs behave when they are taken to the designated spot to relieve themselves. If you notice your dog(s) marking the area (peeing several times in extremely small quantities), separate them instantly and provide different designated spots for your dogs. Forcing them to relieve themselves in the same area despite repeated warnings by your dogs may lead to further complications and conflicts.
If you have arrangements like Porch Potty or pee pads, consider investing in two of them and always positively reinforce your dogs for relieving themselves at the right spot.
Two sweet looking brown puppies drink water from two separate plastic water bowls set on light hardwood floors.
Food Intake and Water Availability
It is always recommended to feed all your dogs at the same time but never in the same bowl. Feeding your dogs in the same bowl is a classic way to give rise to food aggression and other forms of conflicts. Keep feeding areas and bowls separate and do not let any of the dogs peep into the other dog’s bowl after eating.
Water must be available at all times; however, while potty training the dogs, it is advised to monitor water intake and cut it off at night to prevent accidents. To do so in a better fashion, you could keep water reminders. Once your dogs are done drinking, take the bowl away. Keep in mind the timings of your dogs’ water intake in order to take them out to pee accordingly.
Eliminating Urine Smells
Eliminating urine and fecal smells from the spots of accidents is one of the most crucial parts of preventing accidents from happening in the same spot again. Here are some tips to remember when cleaning up after your dog at home:
- Use simple solutions like warm water, baking soda, dish soap and vinegar to neutralize the area and get rid of the stench.
- Use a good enzymatic cleaner to absorb pee, stink, and to clean the area thoroughly.
- Do not use too many chemicals or enzymes that are too powerful. Not only might they pose a risk to your dogs, but your dogs may also feel the need to pee all over the strong foreign scent to neutralize the smell.
- Get rid of rugs and carpets, if possible, to discourage your dogs from peeing on it.
- Try to clean up as soon as the accident takes place. Letting the pee sit on the surface might enable the ammonia molecules to latch on to the surface, thereby leaving a stronger scent behind.
- Eliminating pee and potty scents from undesirable areas becomes all the more necessary when raising multiple dogs. Constant overlapping of scents may give rise to behavioral issues like marking in the house and territorial aggression.
At times, maintaining top notch cleanliness can be tricky while raising and potty training multiple dogs simply because of the number of accidents that might take place. Consider investing in a good dry and wet vacuum to ensure a clean home. Wash beddings, blankets, etc., for better hygiene and cleanliness. If your dogs are habituated to peeing in the yard, be prompt in disposing of their waste and go for appropriate cleaning solutions to eliminate smell.
Quick Training Tips for Multi-Dog Households
Potty training multiple dogs may sound intimidating, but if broken down into smaller steps, it is really not that difficult. Here are some tips to remember:
Strike a balance between separate and concurrent potty training.As established multiple times in the article, it is important to foster a bond with all the dogs individually in a multi-dog household. For this reason, it is recommended to train all dogs one on one. That being said, certain aspects of potty training can be done together such as routine setting, feeding, playing, etc. Striking a balance between training separately and together is key.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a consistent routine.A structured routine binds a pack together. Not only does it simplify potty training, but it also helps prevent behavioral issues, overstimulation, conflicts, etc. A consistent schedule for feeding, playing, crate, potty etc. can help sync up the dogs’ body clocks and help them ease into potty training success. Make sure to establish a routine that allows for individual bathroom breaks while also providing opportunities for training together.
Prevent free range of the house to begin with.Giving puppies access to the whole house all at once is a classic way to ensure accidents all over the house. When potty training multiple dogs, it is recommended to give them access to the only room that has the designated spot or the access to it. Doing so makes it easy for your dog to trace back their steps to the designated spot every time they need to go. It also enables better supervision for pet parents.
Try to make it as easy as possible for your dog.Dogs are more likely to repeat a behavior if it is easy for them to perform it. If your dogs are expected to find their way to the designated spot across different rooms or if they are expected to communicate their need to pee right from Day 1 through barking or ringing the doorbell, it is possible for your pups to get frustrated by it and have random accidents in the house. Make the process of walking towards the designated spot as easy as possible for your dogs in order to ensure repeated successes.
Try to catch accidents while they’re happening.If your dog ends up having an accident in the living room and you spot it an hour later, there is absolutely no point in scolding your dog for it as he has no memory or context of it. Try and catch your dog in the middle of an accident, interrupt and redirect him to the designated spot. Doing so repeatedly will help your dogs learn faster.
Positive reinforcement goes a long way.Positive reinforcement is a principle by which all living beings learn, including dogs. We all tend to repeat behaviors that get us rewarded. Keep your positive reinforcement game strong during the entirety of the potty-training process. Reward big and small wins.
It is a skill to recognize every dog’s strength and weakness and tailor training to match their individual needs when living in a multi-dog household. Constant reinforcement and guidance go a long way in achieving potty training success, whether done separately or together. Respect every dog’s personality and remember to work with them and not against them. Make sure to train at a pace that your dogs are comfortable with, follow a structured routine, communicate clearly, and reinforce big and small wins. Frustration will be a part and parcel of the process. Train through it.
Siddhika Bhat: Certified dog trainer and behaviorist and founder of Wag A Bond. Siddhika helps dog parents develop deeper connections with their furbabies by helping them understand and respectfully work with their dog's innate behaviors.
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