For those of you with multiple dogs, do you have any sort of “pack order” as far as feeding, walking, handing out treats, etc.?

I know the word “pack” will make some people defensive. All I’m trying to say is do you give priority to one dog vs. another?

Do you always reward the calmest dog? Or do you reward the pushiest, strongest, “most alpha-like” dog?

Or if you’re like me, do you try to reward your oldest dog?

Rewarding calm behavior

I would think most trainers would suggest rewarding all dogs for calm, polite behavior.

Calm dogs get fed. Patient dogs get attention and treats. Dogs that aren’t being pushy get let outside.

Dog behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell covers this issue so well in some of her short books, How to be the Leader of the Pack and Feeling Outnumbered? I recommend both little books (they’re very short), and included my Amazon affiliate links.

Pack order in dog training

I also found a great article by McConnell originally published in Bark Magazine. You can see the pdf here.

In it, she warns dog owners not to “support the alpha” (meaning, the strongest, pushiest dog) because some “high-status” dogs rule with “terror and intimidation” and “supporting the alpha” can end up making problems worse between dogs.

I could see how this would be the case with my dog Ace and my former foster dog Lana. You can see in the picture she would place her body in front of him, pushing him back from me. He allowed her to do this and actually turned away. It wasn’t exactly a problem, but I’d rather not encourage a dog’s pushiness.

Ace is sweet and sensitive and allows other dogs to push him around a bit if it means avoiding conflict. Lana, on the other hand, would barge her way to whatever she wanted. If I were to support her as the clear “alpha” of the two, I would only be encouraging more chaos.

“My advice to people who live within a pack of dogs is to teach them that you get what you want by being polite and patient, not by throwing your weight around,” McConnell wrote in the article.

Oh, you want to go out the door? Then please pause rather than barge into me, she wrote.

Foster dog Lana the Lab mix

You want attention? OK, well sit and wait for a second while I finish petting the other dog first, she wrote. If you don’t, I’ll ask you to lie down and stay for a minute.

Oh, this is the story of my life right now!

Of course, this is easier said than done, so McConnell offered these tips:

1. Make each exercise (each problem) a fun game.

2. Work with each dog individually when you can. (I wrote about that here.)

3. Be patient!

So, what do the rest of you think about managing multiple dogs?

Are you dealing with any pushy dogs right now?

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