Dear Sarah, July 2019

We have two dogs and they constantly push in on each other. It doesn’t matter if I’m giving one of them attention, a treat, or ear drops. The other one has to push in for attention as well. It drives me NUTS! What can I do?

Patricia F

Hi Patricia,

This is really common for people with a multi-dog household (in some households the cat joins in on the action too!). But this can be easily rectified by teaching your dogs to wait their turn. 

You can do this sitting or standing (it’s good to practice both so that the dogs learn it doesn’t matter where you are and what position you’re in, waiting their turn is still a desirable behaviour). Have the dogs sitting about 50cm apart. Begin by giving one dog a treat, then quickly give the other dog a treat and praise for ‘waiting’ if they didn’t break position or push in. Do the same in reverse – give the second dog a treat, then quickly give the first dog a treat and praise for ‘waiting’ if they didn’t break position. Keep repeating this pattern, alternating who gets the treat first and giving more praise and attention to the one who is being taught to ‘wait’.

‘So what happens if they break position and push in?’ I hear you ask. Simple. The one who tries to push in misses out on receiving the treat and it goes to the first dog. So the example goes like this – give a treat to the first dog. The second dog breaks position and pushes in – the second dog gets ignored and the first dog gets their treat. The second dog continues to push in – the first dog continues to get reinforced. As soon as the second dog sits down, moves back or ‘waits’ without being asked, they get praised and rewarded for that choice. The second dog soon realises that the quickest way to get treats is to wait for them to come to them, rather than push in. Make sense?

You can step this up and include patting in this. Give the first dog pats and attention and reward the second dog with treats if they don’t push in. If they do push in, the treat goes to the first dog, and continue to go to the first dog until the second dog steps back and ‘waits’. 

It won’t take long for them to work it out. Good luck!

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