If you plan on bringing a new puppy into your home and you already have another dog, you may wonder if it’s okay to establish different rules.
Or maybe you and your partner have contrasting rules, like your partner doesn’t mind if one dog is on the couch while the other has to be off the sofa. Will your dogs understand what’s happening with inconsistent rules like this, or will it only add to the confusion?
You can have different rules for different dogs in your household. You should clearly establish the rules you want the dogs to follow before training them, then be consistent while enforcing the different rules to avoid confusion. Also, separate your dogs when teaching different rules.
In this article, I’ll explain some times you may need to establish different rules for different dogs. Also, I’ll provide helpful tips on how you can establish different rules for different dogs in your household.
When Should You Have Different Rules For Different Dogs?
Before learning how to teach different rules to different dogs, you should know it’s okay and even necessary to do this at times.
Let’s look at why you might have different rules for different dogs.
As you probably already know, every dog is unique, i.e., they have different personalities.
For example, some dogs are shy and perfectly content to be quietly close to you rather than rough housing with other dogs. On the other hand, some dogs are more interested in canine socializing than humane socializing.
When you have a multiple-dog household, these different personalities can clash. If you don’t recognize and address these issues, it can cause problems. The canines can even become aggressive toward each other. Not only will this increase the risk of injury, but they may also not get along when you leave them alone at home.
One Dog Likes To Guard Its’ Resources
Another common reason why you might need different rules for different dogs is if one of them exhibits a high level of resource guarding.
In other words, one of your dogs tends to be very possessive about its’ belongings. For instance, such a dog might growl when others approach it’s dog bowl during feeding time or become irate when other canines play with their toys. In this case, fighting can result if you don’t establish different rules for each dog.
For example, let’s say if you have a small dog, and you don’t mind if it sits on the couch with you, but you also have another bigger dog who exhibits resource guarding. The larger canine can get defensive if you allow both dogs on your couch. As a result, it may snarl or snap at the smaller dog.
Bringing a Puppy Into the House When You Have Another Dog
Another reason to have different rules is if you want to get a puppy but already have another dog. As your older canine has already been in your house for a while, it knows all the established rules. However, the puppy is quite clueless about what rules it needs to follow.
In this situation, the older dog should be made to continue following the previously established rules, and the puppy will have leniency as it learns the rules, of course. The rules will be different during this time frame. You may even deem it necessary to keep different rules for each pooch beyond the initial puppy training as your pup’s personality emerges.
Your Housemates/Partner Wants To Have Different Rules
You can have different rules for different dogs if you and your housemate or partner like to interact with the dogs differently. For instance, you want to ensure your dogs don’t get on your designer sofa, but your housemate or partner doesn’t mind if the dogs climb on his well worn couch.
One thing to remember is that just because your housemate or partner’s rules contrast with yours, it doesn’t mean that your training is getting undermined by them. In fact, your canines will learn the difference in rules over time.
How To Create Different Rules For Different Dogs
Once you know when it makes sense to have different rules for different dogs, the next step is how to teach different rules to your four-legged friends. This can be tricky, so I’ve listed three simple steps to make it easier to teach your dogs different rules.
1. Create a List Of Rules
Even the most disciplined dog owners can be tempted to crater when confronted with adorable and loving dog eyes, but don’t be wishy washy. Instead, before you show your dogs the various household rules, you must know what you’ll teach them and what you’ll reinforce. You should also communicate these rules with your housemate or partner to ensure the canines learn properly.
Be super clear in rule definition. For example, are you okay with your dogs sleeping on your furniture, say the couch or bed? Or you don’t mind if they’re on the couch, but not the bed, as there isn’t enough space for everyone?
Another common example of a dog rule is where the canines will sleep during household bedtime. Will you be getting the dog separate beds? Or will you only stick to crates, especially if they’ve already established these spaces as their safe spots?
Ensure you clarify as many rules as needed to avoid confusion during and after the training process.
2. Train The Dogs Separately
As your goal is to have different rules, you should make sure that you separate the dogs during training. This way, you can avoid copycat behavior, which can be problematic in a multi-dog household.
For instance, let’s assume you keep both canines in the same room during training. You pay attention to the one dog you’re training and reward it when it listens to your command.
The other canine will notice this and may assume it will be rewarded if it follows the other dog. Not only will this prolong the training session, as you must ensure your dog unlearns this behavior, but it can also cause confusion.
When working with the dogs individually, break down the training to 5 – 10 minutes per session.
During this one-on-one period, pay complete attention to your single four-legged friend.
After you’ve finished training one dog, you can switch to the other dog. This way, both canines get their deserved training time with you.
3. Be Consistent With Training
Once you’ve started the training process, you must be consistent.
Dogs learn faster and understand commands better when you do the same things over and over again. Any changes can confuse your dogs.
For example, let’s say you always allow one dog to get on the couch while the other dog must be on its bed. However, you allow both of the dogs to sit beside you on the sofa for a couple of days when you’re sick. The next time you try to give different commands to the dogs, there’s a good chance at least one dog won’t listen to you given the inconsistent signals you’ve given.
As much as possible, consistently stick with the different rules so that they get ingrained in your dogs. The goal is to ensure your dogs know what’s allowed and not allowed around you.
Note: If you’re finding it difficult to create different rules, you can ask a dog trainer to help you. As this is a big decision, I’ve written a guide on what to consider when picking a dog trainer based on many years of experience.
Having different rules for different dogs can be challenging as your dogs may not understand the different rules initially. However, with consistent and repetitive training, you can teach your dogs different rules.
Be patient with them. Give them space when required, and they’ll become well-behaved canines who learn the nuances of your household.