Crate training in a multiple dog household

dog in crate

Crate training your new dog has many advantages, but is especially important in a multi dog house hold.  Not crate training your dogs is one of the biggest mistakes dog owners make  and one of the main reasons that dogs end up in shelters, with issues like housebreaking, inappropriate chewing and separation anxiety. When Introducing a new dog in a multi-dog household, a crate or kennel not only provides the new member a quite, safe place of his own, but also allows the training to start off with positive reinforcement.

 Adding a crate to your house does not mean forever or always, but… a crate should always be used for a puppy or a dog with an unknown history.    A crate is the most important tool you will use, next to a leash, to teach your new pack member impulse control, manners, patience and housebreaking.  In return, a crate provides your new dog a place to call his own, a place where the other dogs are not allowed.  Your new dogs crate provides a sanctuary for him and lets him feel safe and secure. For this reason I prefer shipping crates, but a wire crate with a blanket covering 3/4 of it works nicely also.  Along with a bed, your new dog should initially be fed in his crate, he should have water at all times and he should have things to chew on like antlers or nylabones, And Yes, some dogs will complain, especially puppies, if they have recently been  separated from their  mother and siblings, puppies will cry and should be given age appropriate things that will help comfort and distract them.

safe kennel
Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel, For Pets 70-90 Pounds, Dark Gray

Choosing an appropriate crate should not be difficult, however, there are a lot of crates to choose from so knowing a bit about what kind/size of  dog you are looking at will help you make wise choices.  I highly recommend a “shipping crate” and here is  why:

  • Safety! I have seen dogs get their teeth around the wire of a wire crate ,  un-weld,  bend   and destroy  the crate.  Although this dog was not crate trained and his human put him in a crate in a new environment and left. This dog, who I call Budda, is a very high energy lab who now loves the downtime his shipping crate offers him, is happy to go into his Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel, and is safe and secure when left .
  • Ease of use!  From the Human perspective, the door says it all! A Crate with a squeeze door latch not only offers you the option upon installation to determine which way the door opens, but can be opened and closed easily with one hand.
  • Comfort..!  My dogs seem to love to use the sides of their kennels as support when laying up side down. A kennel that uses wingnuts to attach the top to the bottom is the best choice for safety and security.

He Won’t go in his Crate! Okay so you understand the importance of using a crate for your new dog, but HE doesn’t!..  Cookies! lots of Cookies!  You may initially have to physically put the dog into the crate for the first few days. However it is important to first throw in a high value treat of some sort.. maybe a piece of cheese, or a piece of chicken. Say the word that you want to associate with going in the crate, I use the work “Kennel”, toss in the special treat and be ready to assist. NEVER be angry or upset with with the dog when teaching him to go in his crate, It should be a happy, peaceful place for him. Once he is comfortable with this, his own personal space, the crate can be used as a “time-out” when your dog is over stimulated, stressed or upset.crate trained golden

A Crate is no place to live…   So now you have another crate in your house. This is a great opportunity for the other animals in your house hold to be able to meet your new member through the safety of the door, but this crate does not have to be a permanent thing. Most dogs, once housebroken and  comfortable with their surroundings, their fellow pack members, and the security that living in a home with a loving family gives them, adapt well and learn that the entire house is theirs to feel safe and secure in.  It is however, important to remember that dogs in a multiple dog household  can cause quite a ruckus when left unattended for any period of time, and any small animals could be threatened by “pack mentality”, therefore,  It is always a better option to kennel the dog(s) that are high energy, young, nervous or just worried, for the safety of all.   Three of my 7 house dogs go into their crates  when I am not at home and when I go to bed, all for different reasons, but  mostly it helps them feel able to shut down and rest. All three run to their crates when I say the word, and they get a cookie.. Life is Good..!praise for success

A Quick Word on Housebreaking.. Housebreaking your new dog is not a difficult process using a crate… IF you are observant, consistent, patient and positive!  Depending on your circumstances and your new dogs age, the basic goal is to get your dog to go “Potty” outside. Like any reward based training,the reward comes after a successful trip outside in the form of verbal acknowledgement (Good Dog!), cookies, and freedom in the house. If your new dog is a rescue and you still have reservations about the safety of your other pets then the “freedom in the house” should be on a leash. Again depending on the age of the dog, and time of the day, Freedom may last only 30 minutes. All dogs kept in a crate for any time should be  taken outside immediately  after being let out of the crate, If the dog does not “potty” when taken outside, it is recommended that the dog be put back in the crate for 30 minutes or so and then try again. Shortly, the dog will connect  Potty = reward and freedom.. Puppies generally take a little longer as they learn to regulate their growing bodies, and housebreaking is usually the first human/dog learning that they do.. It is imperative that this first learning be positive and rewarding thus setting up future training success.

Never leave your un-housebroken dog unattended.

pee on the floorPotty training an older dog … is usually an easy process. If your new dog is a rescue that has not been living in a house he may not understand where the proper place to potty is. Dogs are very in-tuned with our body language and tone of voice, even a new dog will understand a firmly stated”OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED?” , however it is important to  remember that rescues often have history and can be very sensitive to a negative tone. Handle a rescue gently and watch his response when correcting bad behavior, lead him to his crate, toss in the cookie and leave him for a bit until it is time to take him outside again for another try.. Never hit, yell scream or grab a new dog for the small infraction of a puddle,   hopefully, you will see him potty out side shortly and can lavish him with praise. Often one mistake is all it takes with an adult dog to understand what is expected.

Life is a game: Rewarded by toys and cookies

If you are here, chances are you are living in a multiple-dog household, or thinking about adding another dog.  Hopefully, you are searching for ways to improve the efficiency of your purchases and looking for fun and practical ways to entertain, train, and enjoy your time with your four legged friends.

There is a lot of dynamics that goes on in a multi-dog house, and it is important that you, as the one who pays the bills, remains the Alpha dog among your pack.  Pack dynamics can change for many reasons and managing the dynamics within the pack is an on-going process.


This site will touch on dealing with  pack situations and help guide you on dealing with them. However, every dog and every situation is different, and as pack Alpha it is important to keep an open mind and to remember to look at things through the  dogs perspective. This is not a training site, rather an options site, as there are many products that can be utilized to help keep the peace.   Please know that not all dogs do well in a pack, whether due to prior experiences or breed type, some dogs like people, are just loaners.  If you are having  dangerous conflicts among your pack, please seek private trainers and/or behaviorists that can come to your house and see the situation first hand.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to foster a number of dogs.  Luckily, I  have a large barn with secure stalls and pens where I can first segregate new dogs and assess behaviors, health issues and any prior training.  Dogs come to me from many different directions,  I never seek them out, they come to me.. They may come from the local rescue where they may sit for years, becoming more and more un-adoptable, They may be a stray, or a dog that has just hit hard times.. What ever the situation, all basic training begins in the barn.  Sometimes the hardest decision to make is to adopt these dogs out.  I have had some absolutely great foster dogs, dogs that went on to become incredible members of their new families, dogs that I would of loved to have been able to keep… But all things must be considered first… The first question is: What does the rest of the pack think of this dog?   The second: what does this dog think of my pack? the cats? the other animals? And the third question is : What is the right thing to do for this dog? Once I get the answers to these three questions, my goal is obvious. I am proud to say I have adopted out many more dogs than I have kept, and my current pack of 8, including one foster dog, get along great.  Training is an ongoing process. Three of my dogs, and my foster dog, get kenneled when I am out and at night,  My foster dog still spends some time in the barn pen, but if some infraction occurs when I am out .. I know who not to blame..

Please take the time to check out my first two lessons; “The Leash and the Fence”  and ” Crate training in a multiple dog household”. I would love to hear about your pack and what and how they taught you.

Thanks for visiting!

Shelley Whittington

How to Teach your Dog Respect for a Fence

 Fence Respect Keeps them Safe!

I am fortunate to live on a small amount of acreage, and when  we first moved here, 30 some odd years age,  there was no fence. Letting the dogs out became an early morning ritual of putting on shoes, jacket… basically getting dressed before that first cup of coffee.. My dogs have always had good recalls, but early in the morning you just never know what will be outside your door when you live in the country.. so my dogs were always monitored …  Those that needed to be on a leash, were..!

hold your own leashThe Day we fenced in the yard, My Life Changed..!

Years and dogs later, we fenced in the yard.  We realized that two thirds were already  fenced in now with horse fence, so it became an easy project.  The yard, with access from both the front and back door, became a great asset for both my early morning coffee time, and teaching the dogs about impulse control and fence respect. I am a firm believer that ALL dogs should respect a fence and should not climb on, jump on, dig under or otherwise challenge  its boundaries. Teaching a dog to respect the fence should not involve you yelling or screaming at the dog, nor should it require a lot of “patching’ or rigging to keep the dogs in. My yard is fenced with a four board Horse fence, wrapped on the inside with wire that is 2 feet high.. yes.. two feet high. Dogs could go through, or over… but they choose not to… why..? Because the FENCE said so…

Why a hot wire is the best, kindest way to teach fence respect…

Yes I use an Electric/ solar fence charger. I started using them years ago when my big, itchy butt horse decided that the fence was a good tool to scratch on. After constant repair,  It became obvious that both the fence and myself were getting the worse end of the deal, after all there is plenty of trees and a nice shed in the field that could be used for butt scratching.  Within a weekend I had the insulators and the wire installed, attached the solar charger, and like magic, respect for the fence from a 1500 lb animal, who to this day, still respects the fence even though it has not been on since I added the goats a year ago.

Because many rescued dogs end up homeless due to their ability to get out of a fence, one of the first lessons that my foster dogs learn is fence respect. All my dog yards have been hot wired and are turned on when a new dog appears. Most dogs only have to touch the wire once or twice to get the message, and the best part about it is they do NOT connect it to you.  I have on occasion, had a thinker of a dog, usually a herding breed, that will actually analyze the situation and try a different approach.  For example, I had a corgi mix, named Shorty, he came from a rescue because he got chewed on by a big dog, so he had some attitude and was very, very smart. Once he realized that jumping up on the fence was a bad idea, he decided to dig under.  A low wire along the bottom of the fence fixed that problem.  Shorty excelled in his rehab, healed nicely and was adopted to a wonderful family, where he stays in his fenced yard.corgis go for a walk

What about the Leash?

Your dogs leash is probably the most important tool you have to help your dog understand what it is that you expect from him.  NEVER, Ever go anywhere with your dog/dogs with out a leash for each one, no matter how well behaved your dog/s are. One thing you can never depend on is how well behaved or trained other dogs are that you may encounter.. I never go out without one pocket full of cookies and the other full of a leash. My pack and I take a walk every morning after all the chores are done, and although we are walking in a field that is fenced in with  four board horse fencing, I am always prepared.  Our Free walks are just that, A time for the dogs to run and play, sniff, tug and dig. From my point it is a time to watch, enjoy, and ponder, but to also train, especially recalls.  And the leash? Funny how the leash on our free walks has become the symbol of the chosen one.  When one of the dogs is causing trouble, and the leash comes out, it is not looked upon as a punishment, but because it goes hand in hand with the dispersal of cookies, being leashed is a privilege  and just like a busy child, the dog causing the trouble has been redirected and peace is restored…