Tips for the Single Trainer #1: the gate

I’ve read a lot of training books, and something that always pulled me up short was when I’d get to the part that said “Have a couple close friends do X…” or “While your partner does X, you do Y…” or “Have a few people from the neighborhood come over and…”

Well, for much of my life, I haven’t had neighbors, or close friends who could come over on a regular basis and help me with my dogs, or – well – often, anybody. I’m a single woman living alone and I’ve lived in some very isolated areas. What’s more, I have two dogs to train, and nobody to control the second dog while I train the first one. AND, on top of that, one of my dogs is very reactive (Carter), and the other can’t be crated (Page).

So what do I do? Do I abandon trying to do some of the techniques in these books because they require one or more extra people (yes, sometimes)? How do I handle training two dogs? How do I keep a dog that can’t be created away from me while I set up a training when the other dog is already in the bedroom?

Over the years, I’ve developed or adopted a few single-trainer two-dogs tricks, and I thought I’d start sharing them here to help out other people in similar situations. Some of them are pretty obvious and I’ll just be repeating what you’ve probably already heard, but adding my own experiences to the recommendation, and some of them might be new to you.

Today we’re going to start with one of my in-home fixes: The Gate.

My hallway dog gate closed

Now, you may already have a baby-gate, and it may work well. I have, or have had, at any one time, as many as four gates installed in my house. This allows me to move from one area to another and isolate one dog from the other, and also allows me to isolate a dog from me while I set up a training scenario, either one baited with food or one I don’t want them to disturb while I’m setting it up. The gate works for a dog that can’t be crated (Page), and it’s also easy to open when I’m ready to go and need to fetch the dog out.

Right now I have only one gate in the house, isolating the hallway where the bedrooms are from the living room. When I’m doing nosework/scentwork training, I put one dog in the back bedroom with treats, and leave the other dog behind the gate in the hallway while I set out and bait the odor tins/boxes/cotton swabs. I leash the dog for this training, and since the dog sits close to the gate, I can drape the leash over the gate and pick it up when I’m ready to go. Then I open the gate, the dog comes out, and I have leash in hand, ready to work the room.

I’ve also, in the past, had a gate that isolated the entrance to the house from the rest of the house, kind of a safety air-lock for visitors; a gate that could be used to close off the kitchen to prevent the dogs from getting on the counters (Page at one point learned to move a trash can around to use as a step up onto the counters); and two other gates that could be used to block off the dining room or any other room or part of the yard. These last gates are folding, 4 1/2-foot tall, outdoor wire fences, designed to make a temporary enclosure. I’ve also strapped them to the roof of my car to transport them. Inside, Carter can’t jump over these, whereas he can jump over a baby gate easily and even the hallway gate if very excited.

The hallway gate I have installed now is removable. I set it up so I can snap it out of its wall mounts and open the hallway up to easier movement, for example, when I have guests. Removing it leaves four brackets attached to the walls, fairly unobtrusive. It’s easy to open, with a latch on top and a swinging gate inside a fence, which I’ve set up to swing out away from the dog when it’s in the hallway (although it could be reversed).

My hallway dog gate open

These gates and fences have been invaluable to me as a single trainer, allowing me to control dog movements much more closely. I highly recommend that you get one or more gates to use this way. Some of them are a bit pricey, but they last forever, and they will greatly simplify your training attempts in the house.

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