Anyone who has more than one dog has experienced it, you’re petting one dog and the other comes over as if you just made an announcement that it’s petting time. Many of us, absently begin petting the second dog who is often the dog who demands it the most. And your attention moves from the first dog to the second.
A lot of communication that happens between dogs happens through body language. The dog that gets our attention the most, the dog we rely on the most, the dog that we expect the most from, is typically the same dog the others in the household look to. So is there really any problem petting them both at the same time rather than individually?
The problem with this is when the first dog is soft or older or isn’t going to demand petting or correct the second dog. When you move your attention from the first dog to the second you’ve just let the second dog take you from the first. It says volumes to the other dog(s) and it’s a subtle way of giving that second dog more status in the household (something that many people don’t want or at least aren’t intending).
How to handle
If you give the second dog attention you’ve just told the original dog that the second dog is more important. And as any parent knows even giving the dog a “No, go lay down” is attention and often changes the dynamic with the first dog. So instead, try to use your body to block the second dog from coming up and getting into the petting moment, or just actively ignore the second dog.
Do NOT let it stop or change your petting from the first dog – this is key. You were drawn to pet your dog, don’t stop and don’t give that energy to the other dog, finish what you were doing then ask your second dog for a behavior you can commend them for, Sit, down, settle, whatever, as soon as they comply, give them attention.
A lot happens between dogs right under our noses, if we can be a bit more aware we can change the dynamic just as subtly.