If you are working with two animals at the same time, it can be immensely harder to train them. I want to teach you one possible way to work with both animals at the same time. There are other methods, and we can discuss those at a later date, but today we are going to talk about "stationing".
In the picture of the North American Porcupine above, you can see that she has climbed on the fence and is hanging there. If you look right past her nose, you can see that there is a yellow, triangle shaped piece of wood that she has climbed to. That yellow, triangle shaped piece of wood is her station.
There is another Porcupine in the exhibit as well. He has been trained to station to a red, square shaped piece of wood. This way, the keepers can hang both of the stations on the fence at seperate areas and ask the animals to "station". They each recognize their station and climb to it. The animals are not rewarded until their noses touch their station.
Here is a better view of one of the stations. It is simply a piece of wood with a hook on it.
Photos courtesy of Tina Carpenter with Life's A Zoo Photography
A station can be anything. It can be a rubber mat that you put on the ground, it can be your dog's bed, it can be a particular rug in the house that you ask your dog to go to.
These behaviors can also be trained with your dogs at home. I have a friend that asks her dogs to station every night before they get dinner. Each dog goes to an opposite end of the kitchen and sits while she prepares the dog food. She places each bowl in front of the dogs and they are not allowed to eat until she says "ok". (I'm sure that some of you reading this right now think that your dogs can never get to that point, with training, they can)
So, how do you train your dog to station? First you choose two completely different shaped items. Remember that some animals are color blind so the items need to be very different shapes. Let's go with the example above and pretend you have chosen a triangle and a square. Choose which animal will station to the triangle and put it on the ground (or on the fence if you are training porcupines). When the animal comes to investigate, reward it every time their nose touches the triangle. After a few minutes, put the station away and end the training session.
The next day, pull out the station and place it on the ground again. Reward the animal for investigating. Depending on the personality of your dog, you may have to do this for several days until they get used to the item. Begin to say "station" and wait until they touch their station before you reward them. They will begin to associate that word and that action with getting a treat.
Eventually you can get your animal to go to its station even if it is on the opposite side of the room.
Two last suggestions, don't expect your animal to stay at the station for very long. This is especially difficult if another animal is receiving attention. You will have to praise and reward both animals. Even the animal that is just staying still at his station is performing a behavior that you have asked and deserves a reward.
Also, in the initial training phases of getting your dog to learn his station, you may have to separate the dogs while you teach them their stations. Sometimes the dogs get too excited and jump all over each other in competition for treats.
There is so much to share about training multiple animals but it will have to be saved for another day. Any questions in the mean time? Let me know if you try this and how it works out.