Do you have more than one dog in your household? There are a number of reasons that people end up with multi-dog households. You may have started off with one dog, then worried he was lonely while you were at work. You may have ended up with your son’s or daughter’s pet after he or she got married, or you may just have a soft spot for those big, sad, brown eyes and ended up adopting more. Whatever the reason for your multi-dog household, there are strategies and training that can make life with your furry family a bit less chaotic.
Anyone who has more than one dog in his or her home has learned it’s not always the good habits the dogs pick up from each other, sometimes it’s the less desirable habits, too. In my household and with my chosen breed, Shetland Sheepdogs, the natural breed tendency to bark is magnified by two and topped off by a German Shepherd dog who was raised by Shetland Sheepdogs. When one of them barks, the other two naturally follow his lead, and before long, there is a raucous chorus.
Multi-dog households come in all shapes and sizes, but the “rules” for successfully managing a multi-dog household are the same. Don’t despair if you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the chaos. With a little management and training, your home can be calmer.
Managing your home’s environment is one way to avoid conflicts between your pets and to calm the chaos when visitors come. Management tools include crates, baby gates, and leashes.
Does one of your dogs eat slowly and one quickly? Do you have one dog that is pushy about dinnertime? Consider crating them during mealtime or leashing them in separate locations (under supervision) while they eat. You can even feed them in separate rooms. (Note: If your dogs growl or fight at dinnertime or over treats, you have a more serious problem and should consult a reward-based trainer for assistance.)
You will need to implement management and separation practices more often if you have dogs with big differences in size or age. Homes with large and small dogs will need to watch play carefully to make sure the large dog does not accidentally injure the small dog. Homes with young active dogs and senior dogs will need to interrupt if the young dog plays too roughly or too often with the senior dog.
Not all guests may appreciate the enthusiastic greetings you are used to. Out of courtesy to visitors, have your dogs leashed, crated, or put in separate rooms when visitors arrive. Then, after the initial excitement of the guest’s arrival has waned, if your visitor wants to socialize with your dogs, bring them out on a leash one at a time. If the dog is on a leash, you can prevent him from unwelcomed jumps on your guests. Better yet, teach your dogs to sit politely to be greeted.
Is there pushing and shoving at the door when it is time for a walk or play? Manage the chaos at the door by taking the dogs out one at a time on a lead. If walks are too crazy with all of them, consider walking them separately. This is another situation in which training can make life a lot easier. Teach the polite behavior of sitting and waiting for having leashes put on and going out the door. Teach the dogs to be released from their wait, one at a time. Teaching a stay or wait will be useful cues for many situations in a multi-dog household.
Training in a multi-dog household is trickier than training when you only have one dog. When you begin training a behavior, you will need to separate the dogs. Once you have trained the behavior for each dog separately, the practice with multiple dogs, adding one dog to the mix at a time. You may find it useful to assign a group name for occasions when you ask all the dogs to perform the behavior at the same time. In my house, since all my dogs are male, the group name is “boys.” I cue them by saying their group name then the cue, “Boys, sit. Boys, wait. Boys, come.”
How do you know if a multi-dog household is right for you? First of all, are you financially prepared to care for multiple dogs? For each dog, multiply your current food, grooming, boarding, and veterinary costs. If you are financially prepared to expand your canine family, your next decision is to look honestly at your current dog’s personality. Some dogs do not care to play with other dogs and this is okay. Some prefer the company of their human family members and may not want to share the attention. Lastly, look at your lifestyle. Do you have the time to exercise, play with, and train more dogs? Don’t count on the dogs to entertain and exercise themselves by playing. They will still want your attention and probably sleep all day while you are at work, anyway.
For me, having multiple dogs was the right choice. It’s a good thing I love having crates as decorative objects in my house.
Leave a Reply