Owning multiple dogs can be both challenging and rewarding. More dogs means more love to share, but it can also mean more problems. You may find yourself with more than one dog if you are fostering, if you are caring for puppies until they can be adopted, or if you have visitors who bring their dog(s) with them. You may also be considering adding more dogs to your home on a permanent basis. Whatever the reason, just remember that as you add new dogs to the mix, the social dynamic changes. Owning multiple dogs can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make the situation better.
How to Make This Situation More Manageable for You and the Dogs
The key to living in harmony with multiple dogs is to understand the dogs’ needs and motivations, and to understand the group dynamic. If dogs are left to their own devices to establish their own rules, the playing field will not be level for all dogs. Sharing and fair play is not something that dogs naturally do. Instead, they will be vying for the same resources – food, space, toys and human companionship. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips to make owning multiple dogs easier for everyone.
- Be a calm, confident leader – Owning multiple dogs requires good management on your part. That means that you take control of the resources that could trigger unwanted behaviors in your dogs. It also means that you should reward your dog for being patient and polite. There should be rules to follow in all interactions, including play. Reinforce the behaviors you want to see repeated and ignore the behaviors you don’t want to see.
- Provide mental and physical stimulation – Make sure that you provide sufficient mental and physical stimulation for your dogs. Make sure that your dogs get enough exercise each day, otherwise, that pent-up energy can lead to trouble. Don’t forget about daily walks. Sometimes there is an assumption that by owning multiple dogs they will entertain one another by playing together. While this may be true, it does not replace the need for a daily walk or other types of exercise.
- Control feeding time – Dogs will always be competitive. Dogs shouldn’t have to feel the need to defend their food, but many fights center around food and water. Feed the dogs separately and always supervise the dogs while they eat. Give each dog his or her own bowl of food and water. Do not expect them to share. Prepare all of the food first before you begin serving. When you put the food down, start by feeding the calmest dog first. Stay in the room while the dogs eat to make sure that no one tries to steal someone else’s food. If you can’t stay in the room while the dogs eat, try feeding them in different rooms, or in crates. It can be a good idea to feed a problem dog, or the oldest or the youngest dog in a crate or closed room.
- Monitor playtime – Wrestling, play biting and tugging on toys are normal ways for dogs to play. Just don’t let it get out of hand. When the energy level gets too high, calm the dogs down so no one gets hurt.
- Control the space in your home – You should control the “territory” in your home, not your dogs. Dogs are known to be territorial animals and as such, they often try to defend their territory by growling or showing their teeth. You must put a quick stop to this behavior before it turns into a fight.
- Give each dog enough attention – In addition to space, dogs can become territorial over you. Dogs get jealous. You may hear a dog growling or see him showing his teeth when another dog comes near you. You must set the ground rules that you belong to ALL the dogs and that you can play with any dog you choose. Make sure to give each dog the special one-on-one attention they crave. But remember, it is equally important that you also spend time with all of your dogs together. It is important that you and they can all get along as a family.
By setting the boundaries early on, you will be creating a better living environment for all. If you have trouble training any of your dogs, always seek professional help.
To learn more about having too many pets, read our article, Understanding When You or Someone Else Has Too Many Pets.
To learn more about owning multiple dogs, read our article on How Many Dogs Are Too Many?