by Jenny Mee // July 2017
I share my home with three unrelated dogs – Bull Mastiff Teddy (aged 3), plus Springer Spaniels Betsy-Jane (age 3) and Bailey (age 2). Add to this two young children and a menagerie of other animals, and its fair to say life can be a little hectic at times! Personally I can’t imagine living with just one dog – I like my busy, crazy life! I am never short of a four-legged friend to come up onto the sofa and give me a cuddle, and I love coming home to three waggy tails and happy faces!
But multi-dog households are also hard work! Extra mess, extra cost, extra management and training to keep my little family happy and harmonious. We are often asked by owners for management tips in multi-dog households, and problems can quickly occur if not managed correctly.
So... here are a few tips in helping you to manage your multi-dog households!
- Teach your dogs to enjoy their walks nicely together – whether that be monitoring play so one dog is not “picked on” by the others, or just teaching them to co-exist and do their own things around the distraction of each other. But remember training more than one dog at a time can be tricky, so make sure you do the basics with each dog as an individual as well.
- Walking and playing together is great, but as already mentioned it is important to try and ensure each dog gets some individual time with you to brush up on their training and to help make sure they aren’t competing for your attention all of the time. Betsy loves doing gundog training with me, Bailey likes walks on his own sometimes to brush up his recall skills and meet new dogs, and Ted enjoys the quieter things in life, like a sneaky cuddle or a frozen Kong in peace without the other two jumping on him!
- Watch your dogs as individuals – is there anything anyone is worried about, or anything that causes conflict? I know that Bailey can get worried at meal times so I make sure he has his bowl a little away from the others.
- If there are certain resources your dogs compete over (food, toys, beds, etc) then manage the situation - for example, ensure there are enough beds to go around. My two spaniels both LOVE tennis balls! So on a walk I ensure I have at least two, often three or four. And as soon as the walk is over I take the balls away so they can’t squabble without me supervising!
- Do basic training with each dog individually and work on their self control around things like treats, food bowls, toys etc. Then practise working the dogs together and teach them to take it in turns to train and be rewarded. It can also be helpful to ensure each dog knows their name!
- And finally, a little note on puppies – if introducing a new puppy to an existing household of one or more dogs, remember to do so gradually and carefully. Ensure the older dogs aren’t forgotten about in the excitement of a new puppy, and give the other dog(s) some time out – as we all know puppies can be annoying at times and have personal space issues!
- Lots of people still believe that when they bring a new dog/puppy into a house with existing dogs they can just sit back and relax. How often we hear “Oh its fine the older dog will train them, its fine!”. Whilst its true that puppies may pick some habits up from older dogs, this should NOT replace training from you. And more importantly remember that they don’t just pick up the “good” habits! So if your existing dogs have issues with recall, chasing birds, barking at strangers, etc then you need to address it or very soon you may have a puppy that has picked this up too!
For more information on training, or to find out about our classes and one to one training, contact the Dog School team: