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Multi-Dog Households

22/02/2019 - Living with Dogs

Multi-dog Households
Think of your favourite person in the world, someone who shares your interests and whose company you enjoy. Now, imagine spending 24/7, 365 days a year in the same room as that person. You. wouldn’t always agree would you? You would probably have disagreements and grate on each other at times. Now consider that dogs do not choose who they live with – we do!

So, how can we help them get along?

Firstly – make sure everything is EQUAL.

Forget the old advice of letting the older dog have everything first. That is just not fair. As the youngest of five children, let me tell you – if my parents had done that I would have not had kind thoughts about my siblings and probably would not have grown up to be a confident adult.

Equal amounts of pats, equal amounts of time alone, equal toys, equal everything. But equal does not mean the same. Each dog is an individual with different needs. You need to cater to those needs.

For example – you may have three dogs and decide that each will have 30 minutes alone time with you each day. Dog 1 may be one of those snuggling couch lovers that just loves hanging with you, perhaps a touch of sunbaking. Dog 2 might want to go out exploring with you and getting into physical activities, and Dog 3 may want to do mind games and puzzles. Equal time with you, different activities to suit their individual needs.

Equal toys – it is best to have the same number of each toy as you have dogs. If you have four dogs then you have four toys the same – same colour, same age, same texture etc. Buy as many toys as there are dogs.

Think – would a parent come home with one big toy for one child and nothing or something little for the other? Having the same number of each toy can prevent arguments as there is always a spare to play with.

Equal time alone too. We tend to always have dogs together. Sometimes a little time alone is appreciated. Again, this is different for individuals. Perhaps when you leave for a short period, one dog stays in one area with their favourite enrichment, the other in a different area with theirs.

So what can we do if it goes wrong?

Firstly, we need to check their basic needs are met.

Are all the dogs healthy? If any of the dogs has a sudden behaviour change, it could be either a medical issue with that dog, or they are reacting to a medical issue with another dog. Pain is biggest cause for behaviour change so check ALL dogs are healthy – especially in aggressive cases.  A vet check is always beneficial.

Does each dog have the right amount of physical activity? Perhaps you have two dogs – one fit, active youngster and one older sedate dog. Are you walking them together which means one is not getting enough exercise (and/or one is getting too much which is making it sore).

Are they getting enough mental enrichment? Each dog has different needs again. Check out my previous enrichment blog if you need some ideas.

Is each dog having the right amount of social interactions that it needs. Sometimes with multi=dog households we think they will keep each other company. Remember back to when I asked how you would feel spending 24/7, 365 days a year with your favourite person? Wouldn’t you like to meet a new person occasionally? Dogs need social interaction with people and some need social interaction with other dogs (some not so!).

Before we do anything we need to check these basics are met. So if the basics are met, and issues are occurring, how can we make life more harmonious? First, check everything is equal as mentioned above – pats, toys, time alone, time with owners.

If you find that patting one dog results in spats, change how you pat them. Do individual pats and ensure everyone gets equal time with you. If you have two dogs and two owners – have Dog A patted by Owner A while Dog B has pats with Human B. Then swap. It is very important that dogs bond with both of you and there are no favourites. If there are grumbles all pats stop. Make sure there is plenty of distance between them before you start again. You may even need to start in different rooms or on lead at the opposite ends of the room.

For multiple dogs – give them access to cuddling and toys but not all the time – might even be an alone activity – try a “snuggle for one”

Feeding Time: Puppies who are fed from the same bowl as their siblings can learn to guard their food resource. Even feeding in the same room can be upsetting for some dogs – consider how hard it would be to eat if someone was staring at you with that “are you finished there” look!  Always individual time with a wall and door in between.

Dogs need their individual time. Consider separate walks, separate activities, separate meals. Issues can develop if dogs spend all their time together. Either they cannot be separated or frustration leads to aggression.

Just remember, they didn’t choose to live with each other and may need some adjustments and assistance from you to live harmoniously together.

If you need further help, drop The Doggy Lady a line at thedoggylady@ispx.com.au so we can book a consultation and bring some harmony to your home.