Living with multiple dogs can be both rewarding and challenging. Here are some suggestions to make your multi-dog household run as smoothly as possible.
When making a decision to get a second dog, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If your first dog has a behavior problem, the addition of a second dog will not make it go away. In other words, get a second dog because you want one, not because you think your dog wants a friend. Try to work on your first dog’s issues before the arrival of the second dog.
It is also very important to choose the right second dog for your household. Generally, it is best to get a dog of the opposite sex and one that is not the same age as your first dog.
Dogs that have too much in common tend to fight more, as they see each other as competition. If you are getting a dog from a rescue group or shelter, bring your first dog along to make sure they like each other before you bring the new dog home.
Once you have all the dogs at home, set them up for success to minimize fighting. All dogs need some space from each other, even if they are best friends. Make sure you separate the dogs at some point during the day so they can have a break. That might be a good time to spend quality time with each dog by cuddling, grooming or training while the other one is elsewhere.
Feed the dogs separately or at least on opposite sides of the room and supervise them during meals. Even if they are not fighting over the food, one might be eating the other’s share. You don’t want either dog to feel anxious about mealtimes, or to go hungry while the other one gets fat.
Lastly, the dogs have their own social system in the house. It is normal to have some squabbles and some attempts to establish dominance. Let them work it out unless they are making each other bleed. If they are fighting to a degree where one or both dogs are getting injured, keep them separated until you can work with a trainer to resolve the issues.
Dogs enjoy the companionship of other canine friends in the house. Careful planning and management can ensure a peaceful and happy group at home.
From Rachel Jones. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com. A professional dog trainer, she is the owner of K-9 Divine.
As a trainer, I get called in to help in many situations that are less about dog behavior than about good public relations between dog owners and their neighbors. Washingtonians live in a small, crowded city that is not very dog-friendly. As dog owners, we need to do our part to change the perception of dogs and owners that is held by many residents and members of the city government.
- Apartment dwellers can save themselves a lot of trouble by pre-empting complaints about barking and dog noise from their neighbors. For example, before you bring your new dog home, send around a note or go around personally to the neighbors and let them know that you are getting a new dog and you want to make sure the dog isn’t making too much noise. People are likely to be forgiving if your new dog is noisy for a few weeks if you warned them in advance. Spend an hour with a trainer to work on nice, quiet behavior in the apartment and the elevator and your neighbors will be very grateful.
- Pick up your dog’s poop! We might be allowed to use schoolyards and parks to exercise our dogs if everyone cleaned up after their own dog. If you see a pile of poop that doesn’t belong to your dog and you have an extra bag, pick that up too!
- When you are out walking your dog, don’t allow him to approach strangers. Not everyone wants your dog to sniff them. Even if your dog has no training, you should be able to use the leash to keep her away from people. Parents of small children, people who fear dogs and people who are eating at outdoor restaurants will appreciate your efforts to keep your dog a good distance away from them.