Top tips for dealing with multiple dogs in one household.
Dogs are addictive, and many a dog owner starts off with one dog and ends up with two, or three. But multiple dogs in one household brings with its own set of problems. What if they don’t like each other? What if they become aggressive? What if they fight and injure each other?
All of these things, of course, are possible. But you’d be amazed at how easy it is to ensure that your dogs co-exist happily. The key is in their instinctual respect for leadership and the pack hierarchy.
Multiple Dogs: Establishing Pack Leadership
Dogs, both domestic and wild, will instinctively follow a strong leader. If you are to succeed in controlling your “pack”, then you need to be that leader. Remember that a dog gets 95% of his cues from your body language, and not what you’re saying. So calm, consistent, and assertive leadership is what it’s all about. Showing the dogs that you are in control, and will not be manipulated or disobeyed.
This is not about shouting or punishing your dogs, but about “owning” space and having the dogs look to you for guidance. If you’ve ever seen a professional trainer putting a dog through his paces you’ll know exactly what I mean. The dog remains fixated on the owner, waiting to be told what to do next. This is what you want to achieve.
If the dogs accept you as their leader, the motivation to challenge each other for dominance is removed, and you’ll notice that they calm down and become friends, as if by magic.
Multiple Dogs: Handling Specific Problems
This is not to say that there won’t be problems. There will be scraps and squabbles you’ll have to deal with. But these will be minor, compared to the issues raised by a fight for dominance.
Here are some specific tips for handling these issues:
Aggression – If you’ve established yourself in the alpha position then basic aggression like nipping or growling is normally easy to control. Where you may have an issue is when you bring a new dog into the pack. The newcomer won’t have a clear position in the pecking order and may try to assert himself.
The best way to deal with this is to walk the dogs together. Walking is a strong bond building activity and allows the dogs to get used to each other on neutral ground. The one exception is if the new dog is not accustomed to the leash. If this is the case you should leash train him first.
Food Aggression – Food aggression is the most common form of aggression between two dogs. It is also the most likely to escalate from growling to actual physical violence. You need to be very careful when handling multiple dogs in this situation because, irrespective of your position as pack leader, there is a strong chance you could be bitten.
Supervise your dogs at meal time. Keep them well separated and step in at the first sign of a threat. If the problem escalates you may even want to consider feeding the dogs in different rooms.
Barking – Nothing gets a dog barking quicker than another dog barking. And once they get started, they are almost impossible to stop. Your best bet is to separate them so that they don’t encourage each other. Obsessive barking in dogs is often a sign of frustration, so keeping your dogs occupied with regular walks, games, training and other activities will definitely lessen this problem.
Walking – Walking multiple dogs can be a challenge if you are not in control of the leashes. Train your dogs to walk next to you on a slack lead rather than pulling ahead of you and trying to be in the lead. If any of the dogs is a particular problem, separate that dog from the pack and give individual training before allowing the dog to rejoin the group. Many times, leash problems derive from the desire of one dog to be ahead of the other. If they’re walking beside you, this is not an issue.
Many households have multiple dogs that co-exist quite peacefully and actually enjoy each others company. If your pack is different than the measures above should bring them into line. However, handling multiple dogs is a challenge, so if you are having difficulty you may want to speak to a dog training professional.