I have been meaning to write a blog post about having multiple dogs for a while now, so here it is!
Tips for having multiple dogs;
1. Crate train your dogs! It is of vital importance that your dogs have their own space and crates are a great way to rotate dogs for special solo time, utilize as a cool down spot if a scuffle occurs, feed in the crates if you have resource guarders and prevent fights when you are not home.
2. Feed on a schedule. Rarely do I find a group of multiple dogs that free feed together peacefully. Each dog in your home should have his own bowl and know where his spot is to eat. You should measure out the food and feed at the same designated times or as close as possible, each day. You may have to space bowls far out, stand in the middle to supervise or do feedings in different rooms or utilize crates for peaceful meals.
3. Insist on obedience. With any dog, but more so with multiples, you should have a clear routine for feeding time, coming in the house, going outside etc. and insist on manners. Dogs can sit/stay/release for their food, wait/release at the door and get called independently to go in or out and sit politely to get leashes on or get toys thrown or get a special bone or treat.
4. Have special solo time. Each day, each dog should get some time with just you. Maybe you play a game of hide and seek or fetch and maybe you work on commands. It could be as short as 5 minutes. I used to rotate 5 mins for each dog until I was done or the dogs were. Some people may do a whole outing with one dog and leave the others behind and the next day, it may be dog B's turn to go on an errand. It is very important each dog has a relationship with the owner independent of the other dogs. For highly trained dogs, you can do mat stays while working with the other dog. For beginners, you would utilize the crate or a pen.
5. In addition to special solo time, I also advocate that each dog (mostly young dogs), get time to chew a bone or work on a kong or brain toy in peace. If your dogs have very good relationships, all of them can have a goodie in the same room. However, if there is stealing, growling or stress, it is best to isolate them while they enjoy their game, toy or chew. You don't have to do it all at once, you can pen one dog in the room you are in and the others are free to roam while one is using the pen to work on his kong. Some dogs won't eat when they are alone, so be creative in figuring out what works for your household.
6. Respect the natural hierarchy. Dogs have fluid hierarchies. We used to believe there was an "alpha" but that has since been proven false as dogs can change who is leader in a variety of situations. In reality, we all know each of our dogs have different personalities and talents and wants. Dog A may be willing to share food but not affection and Dog B may share affection, food and toys, but not personal space. If you have a dog that always dives for the toy first and the other doesn't care, then go with it! Don't force one dog to defer to another. They have already made their choice.
7. Teach new commands one dog at a time. Take Dog A and teach sit, or heel or insert whatever command here, and then Dog B separately. Once they both have got something down pat, then do tandem. Nothing is worse than taking two novice dogs out and attempting to teach them both to heel at the same time!
8. Speaking of heel, decide where you want each dog to walk. Two dogs of the same height may do well on a coupler on one side or one dog on each side. If you have three dogs, you may not want to walk all at once or you may do couple on one side and other dog on the other side. Each dog should know where they are expected to walk. Do not walk reactive dogs with your other dogs ever! Not until the reactivity is under control as it can actually cause your non-reactive dog to become reactive or you can get a nasty redirected fight on the end of your leashes.
9. Find a flow or routine to your day with your dogs. I always had a routine for workdays and non-workdays. The dogs knew what to expect and I could plan accordingly. We may have done different activities or training exercises, but for the most part, they occurred at the same time on those days.
10. Try not to worry about equality too much. Some of us are lucky enough not to have a favorite, but most of us do. It's okay if only the poodle is allowed in the bed and your lab puppy sleeps in a crate. It's okay if your senior dog gets massages and your adult dog doesn't. It's okay if you only take one into the pet store or to the dog park. Dogs aren't kids and they aren't going to compare notes or go to therapy later because they think you favored one!
There you have it. A list of 10 tips that are hopefully helpful in creating a harmonious home amidst multiple canines!