Every dog is going to have a confinement zone (your house or room is one even if you don't use a crate/pen/gate etc.). Dogs don't have thumbs to open the doors and leave the house! It is imperative that we make the confinement zone a good place to be so the dog doesn't develop any separation anxiety, or isolation issues. When a dog is already struggling with separation anxiety, this is 100x more important!Read More
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!
Just recently I met a new client with an 8 week old puppy that had questions about potty training. It seems they were misinformed that this puppy they had just received was "completely" potty trained and the following Monday they left for work for 9 hours and left him with a potty pad in the kitchen with free rein of their house. They were disappointed and confused to find messes every where upon returning home and thankfully reached out to a trainer (me) to help them.
After explaining to them that an 8 week old puppy can no way be completely potty trained at that age and that leaving him to roam the house was probably not the best idea, I started telling them about my sure-fire way of potty training, which involves crate training and received shock from them as to why I would recommend such a torturous thing!
Dogs don't think being in a crate is torture. In fact, research shows that dogs are den animals and really enjoy the comfort of a crate. Think of a crate as your dog's private relaxation place where he can go to get some R&R when the house is too busy, when guests are over around stressful holidays or a safe place to sleep at night.
Crates have so many positive functions that I hope more people will crate train their puppies and dogs.
- Puppies will not potty in their den, therefore a crate is a great way to potty train a puppy. The crate must not be too large for the puppy to potty in the back and lay in the front though. Large enough for the pup to turn around and lay stretched out.
- Crates are a safe place to put the pup when you are busy and can't tend to him (further avoiding accidents and chewing things in the house).
- Many of my clients also use the crate as a time-out zone when puppy has done something wrong and needs some time to calm down.
- Pups should sleep in the crate at night to ensure no midnight romping, peeing or snacking when you are sleeping!
- In addition to a crate, some owners who will be gone for too long, will attach a pen to the crate so the pup has a potty spot if they are gone for over the length of time the pup can hold it.
- For a fully trained dog, an open crate is a place of refuge during times of stress (when children are visiting, when another dog is visiting, changes in lifestyle etc).
- As per my previous post, crates are also great ways to transport a dog in the car.
- If a dog is crate trained, there will be less stress involved for air travel, boarding at the vet or boarding facility and pet sitters are very appreciative to owners that crate trained their dogs!
- If your dog ever has surgery and is prescribed cage rest, there won't be stress associated with crating a dog that is unfamiliar with it.
- Visiting a friend or going to a hotel? Friends, family and hotel owners appreciate crate trained dogs that will not be destroying rooms or getting into things when their owner is away!
- Thinking about taking up a dog sport in the future? When it isn't your dog's turn, they must be crated.
Dogs can be crate trained at any age, it is just easier in puppyhood and has more applications if started sooner. If you would like more information, check out this link: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html