What can be better than having a dog? For some people, the answer is simple. It’s having two dogs! Or three! Or four! While the idea of a house filled with dogs can sound like a dream come true, the practicalities are often far more complex than people realise. It can result in a house of chaos, not least because the dogs are all full of energy, but because YOU need to be too. Having multiple dogs can be very rewarding, but it can also be a little hectic. If that sounds like a bit much, take a look at our guide to keeping things calm in multi-dog household.
You need to be the one in charge
It’s important to make clear as a dog owner that you are the one in charge in order for the training to have any effect. A lot of this comes down to your tone of voice and hand gestures. Your dog doesn’t understand English, but it can better understand what your command is with your authoritative tone and the hand gestures you use. In fact, the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs showed that dogs followed commands with hand gestures alone with 99% more accuracy. For example, getting a dog to stay will be a lot easier if you say it in a deep tone, with conviction, and with a stopping motion in your hand gestures.
Practice a mix of loving benevolence and authority. When you speak, think about tone rather than volume, and speak with your hands to be clear. Once the dog has gotten the point and stopped doing what you are telling them not to, you can show some affection and praise to let them know you are pleased with their behaviour.
Make sure there is regular opportunity for exercise
If your dog choices are all over the place, as in, different breeds with not much in common physically, your exercise routine is likely to be all over the place too. It can be easy in this instance to go about your day and decide that the smallest dog got a good walk so that will be enough for the biggest too.
Dogs have different exercise needs depending on dog breed, size and age. Dogs also need security with rules and boundaries They need to know and respect who is in charge. Leadership is always important but even more so when you have multiple dogs. If a dog does not have these boundaries in place and a clear leader they often start excessive barking, destructive behaviour and sometimes fighting among themselves around the house, they can start to squabble among themselves to fill the gap.
The best option is a big back garden for the dogs to play and run around, but failing that, you’ll need to make a habit of scheduling in daily walks, hikes, games, and sports to keep all your dogs in your multi-dog household healthy and happy.
Take training seriously
Training is important to any dog owner, but in a multi-dog household, it’s vital. Your dogs will feed off each other’s energy so if they’re not trained well, they will egg each other on and run amok.
At a minimum they need to respond to instructions like “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “come”, “drop it”, and other commands to ensure that you, your dogs, and other people and dogs are all safe. It’s true that if a dog isn’t responding to its owner, it shouldn’t be off the lead. Then imagine multiple nos of dogs not listening to their owner.
Start with a few commands until they are fluent, then add more until you’ve got a pack of dogs that are responding to your cues as one.
Cultivate individual relationships
One aspect that will really help in training the dogs in your multi-dog household is to spend some time with them individually. It’s hugely beneficial to training to develop a relationship with your dog, and that is better enforced one-on-one. You’ll better manage the pack as a whole, and have a calm, happy and worry-free time with your pals.
Be the referee in fights
Your training is particularly important because you’re likely to need to place yourself in the middle of a lot of disagreements in a multi-dog household. One dog has finished their dinner and thinks they’ll just have a bite of another one’s dinner, roughhousing goes a little too far, the entire pack gets stuck in the door trying to get outside first, you get the idea.
This is your time to be the boss, as they’re not exactly going to talk it out, are they? If you’ve trained them right, a stern voice command – or maybe two – will stop any fights that might break out.
Do not decide that they need to work it out for themselves. Stop that dog eating from the dinner that isn’t theirs, you control exuberant play and intervene if it goes too far. Sometimes dogs don’t know when to stop. Make sure the dogs sit at the door until you let them out, and if you are struggling you may need to get some professional help to show you how. If dogs are left to their own devices, without restrictions or authority, they’ll go too far.