Dog’s Eye View: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! |

Dog’s Eye View: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Here are some tips for multiple dog households

So many of us open our homes to multiple dogs and experience the joy and the chaos that ensues. Two dogs are manageable most of the time. Three dogs can create chaos, but in the right household, it can be managed effectively. More than three can create two different families living under the same roof. Why?

Most of the time, multiple dogs spend a lot more time with one another than they do interacting with humans one-on-one. And they learn very quickly to prefer their own company.

They speak the same language, settle their differences through creating a workable hierarchy and select their own or defer to the “dog in charge.”

Humans are only necessary to fill the food bowl, open the door to outside and offer scratching where they can’t reach.

I’ll grant you this is an oversimplification, but think about it: Unless you spend a ton of time interacting with each dog as an individual, training each one in a single dog classroom and managing each dog effectively, you might be in over your head.

The individual temperament and social structure within your canine family can be healthy and peaceful or it can be a war zone. And you live in the demilitarization zone, constantly settling conflicts and keeping the peace.

So, when thinking about adding a new dog, it’s important to consider what will happen to your family dynamics. And think seriously about whether getting Fido a buddy will keep him company and settle him down. It’s not as simple as that.

If you are not training and managing the dog you have now, adding a second dog will only compound your work.

Yes, Fido will have company, if they get along from the start. Yes, you will be relieved from your duty to spend quality time with dog No. 1. But you also might be faced with two dogs playing havoc with your lawn furniture and rearranging your kitchen cabinets.

So, with that reality check in place, here are some quick tips for coping with and managing your multiple dogs.

First, treat them as individuals. They each have an individual learning style, so you need to sharpen your “trainer” skills to help them learn. They each need good quality training time with you.

Second, train them separately until you get a reliable response to your basic cues (commands). Start with come, sit, down and stay.

Third, teach each of them to be home alone. If they go crazy when you separate them, you’ve got double the work. And think about the trauma when one finally passes on. That can really incapacitate the remaining needy dog.

Fourth, become the controller of “space management.” It’s your home, you decide when it’s dinnertime or playtime, which dog gets to go out first, etc. When you hear the wrestling match begin to escalate, settle them down before it turns into chaos. You decide when the party ends and where the party takes place.

And the big number five is to teach them to settle down in the same room together while you quietly read a good book. Now that’s my idea of proper management!

Bottom line, living with multiple dogs is a lot of work. It can be a great and wonderful experience, but you won’t get the most out of it unless you take charge and manage them with individual training time, love, guidance and consistency.

You can find some great books written by really smart people about managing multiple dogs. Either search online or check out the “DogWise” button link on our website.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25+ years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado. Visit

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