How to Handle Multiple Dogs in the Household

Many people have more than one dog and have no problems at all. Some people get a second dog, and a world of trouble accompanies his arrival. Much depends upon your choice of second dog and how you treat them both.

Jealousy issues

Often a resident dog will get along just fine with a new dog until he realizes his new friend is actually coming in! Like a child who doesn’t really want to share his or her toys or his or her mother’s affection, a dog is likely to show jealousy very quickly. Thus, you’ll need to set house rules quickly and clearly. The dogs are most likely to collide over your attention, so it’s important for your first dog to realize that the arrival of the new dog does not reduce the amount of attention the resident gets. If the new dog approaches you for petting and your resident tries to get some attention too, by all means give it to both of them. Make sure each of them knows where you want them to sleep, and see that they both get all the food they need, but don’t leave food down, as it’s a possible source of conflict. I find it helpful to remove all toys for at least the first few days in order to eliminate any possible problems there.

Dogs Household

The need for exercise

During the first three weeks, it’s important to exercise the dogs a great deal—more than you might ordinarily do. The reason is fairly obvious: A tired dog tends to be a good dog. In addition, it can help to forge a bond between your two dogs. Some dogs chase each other around a yard endlessly, which gets you off the hook much of the time. However, other dogs use a backyard as a giant bedroom. Those dogs need to be taken out and walked or run—sometimes for several miles, depending on their age. Trips to a beach or careful use of a dog park are also appropriate. Do be careful, though, that they don’t go after other dogs or chase them.

Learning to be alone

Another important consideration is teaching each of the dogs to be alone. They’ll need to be alone at some point or another, and the longer you delay, the more difficult the process will be. I like my dogs to be bonded first to me and secondly to each other. Therefore, I separate them at least once a day for a couple of hours or so. You can have them sleep in their crates, you can put one outside and have one inside, or you can just close them into different rooms. This also helps the training process, which with two dogs can be an exercise in frustration. When you do train, set yourself up for success, and don’t try to teach both of them at the same time. Some of our clients who have two dogs enroll both in the same class. That doesn’t usually work out, as the dogs often try to get to each other from across the training area and sometimes bark and disturb the other clients. (We actually run a “Twofers” class geared for the owners of multiple dogs—it’s a great class, but it requires that both dogs already know their basic skills.)

Though two dogs can be great company for each other, they also can get into double the trouble, especially if they bond with each other and reduce their need for you. Facilitated behavior (pack behavior) can be a big problem in a variety of ways. For instance, it might be a lot of fun for some dog to charge fences or to chase cars. Add another dog, and the enjoyment factor can go sky high! Two dogs will also make each other braver—if one dog tends to growl or bark at a guest or intruder, two dogs may go further. It can be difficult to control two dogs at the best of times, and it can get downright infuriating at other times, when they both try to barge through the door or get in and out of the car.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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