6 Tips for managing a multi-dog household

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
6 Tips for managing a multi-dog household

Two (or three...) is often better than one, especially when it comes to dogs. Having two dogs means that they entertain each other, are likely to experience less separation anxiety and help each other to stay exercised and stimulated.

If you have a multi-dog household, or are considering adding another pooch to the mix, here are some tips for helping to manage the pack.

How to manage a multi-dog household

  1. Make sure all your dogs have obedience training. A household in which all dogs know that you're the boss and have good manners is a much calmer and easier one to manage. The good news is that if your first dog is well-trained, he or she will help to train the new puppy. This doesn't mean that puppy training is unnecessary, but it does make the job a little easier. Because dogs are pack animals, they tend to look to their leaders for guidance. A pup will learn from an older dog and be encouraged to toe the line.
  2. Feed them separately. Dogs eat at different paces and if one dog finishes his food, he may try to start nosing in on his mates' food. This is bound to lead to spats and a tense dinner-time experience. Either feed your dogs one at a time (starting with the calmest dog first) or feed them in separate areas of the house. And always be sure to feed older or ailing dogs in a safe space away from other dogs (and any potential threat to their food!).
  3. Don't play favourites. Sibling rivalry can occur between dogs in the same household, and is the result of your dogs thinking that they're vying for top position. A common reason for antagonism is the alpha dog feeling that the subordinate dog has a special closeness to you, the owner, which is why it's extremely important to give all your dogs equal love, attention, affection, treats and so on. As the pet-parent, you'll know where and how your dogs' personalities differ. Give each pooch love in the way that they prefer it. This might mean plenty of playtime for a baby dog but enough alone time for an older dog who needs her own space to feel relaxed and secure. Either way, whatever you lavish on one dog, be sure to lavish on all.
  4. Get to know your dogs’ cues. By reading your animals’ body language, you'll be able to tell when a fight is about to happen. Staring, raised hackles, low growls or a stiffening of the body are all indications that a dog is getting angry, and that your pooches should be separated until they've calmed down. Try to never let these moments escalate into all-out brawls.
  5. Make sure there are enough toys to go around. Toys and high-value items can be a major cause of fights, so make sure that each pet has an equal share of the bounty. If you're worried about these items causing tiffs, remove them after playtime so that your pets don't get into a fight when you're not around. As for edible treats, let your dogs enjoy these separately, and on their own, until they're finished eating, lest a tussle break out.
  6. Manage playtime. Playtime over-excitement can quickly escalate if one dogs oversteps its boundaries. Keep an eye on your pooches during playtime and watch for the tell-tale signs of aggravation described above. Separate your dogs if and when this happens, and wait until they've calmed down to bring them back together.
  7. Praise your pooches, equally and often. When they play well together, praise them. When they eat as instructed, share their toys, and so on, praise them. Positive reinforcement is key to helping them maintain these good behaviours over time.

If you need help or advice managing your multi-mutt household, be sure to chat to your vet. Having more than one dog can cause a little bit of chaos at first, but if you invest a little time and energy in training your pack, the rewards will be immense. Enjoy your brood!

Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.

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